Theaster Gates

  • Aired:  03/06/14
  •  | Views: 17,692

Chicago artist Theaster Gates expands on his efforts to beautify abandoned spaces and revitalize poor neighborhoods. (6:54)

( CHEERS AND APPLAUSE )>> Stephen: WELCOME BACK,

EVERYBODY.

MY GUEST TONIGHTIS AN ACTIVIST WORKING TO

TRANSFORM POOR NEIGHBORHOODSWITH ART.

WELL, THAT EXPLAINS ALL THECHALK OUTLINES IN CHICAGO.

PLEASE WELCOME THEASTER GATES.

WHOOO!

GOOD TO SEE YOU!

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR COMING ON.

BROTHER GATES, HOW ARE YOU?

>> SUPER GOOD, MAN, THINGS AREWELL.

>> Stephen: I JUST MET YOUBACKSTAGE A LITTLE WHILE AGO AND

I ALMOST HAVE A CONTACT HIGH OFFOF ALL THE POSITIVE ENERGY THAT

COMES OFF OF YOU.

YOU ARE AN ARTIST, CORRECT?

>> I AM.

>> Stephen: HOW WOULD YOUDESCRIBE YOUR ART?

>> I BELIEVE MY ART ISINTERESTED IN TRANSFORMING UGLY

THINGS INTO BEAUTIFUL THINGS.

THE PERCEPTION OF UGLY SPACESINTO BEAUTIFUL SPACES.

>> Stephen: LET ME EXPLAIN TOTHE PEOPLE A LITTLE BIT HOW YOU

DO THAT.

YOU LIVE IN CHICAGO.

YOU'RE AN INSULATION AND SOCIALPRACTICE ARTIST AND YOUR WORK

HAS BEEN SHOWN IN CHICAGO, ALLOVER THE WORLD AT THIS POINT.

YOU HOLD MASTERS DEGREES IN FINEART, RELIGIOUS STUDIES, AND

URBAN PLANNING, MR. SMARTYPLANT, AND THE FOUNDER OF THE

NONPROFIT REBUILD FOUNDATION.

LET'S SHOW AN EXAMPLE OF-- JUSTONE OF THE THINGS THAT YOU DO IN

CHICAGO.

JIMMY, SHOW ONE OF THE PHOTOSTHAT WE OF OF MR. GATES.

THAT'S THE HOUSE ON THE LEFT YOUFOUND AND BOUGHT.

AND THIS IS WHAT YOU DID DO ITON THE RIGHT.

>> THAT'S RIGHT.

>> Stephen: EXPLAIN TO ME HOWYOU TRANSFORMED THIS HOUSE.

WHAT DO YOU THINK THIS HOUSEMEANS NOW?

>> WELL, AT FIRST THE HOUSE ISABANDONED.

>> Stephen: YES.

AND WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

>> THAT MEANT THAT-- WELL, WHENTHINGS ARE ABANDONED, OTHER

THINGS START TO HAPPEN IN THEHOUSE, LIKE PEOPLE WOULD GO INTO

THE HOUSE.

AND DO BAD THINGS IN THE HOUSE.

>> Stephen: YOU CAN USE THEWORD "GANG VIOLENCE" IF YOU'D

LIKE.

>> IT WAS UNDER USED AND WECONVERTED THE HOUSE INTO A SMALL

ARCHIVE AND INVITED OURNEIGHBORS AND FRIENDS TO USE THE

ARCHIVE FROM TIME TO TIME.

IT WAS A WAY OF CREATING KIND OFAN AMENITY IN A NEIGHBORHOOD

WHERE THERE WERE SEEMINGLY FEWAMENITIES.

>> Stephen: LET'S SHOW THENEXT HOUSE HERE, JIMMY.

THIS HOUSE, THERE IT IS ON THELEFT FIRST, ANDS AND THAT YOU

DID TO IT ON THE RIGHT.

WHEN YOU TURN THE HOUSE ON THELEFT-- WHEN YOU TURN IT INTO A

WORK OF ART, DO YOU GIVE IT ANAME?

>> YEAH, I DO.

>> Stephen: IS THAT CALLEDSOMETHING?

>> IT'S CALLED THE LISTENINGHOUSE.

>> Stephen: WHY?

>> BECAUSE THERE IS A COLLECTIONOF ALBUMS IN THERE FROM A

RECORD STORE CALLED DR. WAX, ANDWE PLAY ALBUMS THERE.

>> Stephen: HERE'S THE THINGTHAT WORRIES ME ABOUT YOUR WORK,

OKAY.

IS THAT YOU'RE TURNING THINGSINTO ART THAT I USED TO NOT HAVE

TO THINK ABOUT.

( LAUGHTER ).

>> I'VE NEVER GONE UPTO A HOUSE OR SEEN A HOUSE

BEFORE AND SAID I DON'T GET THISHOUSE THE WAY I DON'T GET SOME

ART.

DO I HAVE TO "GET" YOUR HOUSESTO ENJOY YOUR HOUSES OR CAN I

JUST BE IN THEM?

>> I THINK IT'S SUPER COOL THATPEOPLE DON'T GET THE HOUSES.

AND I THINK IT'S ALSO REALLYIMPORTANT THAT THE HOUSES NOT

REGISTER AS ART, NECESSARILY.

WHAT'S IMPORTANT TO ME IS THATPEOPLE KNOW THAT AN ARTIST MADE

AN INTERVENTION IN THE CITYTHAT'S VERY DIFFERENT FROM

ANOTHER KIND OF PERSON MAKING ANINTERVENTION.

>> Stephen: NOW, WHY DID YOUWANT TO DO THIS?

THIS IS ON THE SOUTH SIDE OFCHICAGO WHY DO THAT ON THE SOUTH

SIDE OF CHICAGO?

WHY NOT DO SOME PLACE WHERE THEPROPERTY VALUE IS IS ALREADY

PRETTY DARN HIGH AND YOU CANFLIP A HOUSE AND GET A SHOW ON

HGTV.

>> RIGHT, RIGHT.

>> THOUGHT ABOUT THAT.

BUT MY VOCATION ISN'T ADEVELOPER.

MY VOCATION-- MY-- MY BELIEF, MYCALLING IS TO BE AN ARTIST.

AND I THINK THAT THE-- TO HAVE ABUILDING LIKE THIS ON THE NORTH

SIDE, ON THE NORTH SHORE, AND TOTRANSFORM IT WOULD BE BUSINESS

AS USUAL.

>> Stephen: HOW DO THE PEOPLEIN THE NEIGHBORHOOD TAKE IT, YOU

KNOW, IF THEY SEE A HOUSE THAT,YOU KNOW, HAS BEEN THERE A LONG

TIME AND THEY COME ALONG AND YOUCREATE THIS ART SPACE OUT OF IT.

HOW DO THEY TAKE IT?

DO THEY LIKE WHAT HAPPENED INTHE NEIGHBORHOOD?

>> WELL, FOR FIVE YEARS, THATWAS MY HOUSE, IT LOOKED LIKE

THAT.

>> Stephen: SO YOU LIVEDTHERE.

>> I WAS THE POOR GUY ON THEBLOCK.

AND THEY WERE LIKE SO SORRY, DOYOU NEED SOME HELP.

>> Stephen: IS THIS THE FIRSTHOUSE YOU DID, YOUR OWN HOUSE?

>> THIS IS MY HOUSE.

>> Stephen: DID YOU DO ANYHOUSES AROUND THERE.

>> I'M BUILDING A HOUSE.

>> Stephen: ARE YOU BUILDINGA COMPOUND.

THEASTER, ARE YOU A CULT LEADER.

>> I THINK IT'S REALLY IMPORTANT--

>> Stephen: POSSIBLY,POSSIBLY?

DOES ANYONE CALL YOU FATHER?

>> NO.

>> Stephen: DO YOU HAVE CHILDBRIDES?

>> NO, NO.

>> Stephen: TELL ME NOWBECAUSE WHEN THE SUBPOENA COMES,

IT WILL BE WORSE.

>> ONE OF THE THINGS THEY REALLYWANTED TO DO WAS IS IT POSSIBLE

TO THINK ABOUT A NEIGHBORHOODTHAT HAS NOT BEEN FULLY THOUGHT

ABOUT IN A LONG TIME?

IT'S UNDER RESOURCED, AND CAN ITAKE MY SKILLS AS A CREATIVE

PERSON, AND THEN SHOW HOW WITH ALITTLE BIT OF RESOURCE AND A

LITTLE BIT OF IMAGINATION, ANEIGHBORHOOD COULD HAVE THE

POSSIBILITY OF BEING LIKE EVERYOTHER GOOD NEIGHBORHOOD THE

CITY.

>> Stephen: YOU CREATED ARTCENTERS BY DOING THIS AS WELL.

>> ABSOLUTE.

>> Stephen: DO YOU HAVE,LIKE, AMBITION TO REVITALIZE THE

SOUTH SIDE?

DO YOU TAKE THIS TO OTHERCITIES?

COULD YOU TAKE THIS KIND OFTHING TO DETROIT WHERE YOU

TRANSFORM WHAT'S ALREADY THEREINTO SOMETHING MORE USEFUL--

COULD YOU TURN SCRAP METAL INTOA ROBOCOP FOR DETROIT?

>> RIGHT.

THAT'S BEEN DONE.

>> Stephen: OKAY, YEAH.

( LAUGHTER ).

>> BUT I DO THINK THERE'S A WAYIN WHICH-- WHETHER I DO IT OR

NOT, THAT THERE ARE PEOPLE INDETROIT, IN GARY, INDIANA, IN

AKRON, OHIO, WHO REALLY-- WHOARE ALREADY ON THE GROUND DOING

THE WORK.

BUT THEY MAY NOT HAVE THERESOURCE THAT THEY NEED.

THEY MAY NOT HAVE THE STRATEGIESTHAT THEY NEED TO BE SUCCESSFUL.

THEY MAY NOT HAVE ACCESS TOBANKS AND THE PHILANTHROPIC

COMMUNITY.

AND I THINK WHAT I COULD DOBETTER IS DEMONSTRATE THIS AS A

MODEL IN CHICAGO AND IN ST.LOUIS AND IN OMAHA WHERE I WORK,

AND THEN SAY THIS MODEL HAS THECAPACITY TO BE A GREATER SCALE

IF WE WOULD IDENTIFY PEOPLE INTHOSE NEIGHBORHOODS AROUND THE

COUNTRY, WHO ARE ALREADY DOINGTHE WORK BUT THEY MAYBE NEED A

LITTLE BIT MORE SUPPORT.

>> Stephen: CAN PEOPLE BUYYOUR ART?

OR TO BUY YOUR ART DO I HAVE TOHAVE A HOUSE LARGE ENOUGH TO PUT

ANOTHER HOUSE IN IT?

DO YOU SELL YOUR ART?

CAN I GET AN ORIGINAL THEASTERGATES, LIKE THROW A MASTER

BATHROOM IN THAT?

>> YEAH, BATHROOM, LIVING ROOM,KITCHEN.

>> Stephen: CAN I DOSOMETHING IN A PALE PINK?

I ALREADY HAVE THE TOWELS.

>> I CAN DO THAT.

>> Stephen: THEASTER, I LOOKFORWARD TO IT.

THEASTER GATES, ARTIST,ENTREPRENEUR.

WE'LL BE RIGHT BACK.

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