At the opening of the University of Chicago’s Arts Incubator in Washington Park, poet avery r. young reflected on the transformative power of the arts in a poem written to celebrate the day.
“We turn bone into beautiful,” said young, one of the incubator’s 2012-2013 artists-in-residence. “Dust into magic.”
Michelle Boone echoed that theme as she discussed the remarkable career of the Arts Incubator’s director, Theaster Gates. Boone, the city of Chicago’s commissioner for the arts, recalled taking a train ride several years earlier with the young artist, who was dressed in worn jeans and a worn sweater.
Look at him now,” she teased the dapperly dressed Gates, now a major international artist. “This is what the arts can do for you!”
Growth and transformation on many levels are central to the mission of the new Arts Incubator, which opened on March 8. The new facility provides a dedicated space for artists to grow professionally and build creative connections with the surrounding community.
“The University’s commitment to expanding our work in the arts takes many forms, and our new Arts Incubator is the most recent addition to this arts fabric,” said President Robert J. Zimmer. “It will provide a venue for artists, particularly those from the South Side communities, their work and experimentation, and their interaction with the University of Chicago faculty, students, and staff. We believe this will be an important addition to both the University and the South Side.”
The newly renovated building includes 10,000 square feet of studio space for artists-in-residence, a woodshop for design apprenticeship programming, and additional program space for exhibitions and events. The Arts Incubator is housed in a two-story, terra cotta building dating to the 1920s that sat unused for 20 years.
New opportunities for artists on the South Side
The Arts Incubator’s programs include an innovative artist residency program, which unites professional development opportunities for artists with the University’s efforts to enhance the cultural amenities of the Washington Park community. The program, presented in partnership with the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture at UChicago, garnered more than 150 applications this year, and is a much-needed opportunity for Chicago-based artists, according to Gates.
“Artists need space and resources to deepen their practices, share their wares, perform their chops, and communities like Washington Park benefit from new sources of creative energy. That’s why artists are such an essential element of a successful social space,” said Gates, director of the Arts and Public Life initiative. “I’m excited the University of Chicago has embraced this innovative model for community engagement and shown such willingness to think about new ways we can be good neighbors and collaborators on the South Side.”