Theaster Gates is what you may call an artists in the action of social community and interaction.
I recently saw him discuss his works on the Colbert Report, really intriguing so I had to find so more information. Gates is out of Chicago an is a nationally recognized artists having been featured in major galleries as well as museums. He is an artist and a social activist in a new school way, he not only uses his art as symbolic expression, but also in the form of real community action. Urban planning techniques are constantly evolving and trying to keep up with the changing demands of a dismal situation. Poverty does not scream community success, but Gates illustrates that it shouldn’t be a stigma signifying defeat, rather an opportunity for new age revival and experimentation.
The guy takes on run down homes in low income areas, lives in them for extended amounts of time, joins and embodies the community and the residency and respectfully plays his role as he slowly renovates the house int something new and amazing. What is so worth celebrating about this type of work is not limited to its aesthetic or symbolic value, but its real tangible value within the community as a functioning piece of social infrastructure. I find it inspiring that there are people working to integrate the creative power to tackle social issues on the ground, face to face. A website called Culturebot offers more personal perspective into the attitude and personality of Gates himself as a person and as an artist at Culturebot’s take
If you haven’t watched the video at Colbert Nation (link above), one example of his work was a house called the Listening House, Gates took a run down house and renovated it into a beautiful listening studio filled with albums and beautiful wood structures. Its fresh, new, and welcoming to a new style of social engagement. The art of social engagement is important to the future of how our society deals with itself, it is bound to change as our social structures evolve. I’m hoping we can look forward to more new styles of mixing such powerful human motivators like human interaction and artistically social infrastructure.