INAUGURAL VISITING ARTIST
Photo by Sara Pooley
The Lunder Institute hosted Theaster Gates as its inaugural Visiting Artist in Fall 2017. Chicago based and internationally renowned, Gates creates sculpture, installations, and performances that incorporate space theory and histories of race, land ownership, and redevelopment. Drawing on his training in urban planning and preservation, Gates redeems and reactivates spaces, materials, and objects that have been left behind. Whatever the material form, Gates’s work contends with the notion of Black space as a formal exercise – one defined by collective desire, artistic agency, and the tactics of a pragmatist.
For his Fall 2017 appointment as a Lunder Institute Visiting Artist, Gates delivered a public lecture on September 19 surveying his own practice and underscoring the potency of artistic vision. Gates also visited Colby classes and led a community meeting in downtown Waterville. Students from both Colby and Chicago examined how art and culture can redefine space and shape communities, paying particular attention to the ways in which economic, political, social, and cultural power are expressed and resisted through urban spaces.
Gates’s belief in community-based solutions to social concerns came to the fore when the artist participated in a conversation with members of the South End Neighborhood Association on September 20. The South End is Waterville’s oldest community of Franco-American heritage and also among its most underserved neighborhoods. During the community meeting at the South End Teen Center, organized by South End Neighborhood Association Coordinator Jackie Dupont (Colby ’04), Gates listened as residents spoke about the challenges of neighborhood revitalization, noting lack of access to tools for maintaining and landscaping South End properties. The convening resulted in a proposal to create a community-run tool shed from which residents can borrow equipment at no cost.
Reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of his own practice, Gates engaged with Colby students in economics, sociology, and American studies classes. In conjunction with Gates’s visit, Colby Visiting Assistant Professor of American Studies Ben Lisle taught the course Art, Urbanism, and Community. Gates taught a concurrent course addressing similar themes at the University of Chicago. Students from both Colby and Chicago examined how art and culture can redefine space and shape communities, paying particular attention to the ways in which economic, political, social, and cultural power are expressed and resisted through urban spaces.
Season landing image by Lloyd Degrane. Gallery images by Gabe Souza.