Theaster Gates: Using Art to Revive a Neighborhood Like South Side Chicago

What can you do when the neighborhood you love has suffered decades of deterioration and fallen into blight? Those who could leave are long gone and businesses see zero potential.

This is the challenge that Theaster Gates has stepped up to answer with a little imagination, which he hopes will inspire others to do the same.

A trained pottery maker, Gates sought a way to use his talents to improve the state of his neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago.

He began transforming abandoned buildings to community hubs “that connect and inspire those who still live there (and draw in those who don’t).”

His efforts have resulted in the Black Cinema House, the Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative (DA+HC), Dorchester Projects, and the forthcoming Stony Island Arts Bank.

In the motivating TEDTalk above, Gates speaks on his dream to create a ‘miniature Versailles’ in Chicago, and he shares his “fervent belief that culture can be a catalyst for social transformation in any city, anywhere.”

Learn more about Gates’ non-profit initiative Rebuild Foundation at