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Chicago's Most Anticipated 17,000 Square Foot Renovation Project Is Complete

Chicago's Stony Island Bank, turned cultural incubator, opened last week. Theaster Gates' personal drive, the non-profit Rebuild Foundation efforts, persuasion, and one dollar, lead to last week’s Grand Opening.You may recall that in 2012, Theaster Gates purchased the tragically dilapidated 1923 Neo-Classical bank that had lain vacant for three decades. This renovation project promised to be the driving force behind redemptive architecture, yet could have easily become a money pit of disappointment. Lofty goals, creative fundraising and three years of hard work lifted the crumbling mass to life in time for the celebration and redefining of architecture's value and priorities.

Redemptive Architecture Harmonizes Style And Human Need

When I was young, bell-bottom jeans were in style. They were the type of pants that required a wire hanger, and the strength of two people to zip them up. The only breathable space was the bell at the bottom. Practical? Not in the slightest. When I think back, I wonder why the architect of this fashion bothered to include renovation project, ommunity revitalization, revitalizing chicagopockets. The pants were worn so tightly that merely carrying a quarter could cut off crucial blood supply. Real Estate architectural priorities are evolving from the same imbalance of value: opulence versus practicality. Chicago’s inaugural Architectural Biennial festivities celebrated the accomplishments of innovative architecture combining the use of Chicago’s existing iconic building inventory, with design that harmonizes style with human need. The explosion of construction machine noise is gone, and the collective heartbeat of an engaged community echoes through the halls. The Stony Island Bank Art Centre renovation project will long serve as a monument to what Theaster Gates calls “Redemptive Architecture.”

Theaster Gates Artfully Crowdunds

The once opulent bank was the center of a booming community. After suffering the brutal punishment that disinvestment yields, the community, and famous marble building broke down simultaneously. Gates and his non-profit Rebuild Foundation have a history of repurposing materials and empowering just as derelict and discarded human beings. How do you commandeer a 17,000 square foot building with unknown levels of decay and create a hybrid gallery, media archive and community center accessible to all? If you are Theaster Gates, you persuade the city to sell the Stony Island mound of mortar, marble and mush to you for $1, plus assurance that the $3.7 million renovation project, ommunity revitalization, revitalizing chicagofor renovation costs will appear. Gates, the transcendence and transformation wizard, literally waded through the rubble in search of a buried treasure. Whether it was intended or not, a crowdfunding campaign, equipped with a product incentive was activated. With his infamous re-use wheels turning, Gates carved 100 “bond certificates” out of the bank’s marble scraps. Then, he engraved the banks image, his signature and the words “In Art We Trust”, before selling them for $5,000 each. WaLAH! A crowd of 100 people funded the future of Chicago’s South side. An incubator for the creation and exhibition of art, entertainment, and camaraderie was formed.

A Renovation Project Redefines a Community.

renovation project, community revitalization, revitalizing chicagoOne seemingly lofty renovation project vision has proven to redefine far more than the usefulness of a building.The productions and exhibits are accessible to all, no matter their income or neighborhood of residence. Collective talent forms the exhibits. Collective drive to progress previously limited by the cerebral speed bumps of boarded up windows has been freed. Theaster Gates talked with Kickstarter founder, Perry Chen about crowd-empowering, “The reality in the neighborhood that I live in is if I don’t constantly reconcile what I have against what other people don’t, either I need to leave and be around other people who have what I have, or I’m constantly engaged in this kind of dynamic flow of opportunity and sharing. And that just feels like smart living.”  The heartbeat echoing through the rooms of Stony Island creates a universal cadence. This can be heard in the steps of diverse groups of people now drawn to a brick, mortar, marble and art-driven reinvestment in humankind.

Related: Buffet Place Wins First Prize

The depression era generation valued art as an inaccessible frivolity, yet the renovation project, ommunity revitalization, revitalizing chicagoDaiwa Japanese-Anglo Foundation recently suggested that the beauty of art may even increase blood flow in a certain part of the brain by as much as 10 percent. The equivalent to gazing at a person you love. Now, that is powerful! Rebuild Foundation's talent for combining accessible art and utilizing vacant buildings in the completion of renovation projects makes logical sense in such pursuits of community revitalization. 

Try including an underutilized building as your stage. Consider seeking the imagination of youth to cleverly design incentives that may encourage the crowd to fund the experience. How can you incorporate art, whether on canvas or in performance, into one community project this week?

If you want to learn more, take a look at some of the most commonly asked questions we receive about real estate crowdfunding on a daily basis and find out why so many people are crowdfunding real estate projects across the country with Patch of Land.
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2 thoughts on “Chicago's Most Anticipated 17,000 Square Foot Renovation Project Is Complete”

  • Kerri B

    Kerri B commented October 21, 2015

    Given Gates's history with renovation and revitalization projects in artist and low income communities, the success of this project is not a surprise to me. He has become the poster boy for socially engaged art in the Chicago area, now expanding with projects in Seattle and London. Kudos on the fabulous article framing his focus on this spectacular piece of architecture and the use of the crowdfunding platform to leverage assets and improve a community!

    Karen Perkins

    Karen Perkins reply October 21, 2015

    Thank you. I would love to hear how you may use socially engaged art and crowdfunding.

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