Theaster Gates: A Way of Working

Forum, Lecture and Gallery Presentation at The New School
Presented by the Vera List Center for Art and Politics and the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center

Theaster Gates
Theaster Gates, Winner of the 2013 Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics
Forum on Theaster Gates’ Dorchester Projects
Wednesday September 18, 10 am-2 pm; Thurs, September 19, 10 am - Noon
The New School, Teresa Lang Community and Student Center
55 West 13 Street, 2nd Floor, New York

Artist Lecture and Prize Presentation
September 18, 7pm
The New School, Tishman Auditorium
66 West 12th Street, New York

Gallery Presentation
September 18 – October 5, 2013
Opening Reception: September 18, 5-6:30 pm
The Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries
Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, Parsons The New School for Design
66 Fifth Avenue, New York

All programs are free and open to the public. Visit or for more information.

NEW YORK (August 12, 2013) – The New School’s Vera List Center for Art and Politics and the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center (SJDC) at Parsons The New School for Design present Theaster Gates: A Way of Working. Curated in collaboration with Theaster Gates, recipient of the inaugural Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics, the two-day forum and gallery presentation are the culmination of The New School’s 18-month engagement with the artist and his work. Theaster Gates: A Way of Working offers a view into how the artist develops synergies within his far-reaching work, and examines the complex ways of creating and maintaining an expanded studio practice rooted in institutional engagement, object making, and the production of space. Gates is globally renowned for his genre-defying explorations of community, history, race, and politics.

A two-day public forum (September 18-19) explores Gates’ prize-winning Dorchester Projects and issues arising from the work, and includes the official awarding of the Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics (designed by Yoko Ono) to Theaster Gates, followed by a keynote artist lecture. Over the course of both days, voices from fields such as art, urban policy, economics and religious studies from The New School and beyond will illuminate the multifaceted and ongoing project. Confirmed speakers include Jane Bennett, Katayoun Chamany, Shannon Jackson, Jasmine Rault, SJDC Director and Chief Curator Radhika Subramaniam, and more.

"Theaster Gates' project of historical reclamation, interrogation of archival legacies, and social construction of memory and cultural agency has it all tied together,” said curator and historian Okwui Enwezor, who chaired the jury that selected Dorchester Projects for the Vera List Center Prize. “Dorchester Projects layers a meditation on the present African American experience by connecting it to the haunted remains of the past, making links with narratives of race consciousnesses, the Civil Rights Movements, but ultimately probing how the African American experience is enlivened by ongoing processes of testimony. Entering that installation is like entering a haunted space."

The gallery presentation of Theaster Gates: A Way of Working, designed to accompany the forum and spark ongoing conversation, includes excerpts of works or project series from Gates’ studio, including sculpture, drawing, installation and video. Rather than explore the chronological development of Gates’ work, the presentation focuses on the uniquely non-linear nature of his methods of working, thinking and creating. Project elements include a large-scale rickshaw inspired by a recent trip to Haiti and made for the gallery presentation, filled with objects from the collections at Dorchester Projects; drawings; video; and a large-scale organizational chart mapping the various elements of this expanded studio practice.

A bold American artist with a global vision, Gates expands the discourse of political enfranchisement and social inclusion. He began Dorchester Projects in 2008, transforming two formerly abandoned buildings on Chicago's South Side into alternative cultural spaces that house an art and architecture library, slide archive, and record collection. In 2012, Gates opened the Black Cinema House, where programming highlights the work of films by and about people of color. The ongoing and ever-expanding project provides new models for culture-driven reinvestment in underserved communities.¬

Launched to celebrate the VLC’s 20th anniversary, the Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics honors an exemplary artist or group of artists who has taken risks to advance social justice in profound and visionary ways. International in scope, the biennial prize is awarded for a particular project’s long-term impact, boldness and artistic excellence. Following an extensive research and evaluation process that enlisted the advice of a jury and a nominator’s council of leading artists, art historians and curators worldwide, Theaster Gates was named inaugural recipient of the prize for his Dorchester Projects. More than a single moment of recognition, the prize represents a long-term commitment to the question of how the arts advance social justice, how we speak of, evaluate, and teach such work.

The presentation is part of the program initiatives of the inaugural Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics, presented to Theaster Gates for his work Dorchester Projects. It is curated by Carin Kuoni, Director/Curator, Vera List Center for Art and Politics, and Chelsea Haines, Curatorial Associate, with support from Kate Hadley Williams, Theaster Gates’ Studio and Exhibitions Manager and La Keisha Leek, Artist Liaison for Rebuild Foundation. In addition to the project in the Aronson Galleries, the prize entails a conference on Dorchester Projects on September 18 and 19, numerous New School classes, public events and a publication forthcoming in 2014. Founding Supporters of the Prize are James-Keith Brown and Eric Diefenbach, Elizabeth Hilpman and Byron Tucker, Jane Lombard, Joshua Mack, and The New School.

About the Vera List Center for Art and Politics
The Vera List Center for Art and Politics is an idea incubator and a public forum for art, culture and politics. Named in honor of the late philanthropist Vera G. List, it was established at The New School in 1992 – a time of rousing debates about freedom of speech, identity politics and society’s investment in the arts. A pioneer in the field, the center’s mission remains critical: to foster a vibrant and diverse community of artists, scholars and policy makers who take creative, intellectual and political risks to bring about positive change. We champion the arts as expressions of the political moments from which they emerge, and consider the intersection between art and politics the space where new forms of civic engagement must be developed. We are the only university-based institution committed exclusively to leading public research of this intersection. Through publications and exhibitions, public programs, conferences and classes, prizes and fellowships, we curate and support new roles for the arts and artists in advancing social justice. To learn more, visit

About the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center
The Sheila C. Johnson Design Center is an award-winning campus center for Parsons The New School for Design that combines learning and public spaces with exhibition galleries to provide an important new downtown destination for art and design programming. The mission of the Center is to generate an active dialogue on the role of innovative art and design in responding to the contemporary world. Its programming encourages an interdisciplinary examination of possibility and process, linking the university to local and global debates. The center is named in honor of its primary benefactor, New School Trustee and Parsons Board of Governor’s Member Sheila C. Johnson. The design by Rice+Lipka Architects is the recipient of numerous awards, including an Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects. For more information please visit

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SJDC General Information
Location: 2 West 13th Street, New York
Gallery hours: Open daily 12:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. and Thursday evenings until 8:00 p.m.; closed all major holidays and holiday eves
Admission: Free
Info: Please contact 212.229.8919 or visit


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New York, NY 10003


Media Contacts:

Sam Biederman,
The New School
212.229.5667 x3094
[email protected]

Chris Chafin
212.229.5667 x3794
[email protected]

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