The building is open to the public on Monday and Wednesday afternoons, where there have been performances and an ongoing visual arts exhibit, "Feedback."
"The response has been pretty awesome," says the project's director, the artist Theaster Gates. "Alderman [Pat] Dowell gave us a huge accolade. She said there have been rough spots in the relationship between the university and the neighborhood, and they were concerned that the university was opening the incubator here, but she's been pleased with the community response. She said it's a real asset to the neighborhood."
Gates says the Arts Incubator has been . . . incubating . . . since a year and a half ago, when the university decided that a parcel of land it owned on Garfield Boulevard just under the Green Line would be an ideal start for a community arts organization. One $1.85 million renovation project later, the Arts Incubator finally opened on March 8.
"They all had an interest in engaging directly with the community around us," Gates explains.
The Incubator has also approached local high schools to find students interested in participating in its Design Apprentice Program, which will pair young apprentices with experienced craftsmen to work on projects in the community, including turning a vacant lot into a pocket park and—Gates hopes—helping out some of the urban farming projects in Washington Park by building planters and benches and by creating public art in the neighborhood.
"I hope the Incubator is a catalyst," he says. "I hope that in three years, people are much more excited about things happening on the block. We're a committed partner. We want to make exciting things happen locally. There's culture happening on the south side. And if you take the Green Line from the South Loop, you can be here in seven and a half minutes."