Theaster Gates is one of the most recognizable faces at the intersection of the arts and community development in the U.S. His current initiative, creating a two-track program for culinary students and those who would start food businesses in Gary, Indiana, will address what the city’s mayor calls a “pressing need.”
“Over the past 50 years of U.S. Steel layoffs, Gary has experimented with its fair share of economic development elixirs, from urban renewal in the ’60s to casinos in the ’90s. Fifteen years ago, Gary invested more than $20 million into the Steel Yard, the 6,000-seat baseball stadium. ‘It was supposed to drive economic development,’ [Mayor Karen] Freeman-Wilson says. ‘That didn’t happen.’”
Known for his successful efforts that transformed a swath of vacant homes into art spaces in Chicago, among other highly visible and much renowned initiatives, Gates recognizes and respects the appetite for grassroots change, mindful of concerns about arts, development, and possibilities of gentrification.
Read more about Gates’ work in Gary, Indiana and beyond, at Next City.
Photo: Lloyd de Grane