As part of a residency organized by the Central Baltimore Partnership, Station North Arts & Entertainment, Inc., and the Ceramics Department of the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), artist and cultural planner Theaster Gates will give a free, public lecture at MICA on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 7 p.m. in Brown Center’s Falvey Hall, 1301 W. Mount Royal Ave. Gates is an internationally-renowned African-American sculptor, performance artist and cultural planner that lives and works in Chicago. His lecture, entitled My Labor is My Protest / Artist Agency in the Re-Creation of Space, will explore his work in “cultural development”—the arts-based revitalization of under-resourced neighborhoods. Gates uses sculpture, performance art, installations and urban interventions to explore ways in which artists and cultural producers can be proactively involved in community renewal, particularly in poor, black, urban neighborhoods. In his own words: “This inaugural lecture/performance will give me an opportunity to reflect on the last several years of artistic engagement and space-based involvement in cities throughout the Midwest. I will talk about issues of gentrification, poetry and forms of political resistance that are initiated through spatial and cultural reactivation. I will probably sing my way through portions of it, using this as balm for the intensely difficult aspects of the conversation. What are the neutral spaces that black men have access to? In the shifting politico-spatial terrain of Baltimore, how can artists take more of a leading role in partnership with community agencies and developers in the re-imagining of public and private space? How can we think about the policies that incentivize renewal and transformation, but don’t consider the existing inhabitants of a place? What do artists know and have to contribute to the discourse of community re-investment? I want to be candid in my experiences and ignorance around the topic of renewal; both its ideological history and future. Finally, I will discuss my own labor as an arts practitioner and my own models for direct cultural engagement.”
Recently a Loeb Fellow at Harvard Graduate School of Design, Gates has received awards from the Joyce Foundation, Driehaus, Artadia and the Graham Foundation. He has performed and exhibited at the Whitney Biennial and the Armory Show in New York; the Milwaukee Art Museum; Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis; and the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston. Gates is currently showing at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and has upcoming exhibitions at the Seattle Art Museum and European venues, and was recently chosen as the
2012 commissioned artist for the Armory Show. He is the director of arts programming, resident artist and lecturer at University of Chicago and was recently named the director of arts and public life at the university.
During his time in Baltimore, Gates will lend his expertise to individuals, community groups, developers, institutions and arts organizations looking to contextualize and enhance their community engagement and regeneration efforts. His visit will also provide an opportunity for these groups to discuss long-term collaborations with the artist, including potential collaborations with the host organizations.