Combining community organizing with historic preservation and contemporary art, the Rebuild Foundation offers a bold and ambitious vision that speaks to the heart of today's most avant-garde visual practices. Disposing of the convention that an art space must present work that hangs demurely on the wall, Theaster Gates, a Chicago native and meteoric star in contemporary art, has molded the Rebuild Foundation to be art in every active, participatory form — from the structure itself to the community it lives amid to the activities and projects it hosts. In scattered sites nationwide — Chicago, Detroit and Omaha, as well as both Old North St. Louis and Pagedale — the organization rescues otherwise neglected residential structures and revitalizes them to perform myriad new roles. Introduced to St. Louis via a project he did in 2010 in conjunction with the Pulitzer Foundation's Gordon Matta-Clarke exhibition and local artist Juan William Chavez, Gates was taken with the city, and in particular its north side. Two years later his nonprofit is running here full throttle, with a local, live-in program organizer (Dayna Kriz), a resident artist (Carlie Trosclair), an intern-and-education program and a team of volunteers. The organization has orchestrated joint programs with other nonprofits that have further deepened its local involvement and presence. An experiment in the making, the Rebuild Foundation is a fascinating venture, one we're fortunate to have in our midst.
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