Sitting on the back of a leather armchair that once occupied the offices of Johnson Publishing Co., artist Theaster Gates gestures toward a two-story wall of books that also belonged to the Ebony/Jet publisher.
Sharing the journey of the historic South Side Arts Bank, Gates couldn’t be prouder of the $6.5 million salvaging of the 95-year-old architectural gem, and what it represents in Greater Grand Crossing.
“It was a kind of demonstration work for me, that South Siders didn’t have to go somewhere else in order to have a beautiful, well-built intimate space, in that those spaces were all around us, they just needed some care,” said Gates, 44, founder of the nonprofit Rebuild Foundation.
The city gave the then-crumbling Stony Island Trust and Savings Bank Building at 6760 S. Stony Island to Gates for $1 in 2013. Designed by architect William Gibbons Uffendell, the 17,000-square-foot, neo-classical structure today is a hybrid community center, library and art gallery, with preserving black history its focus.