Depositing Truth in the Art Bank on the South Side

One of the most impressive community art initiatives that we learned about on this tour is the one in the South Side of Chicago. Located on Stony Island Ave, this building was actually a bank built in 1923. It hadn’t run as a branch in thirty years, but artist and native Chicagoan, Theater Gates decided to make this one of his rebuild projects to infuse art, dialogue, creativity and education into neighborhoods on the south side.

Nestled in the middle of two rival gang territories, this bank gives its residents accessible art, affordable housing, and alcohol. “Why can’t we share art, a space, and a place to get drunk together?,” I paraphrase, but Gates said this in similar words at the opening reception of our installation, while telling some neighborhood folk where the beer was.

I enjoyed how people of all walks of life gathered in this beautiful space, with just some rusted, ornate beginnings revealing themselves in the architecture.

We gathered in this space: artists, security guards, mothers, children, singers, teachers, musicians, dancers, brothers, townies, visitors and we sang hallelujah.


The interior of Stony Island Art Bank, which has original furnishings like the black safe pictured against the back wall.