Theaster Gates is an artist of international repute whose work has been displayed everywhere from London’s White Cube to the Whitney in New York. After studying in Iowa and returning to his native Chicago in 2006, he has made it his business to invest in the people – and buildings – of the South Side. This impoverished part of town is afflicted with social problems and gun violence. Gates founded the Rebuild Foundation in 2009 to transform neglected neighbourhoods through affordable artist studios, accommodation and cultural institutions.
Stony Island Arts Bank (Chicago)
At the centre of these projects is the Stony Island Arts Bank, which he bought from mayor Rahm Emanuel for $1 in 2013 and where he has since spent $4.5m (€4m) via fundraising, loans and his own pocket, turning it into a community exhibition centre and library that contains everything from a vinyl collection to books and magazines donated by Johnson Publishing. “It’s the accumulation of a simple commitment to a place,” says Gates. “And it’s a gesture that the federal government takes note of.”