Stony Island Arts Bank makes a deposit

Submitted by digital on Fri, 11/13/2015 - 03:49
{"version":"0.3.0","atoms":[],"cards":[["images-card",{"images":[{"url":"http:\/\/\/dpcbzfiye\/image\/upload\/v1458705412\/fsdqortywsly8wocbuo8.jpg","id":"1761"}],"caption":"Built in 1923, the building\u2019s $4 million renovation included a double-height reading room on the second floor."}]],"markups":[["a",["href","https:\/\/\/visit\/"]],["a",["href","https:\/\/\/"]],["a",["href","http:\/\/\/design\/buildings\/barclays-center-by-shop-architects_o","target","_new"]],["i"]],"sections":[[1,"h2",[[0,[],0,"\nA\nrefurbished arts bank holds the cultural riches of Chicago\u0027s South Side"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Theaster Gates\u2019 "],[0,[0],1,"Stony Island Arts Bank "],[0,[],0,"is\ngetting top billing at this year\u2019s Chicago Architecture Biennial, highlighted\nas one of the event\u2019s main venues. Amid this wild omnidirectional survey of\ncontemporary architecture, the community arts center designed by Gates and\nmanaged by his nonprofit "],[0,[1],1,"Rebuild Foundation"],[0,[],0,"\nmight seem like an odd fit. Elsewhere at the biennial, there\u2019s a floating\ncity\u2013scaled island inhabitable by humans and dolphins alike, and proposals to\nfill in Lake Michigan with biofilter land masses to clean a re-reversed Chicago\nRiver."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Meanwhile, the Arts Bank is a Neoclassical bank\nrefurbished with simple donated materials; in some ways, it hasn\u2019t changed much\nsince Gates bought it from the city for $1. Built in 1923 and shuttered for\nroughly three decades, its closure was just another signpost of the South\nSide\u2019s Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood\u2019s long decline. It\u2019s a lonely\nsurvivor, \u201cthe last grand structure from what was a thriving commercial strip,\u201d\nsays Ken Stewart, CEO of Rebuild Foundation."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"It\u2019s not about form or \u201cinnovation\u201d in any design-centric\nsense; it doesn\u2019t test the conceptions of what architecture is. But it is one\nof the biennial\u2019s best and most humanistic faces: a collection of used wood,\nsteel beams, and recovered plaster that\u2019s totally subservient to its mission of\nelevating African-American culture into an exhibition space that can rival any\nof the Loop\u2019s wealthy institutions."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"The $4 million project is an answer to a question Gates\nasks himself a lot: \u201cWho has the right to amazing culture?\u201d The Arts Bank gives\nChicagoans\u2014and specifically African-American cultural producers\u2014a platform to\npractice their art, in their community, on a stage made for them. Gates took a\nfew cues from rapper Jay Z, best known in architecture circles for being a\nclient of "],[0,[2],1,"SHoP\nArchitects"],[0,[],0,".\n\u201cAll one has to do is build the space you want to rock in,\u201d Gates says."]]],[10,0],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"So he has. The Arts Bank begins grandly, with an\nentrance hall and barrel-vaulted coffered ceiling. The plaster ceiling\u2019s seams\nand cracks (picked off the floor and reassembled by Rebuild) tell the story of\nthe building\u2019s degradation and restoration. For the biennial, the Portuguese\nartist Carlos Bunga installed a set of cardboard columns and lintels with\nsplotches of white paint to match rough and unfinished walls. Connected with taped\nseams covering crude joints, these clumsy sentries question the assumed wisdom\nof traditional Classical architectural forms. It sends a clear message: We\u2019re\noperating from a different set of cultural blueprints. Cheap appeals to Greek\nantiquity authority won\u2019t work here."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"The second floor houses the arts center\u2019s archives. The\narchive of the Johnson Publishing Company (publishers of Ebony and Jet) is\nstacked at the rear of the building on burly, double-height reclaimed wood\nbeams with silver-dollar\u2013sized rivets and steel plates. The library (containing\nvolumes like The Encyclopedia of Black Elected Officials and Ralph Ellison\u2019s\ncomplete oeuvre) overlooks the ground-floor bank hall, and works as rich visual\ncenterpiece that grounds the open exhibition spaces in an imposing and\npermanent icon of black America."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Custom-built shelving for a collection of glass slides\nfocusing on art and architecture history flank the library. Throughout, it\u2019s a\nmaterial palette of rich, dark woods, all worn through with history. Tables,\nfor example, were made from reclaimed wood that was originally a water tower,\nthe impressions from steel bands holding the massive cylinders together still\nvisible."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"The third floor is a teaching and exhibition space,\nwhich also contains legendary Chicago house music DJ Frankie Knuckles\u2019 vinyl\ncollection. Here Gates hopes to craft a salon atmosphere where neighbors\ndiscover the bank\u2019s collections and learn about how to spread Rebuild\nFoundation\u2019s ideology of cultural celebration irrespective of socioeconomic\nstatus."]]],[1,"h3",[[0,[],0,"Adaptive Wisdom"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Gates\u2019 work can be broadly classified as \u201cadaptive\nreuse,\u201d but it\u2019s motivated by a desire to reconfigure assumed wisdom about how\nart, culture, and architecture work together."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u201cIs it possible that an artistic mind might have a way\nof imagining old political forms, old economic forms, and old architectural\nforms?\u201d he asks. \u201cMaybe all of these things are reasonable forms that can be\nmolded and shifted like paint. For me, this is about moving paint.\u201d"]]],[1,"blockquote",[[0,[],0,"The $4 million project is an answer to a question Gates\nasks himself a lot: \u201cWho has the right to amazing culture?\u201d"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"The Arts Bank comes close to retro-fetishism: your\ngreat-uncle\u2019s study ladder, Edison bulbs\u2014a contemporary design sensibility all\nits own. But Gates\u2019 light touch with strong forms gives the building the sense\nthat it\u2019s been there forever and will be around for just as long. There\u2019s a\nfaded, proud grace in its bare walls. The raw unfinished spaces call to mind a\ndefault axiom architects often follow when designing art-maker spaces: Don\u2019t\ndesign the whole thing; give the users something to do."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Gates\u2019 approach seems to take this one step further. He\nsees the bank as a place where neighbors get engaged with the archives and then\nbuild programming around it themselves with the Rebuild Foundation\u2019s help."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"When a cultural venue\u2019s programming comes from an\nunmediated reflection of a neighborhood\u2019s priorities, there\u2019s wisdom in\ndesigning the space from within these cultural bounds. The weathered walls and\nfragments of plaster tell the building\u2019s history without heavy-handed narrative\ncuration. It subtextually explains Greater Grand Crossing\u2019s depopulation and\nthe Arts Bank\u2019s resurrection, pulling disused materials from across the South\nSide to build a new cultural venue. The bank has seen many changes, but it\u2019s\nstill\u2014culturally and materially\u2014what it was once was."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[3],1,"Zach Mortice is a\nfreelance architectural journalist who lives in Chicago."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\n\n\n\n"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\n\n\n\n\n\n"]]]]}
Theaster Gates' new cultural hub for Chicago's South Side renews a building's legacy.
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“All one has to do is build the space you want to rock in,” says Theaster Gates, who rescued a bank in the name of art (and architecture) on Chicago's South Side.
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