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ReBuild Foundation,  Chicago -

Theaster Gates & Dorchester House

As we journey through the Midwest, we continue to follow one of our favorite projects, The Rebuild Foundation. On our second day in Chicago we reunited with Charlie Vinz, the brilliant and hard-working architect and thinker we connected with in St. Louis and finally met beautiful, talented artist, Dayna Kriz, another essential partner in the Rebuild Foundation. We shared conversation and lunch at Robust Coffee Lounge in the South Chicago neighborhood where Theaster Gates began the project out of his former studio on Dorchester Street.

Dayna and Charlie happily took us to Dorchester House to see where it all began and continues to evolve. As fate had it, Theaster also joined us! Welcomed with hugs and shared appreciation for each others projects, we were ecstatic and flattered to have the opportunity to meet an artist who inspires us on multiple levels.

The Dorechester House(s), currently houses artists in residence who do community projects within the space and the neighborhood.  It also is the home for the old University of Chicago’s glass lanternslide collection. For a little history, the now-obsolete glass plates were to be thrown out and when Gates requested, the department donated all 60,000 slides! A small public library of art and architecture books obtained from the owners of the formerly renown bookstore Prairie Avenue books, is where the 14,000 volume collection came to exist. In addition to visual and educational libraries, when the Dr. Wax record store went out of business over 8,000 leftover records were bought up by Gates to establish an old Chicago Blues and Soul audio library. During this collecting, he purchased the house next door (image above in its current restored state) to his studio building to house these collections which will eventually be open to use by the public!

It was so very rewarding to chat with these great and inspirational minds about the act of working towards social reform with a creative, active and often selfless approach. These individuals, whom we consider as both role models AND now comrades empower and encourage us as artists and educators that we are following the right path with The Crow & The Wolf Project. When we conversed with Theaster about his dedication to the project and his community, he emphasized the importance to connect and build relationships with his neighbors. He emphasized conviction to work in this fashion is a much stronger focus than just the mission to make a change here. We can’t agree more. What these fine folks are doing here in Chicago and beyond IS working.

To set out on a mission to make change on a grand level we must build a family and embrace the idea of what a neighbor is and represents.  However far from one another they may reside, we all must attempt to blur those dividing lines.

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