Theaster Gates Wants to Turn Former Chicago Police Station Into Art Center

The artist's revitalization of Chicago's South Side continues.

Theaster Gates. Photo: Jeff Schear/Getty Images for Yelena Katchan.

Chicago artist Theaster Gates has revealed plans to establish an arts center in a disused police station on the city’s South Side.

The police station was shuttered in 2012 in a cost cutting effort by police that combined the city’s Prairie and Wentworth districts.

At a community meeting in the city’s 4th ward on September 19, Gates laid out a $7.5 million plan to refurbish the building and transform it into an arts center. The artist proposed to reopen the space for artisans working with ceramics, metalwork, and glass, corresponding to the career center’s focus on training students to become tradesmen. “If we can get that started, it’s very easy to imagine jewelry classes,” Gates added.

According to DNA Info, the audience gathered at a career center in the Douglas neighborhood of Chicago was largely supportive of the proposal.

The police station in the district of Douglas, Chicago. Courtesy of Google Maps.

The police station in the district of Douglas, Chicago. Courtesy of Google Maps.

In response to questions over how he plans to integrate the community’s relationship with the police into the building, the artist said that “simply reactivating the building feels like a step in the right direction.”

Gates told DNA Info that he initially wanted to include the police station in a $10.25 million dollar civic building revival project sponsored by four major foundations that is part of the four-city “Reimagine the Civic Commons” initiative. He couldn’t gain approval from the city in time because of the resignation of former 4th ward alderman Will Burns, who stepped down this February.

Newly-appointed 4th ward alderman Sophie King told DNA Info after the meeting that she would like to meet Gates one-on-one to discuss his proposal in detail before handing the building over to him. “Theaster has a great track record in the city and I would have to have him come into the community,” she said.

Meanwhile Gates told the audience that the project could be completed by 2019. “Our hope is this will be part of our next three years of ‘placemaking’ he said.


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