Arts Incubator wins prestigious community award

The University of Chicago Arts and Public Life initiative has won the 2014 Chicago Community Trust Outstanding Strategy of the Year Award for its Arts Incubator project in Washington Park.

The prestigious award, announced at the 20th annual LISC Chicago Neighborhood Developments Awards ceremony on Feb. 20, honors the Arts Incubator for “creating a vibrant new hub for artistic production, community engagement and creative placemaking on Chicago’s South Side.”


More than 1,500 people attended the event, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other government and civic leaders. Terry Mazany, president and chief executive officer of the Chicago Community Trust, presented the Outstanding Strategy of the Year Award to artist and place strategist Theaster Gates, director of Arts and Public Life.

“Nobody can do this work by themselves,” Gates said in accepting the award. “At the University of Chicago, we’ve been very intentional and strategic in finding ways for creative people—artists, architects, designers—to work together with the Washington Park community, local officials, and private developers to make change happen. The Incubator has been one amazing example of that.”

The Outstanding Strategy of the Year Award is given to a non-profit development organization in recognition of the development and successful implementation of a strategy that promotes and is integral to comprehensive community development, according to the LISC Chicago website.

“We are proud of Theaster and the entire team behind the Arts and Public Life Initiative,” said Derek Douglas, the University’s Vice President for Civic Engagement. “This is an innovative and powerful example of how the University can be a catalyst for change in our city—in this case a catalyst for both economic opportunity in Washington Park, and for building community and culture among neighbors and artists from across the South Side.”

The Arts Incubator opened in March 2013, after the University renovated a prominent, two-story, terra cotta building on Garfield Boulevard. The Incubator includes 10,000 square feet of studio space for artists-in-residence, a woodshop for design apprenticeship programming, and additional space for exhibitions and events.

Programming at the Incubator includes exhibitions, events and performances; educational activities, including a design apprenticeship for teens; and partnerships with South Side arts and civic organizations.

For more information on Arts and Public Life, please see For more information on the 2014 Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards, please see