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This week on Archinect Sessions we’re sharing our inspiring conversation with Theaster Gates. For those of you who aren’t already familiar with Theaster, you’re in for a treat. Theaster Gates often refers to himself as a potter, and while it’s true that he is, through years of training and practice, he’s also an extremely talented multidisciplinary artist, urban planner and community-focused social activist. 

Theaster may be most well known for his non-profit Rebuild Foundation. The foundation purchases abandoned buildings in the south side of Chicago, the neighborhood Theaster grew up and still resides in, and transforms them into beautiful community hubs that connect and inspire the local residents through art, creativity, and professional skill training. 

Gates work extends into academia as well. He is a full professor in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Chicago, where he is also a Senior Advisor for Cultural Innovation and Advisor to the Dean. It’s in this context that he is unveiling his latest project, part of an $80 million dollar renovation and restoration of the Edward Durell Stone-designed Keller Center, home to the school’s Harris School of Public Policy. Theaster’s role involved designing a soaring communal atrium space, lined with wood from fallen ash trees, and milled by local residents.