Black Cinema House Live

Rebuild Foundation

Funding Received: 2011
Chicago, IL
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
November 6, 2011

Internationally renowned artist Theaster Gates is using his ArtPlace grant to repurpose a two story, mixed-use building in Chicago into Live/Work space for film- and media-based artists of color. Gates updates us on the process:

So much progress has happened since last month!

We've recently expanded our team to include, Mejay Gula, a Chicago based architect experienced in construction management and rehabs of buildings. She is joining Charlie Vinz, Marlease Bushnell, and myself in bringing the Black Cinema House to fruition. Other great news is that the architectural plans are complete, and we got the permit approved from the city. This means that we are on the way to rehabbing the building for the Black Cinema House. The design of the building will incorporate a screening space, film archives, a large kitchen for catering events, a space for a resident artist that will curate the film screenings, and a permanent landing pad for myself.

With the winter season nearing, we need to get the building envelope secured for the cold climate. One of the major undertakings is the masonry for the building. The rear facade and parapet of the building is in poor condition and will need to be rebuilt. Some areas need only minor tuckpointing. Other immediate construction work includes beefing up the interior structural framing, replacing the roof, installing new windows and doors, and thermally insulating the building. We intend to retain the historic features of the house as much as possible with a few contemporary touches that allow the cinema house and the artist resident space to function harmoniously. The Black Cinema House is located on the same block as the Dorchester Projects and will act as a critical hub for community engagement and cultural exchanges.

Often times I'm asked why am I doing this and why am I invested in Dorchester avenue. When I moved into the 6918 S Dorchester back in 2005, I decided that I didn't want to leave my neighborhood to access the amenities that were important to me. I thought, if I start to invest in bringing these amenities to my neighborhood then other people in my community would also be benefiting. I'm doing this not because the place I am living does not have the vibrancy or vital cultural places. It is that there are no venues to catapult our cultural expressions. This is the politic of staying. This is why I am doing this. What happens if artists, politicians, and designers stay a little longer and do just a little more?

What would happen if we invest all that energy in the places we live?

-Theaster Gates


Photo of Mr. Gates by Andy Miah