Artist Theaster Gates Is Partnering With Prada to Launch an Incubator for Emerging Designers of Color in Chicago

The first fellows of the Dorchester Industries Experimental Design Lab will be announced next month.

The Archive and Listening House, created by Dorchester Projects in Chicago. Photo: Sara Pooley. Courtesy of the Rebuild Foundation.

Artist Theaster Gates is partnering with Prada to launch an incubator for up-and-coming designers of color. 

Based on the South Side of Chicago, the three-year program, called the Dorchester Industries Experimental Design Lab, will train, fund, and otherwise mentor emergent makers working in the fields of fashion, furniture, industrial, and graphic design. Announcing the initiative on Instagram, Gates called the Lab a “nucleus of design intelligence on the South Side.” 

“For too long, our creative communities have possessed the talent but lacked exposure and opportunity,” the artist said in another statement. “Now more than ever, today’s leading creatives must elevate the work of emerging designers of color and connect them to great companies interested in diverse talent.” 

According to Dorchester Industries, the manufacturing-focused offshoot of Gates’s studio that is overseeing the new program, Design Lab fellows will be nominated by leaders in their respective fields. Through a series of Experimental Design Awards, designers who have “shown extraordinary creative potential” will be granted an unspecified amount of financial support and have the opportunity to participate in workshops in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York.

Meanwhile, the project’s headquarters will act as a platform for exhibitions, performances, and other forms of public programming. 

The first cohort of fellows—which, as Dazed reports, is expected to include between eight and 15 participants—will be announced in October of this year. 


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Launched in 2016, Dorchester Industries connects Chicagoans with local artists, contractors, and craftsmen for hands-on training and apprenticeship opportunities. The outfit operates alongside the Rebuild Foundation, the protean non-profit that Gates founded in 2009, known for turning abandoned buildings on Chicago’s South Side into sites of community gathering and cultural programming. 

Gates has a history with Prada. He’s mounted exhibitions at the Fondazione Prada in Milan twice. In 2018, he helped design the company’s Art Basel Miami Beach pop-up. In 2019, he was named co-chair of the fashion label’s diversity and inclusion advisory council, alongside filmmaker Ava DuVernay. 

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