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Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative Opens in Grand Crossing

Deborah Bayliss | 12/4/2014, 4:52 p.m.
World Renowned artist, Theaster Gates’ unique approach to neighborhood revitalization is taking off in the Hyde Park/Grand Crossing neighborhood with ...
Rendering of Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative.

World Renowned artist, Theaster Gates’ unique approach to neighborhood revitalization is taking off in the Hyde Park/Grand Crossing neighborhood with the grand opening last of week of the Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative, an art-centered mixed-income community that provides affordable housing opportunities in the Grand Crossing neighborhood.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel last week joined the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) and Gates to announce the grand opening.

Artist, Theaster Gates.

Artist, Theaster Gates.

“For years, this was an abandoned housing project but thanks to Theaster’s vision, this land has been reimagined, reinvented, and revitalized as a place for residents to live and for artists to create,” said Mayor Emanuel. “The Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative proves that investing in art and culture can bring both economic revitalization and a sense of community to every neighborhood.”

The unique project is collaboration between Gates’ Rebuild Foundation, CHA and Brinshore Development. Located in the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood, Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative consists of 32 mixed-income townhomes for individuals and families as residencies and long-term rental opportunities. Built on vacant CHA land, the project includes a CHA investment of $3.5M.

“With the support of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, CHA is pleased to partner with Theaster Gates’ Rebuild Foundation, Brinshore Development, the City of Chicago and other key stakeholders to help build strong, vibrant communities as part of our strategic initiative – Plan Forward,” said CHA CEO Michael R. Merchant. “This exciting project will work to meet the affordable housing needs for low-income residents while supporting cultural arts in the city.”

Designed for families looking to immerse themselves in an environment concentrating on the arts, Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative’s centerpiece is the Art Center. This 1,500 square foot structure anchors the community in affordable housing opportunities in conjunction with creative expression and exploration.

“Time has made this project better than we ever expected. We had anticipated it being inclusive of the community, the neighbors and the nearby school,” says 5th Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston, who has been highly involved in the development alongside CHA. “Now, the Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative is a model for how the public, private and non-profit sectors can work together to turn a community eyesore into a beacon.”

Under the leadership of Rebuild Foundation, the Art Center offers arts and cultural programming for Dorchester Artist Housing Collaborative residents and the surrounding community. In addition to the housing units, the mixed-income, mixed-use project features a new arts center complete with a dance studio, public meeting space and community garden.

"Dorchester Artist Housing Collaborative is an amazing example of what is possible when belief in a place is combined with expertise in development, support from community and the passion of artists. I'm honored to be a part of it," said artist Theaster Gates.

A unique quality of Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative includes the selection of artists to live in five of the townhomes. These five artists commit to 10 volunteer hours per month to further realize Rebuild Foundation’s mission: to catalyze neighborhood revitalization through artistic practice, individual empowerment and community engagement.

This year’s selected artists include: Jill Mitchell, a make-up artist; Edward Steave, a photographer and videographer; Justin Booker, a poet/ rapper; Nakia Mosby, the mother of a budding teenage artist; and Jordan Taylor, a potter/ceramics artist.