Theaster Gates' Rebuild Foundation presenting inaugural project 'We Gotta Get Back to the Crib'

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Theaster Gates' Rebuild Foundation presenting inaugural project 'We Gotta Get Back to the Crib'
We Gotta Get Back to the Crib at the 6 Flat. Photo by Kevin Serna.

CHICAGO, IL.- Rebuild Foundation, the platform for art, cultural development, and neighborhood transformation founded by artist Theaster Gates, today announced the opening of the 6 Flat, a three-story formerly vacant building located in Chicago’s Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood that has been transformed into a space dedicated to artist residencies for local, national, and international artists. Featuring both studio and living spaces, the building welcomeed its first residents this year. In addition to providing opportunities to artists, the redemption of the 6 Flat speaks to the foundation’s mission to demonstrate the cultural, historical, and social value of spaces and facilitate collaboration between local artists and thinkers and creatives from other communities.

On January 12, the 6 Flat opened with We Gotta Get Back to the Crib, a creative project featuring a collection of sculptural furniture works originally conceived by designers Michael Bennett and the late Imhotep Blot of Studio Kr. Presented in collaboration with Marta Gallery, Monastery Foundation and Dorchester Industries, We Gotta Get Back to the Crib is a reflection of Rebuild Foundation’s commitment to investing in the growth and amplification of the practices of Black and Brown designers. We Gotta Get Back to the Crib will animate the residence until February 10.

Inspired by Bennett’s and Blot’s shared upbringings in the coastal south of the U.S., as well as their Senegalese and Haitian roots, the presentation engages the first floor of the 6 Flat and examine the identity and experiences of African Americans and the diaspora, in combination with themes of intersectionality and the complex living conditions of Black people in the United States today. The home space is at the center of Bennett’s practice and the furniture work showcased reimagines key fixtures of Bennett’s upbringing including the dining table, the church pew, and the monobloc chair. Complementing the core presentation of furniture works – Mo-Mo Table, Pew Couch, and Gumbo Lounge Chair – is one additional installation, Is There Any Love?, which reflects Bennett’s wider consideration of the built environment and its relationship to the experience and psychology of architectural space.

“The 6 Flat will create new opportunities for artists and designers from around the world to live, work, and collaborate in our neighborhood year-round—fostering vital local and global idea exchange that supports our growing creative ecosystem,” said Theaster Gates. “Michael’s work will inaugurate the 6 Flat with important insights into the meanings imbued into everyday objects through historically Black cultural motifs—we look forward to prompting this dialogue with the neighborhood and greater Chicago communities.”

Following the opening of the 6 Flat, Rebuild’s constellation of spaces will continue to grow with the launch of the St. Laurence arts hub in Fall 2024. The 40,000-square-foot building will consist of artist studios, classrooms for creative entrepreneurship courses, co-working floors, a laboratory for archival research, and a home for objects in Rebuild’s collections and archives. Both the restoration of the 6 Flat and the restoration of St. Laurence are emblematic of Gates’ approach to architecture and redevelopment in which he prioritizes finding new purpose in existing spaces, providing amenities to local residents, and allowing the use of the spaces to evolve over time.

Rebuild Foundation

Founded by artist Theaster Gates in 2010, Rebuild Foundation is a platform for art, cultural development, and neighborhood transformation. Rebuild strengthens creative communities through grants, classes, residencies, access to its collections and free public programs. The Foundation is well known for innovative, ambitious, and impactful arts and cultural initiatives, hosting projects and programs that amplify the history, value, and promise of Black creativity at local, national, and international scales. Rebuild operates a constellation of sites on the South Side of Chicago including the Stony Island Arts Bank, Retreat at the Currency Exchange Caf, Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative, Kenwood Gardens, and the forthcoming St. Laurence Arts Incubator. Rebuild Foundation is grounded in and enriched by three core values: Black people matter, Black spaces matter, and Black objects matter.

Michael Bennett

Michael Bennett (b. 1984, Independence, Louisiana) is a Honolulu- and Houston-based designer of furniture, spaces, and architecture. He is a graduate of the Heritage School of Interior Design and a current student of Architecture at the University of Hawaii. In 2020, he retired from an eleven-season career with the NFL, during which he became a three-time Pro Bowler, two-time NFC Champion, a Pro Bowl MVP, and a Super Bowl Champion with the Seattle Seahawks. Bennett founded Studio Kr in 2020. With Dave Zirin, he is the author of Things That Make White People Uncomfortable (2018). We Gotta Get Back to the Crib is Bennett’s first presentation with Marta.

Marta Gallery

Marta is a Los Angeles-based, globally-engaged gallery and platform that hosts works at the confluence of art and design. Founded in 2019 by partners Benjamin Critton and Heidi Korsavong, the gallery makes space for artists to experiment with the utility of design, and for designers to explore the occasional abandonment of function. Marta’s curatorial and publication programs take interest in the process of an object’s creation as well the biography and narrative of its creator(s). Marta embraces the intersection of and the transition between disciplines, advocates for diversity in design, and promotes broad access to the arts.

Studio Kr

Founded by Michael Bennett in 2020, Studio Kr is a collective of thinkers exploring visionary design concepts. The studio’s mission is to craft intentional objects and spaces that harmonize with the natural world and encourage meaningful interactions in order to inspire the next generation of Black artists, architects, and designers. Bennett believes that [public] space can serve as a catalyst for communion, allowing individuals to express their private emotions and ideas within a shared, public setting. His design ethos centers on the idea that architecture and art have the power to transcend cultural boundaries and foster genuine connections between people. Studio Kr is committed to exploring both contemporary and historical elements of the African diaspora, challenging traditional Western perceptions of design and architecture.

Dorchester Industries

Dorchester Industries—the design and manufacturing arm of Theaster Gates Studio—is an atelier committed to investing in the growth and amplification of the practices of Black and Brown designers through workforce training, partnership, mentorship, direct financial support, and network-building. Born out of Rebuild Foundation’s workforce development programs, Dorchester Industries has a dual mission: to create beautiful products with meaning, and to train employees to pursue careers in the building trades and creative industries with a focus on craft, space, and materiality, three key hallmarks of Gates’s artistic practice. Through a partnership with Dorchester Industries, the Prada Group and Rebuild Foundation launched the Dorchester Industries Experimental Design Lab, a platform and incubator for Black and Brown designers across disciplines, media, and craft. The Experimental Design Lab supports and amplifies the work of designers of color across the creative industries with awards, financial support, and opportunities to foster relationships with leading global companies interested in collaborating with underrepresented talent.

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