When I interviewed artist Theaster Gates for a Reader profile in 2011, the Dante Harper Chicago Public Housing project two blocks from his home was boarded up and deserted. A series of two-story redbrick town houses that spread across two blocks on 70th Street in the Grand Crossing neighborhood, it had been abused, but had pleasing lines and was only 31 years old. Gates, his Rebuild Foundation, and his partners at Brinshore Development were proposing a public-private redevelopment for it designed by Landon Bone Baker Architects. Their plan was to turn it into 32 two- and three-bedroom units of mixed-income (subsidized, affordable, and market-rate) housing, anchored by a flexible arts space, with artists in the tenant mix. Renamed the Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative, it opened last fall, a fully occupied and inviting complex with handsome recessed doorways, chamfered corners, and mature trees that overhang wooden decks and gardens. Activities in its glassy little art center—currently a weekly yoga class and a monthly community circle—are programmed by the Rebuild Foundation.
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