Gary, IN

ArtHouse opens as home for entrepreneurship, art and community

A feathery mix of purple, blue and green light glows from the newly opened ArtHouse: A Social Kitchen, a multipurpose space in downtown Gary, Ind. that’s becoming a destination for food, culture and art.

The once-underutilized building that’s now home to ArtHouse is wrapped in an installation titled Light-Lab. The steel and cables reflect the city’s proud manufacturing history, while colorful, handmade lanterns adorning the framework signal renewed energy. Inside is a culinary incubator, café, gallery, and community-gathering place.

“The installation is a kind of billboard and beacon and a visual catalyst that says something different is happening here,” said ArtHouse Artistic Director Theaster Gates, who leads Place Lab, a partnership between the University of Chicago’s Arts + Public Life initiative and the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy.

ArtHouse is a partnership project bringing together Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, Gary city departments and community organizations, Place Lab, and Harris Public Policy. In November, the public opening attracted more than 300 attendees who had the chance to sample confections from local bakers, enjoy entertainment from local performers, tour the 15,000-square-foot space and witness the unveiling of the installation.

Light-Lab creators Jeana Ripple of Ripple Architecture Studio and Barbara Wilson, assistant professor at the University of Virginia School of Architecture and co-founder of Design Futures, were selected through a juried process of applicants from around the world. Ripple + Wilson partnered with Gary-based Live Art Studio to host workshops that brought area youth to explore the conceptual and technical aspects of the installation. The students ultimately assisted in assembling the lanterns.

ArtHouse is one of four winning projects of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge. Setting Gary apart was a dedicated team of civic and artistic leaders who showed they were willing to take risks, said Kate Levin, who oversees the Bloomberg Philanthropies Arts Program.

“What we were looking for were projects that had terrific art, that were taking real chances but had strong local support that we thought could really address an important civic issue,” Levin said. “This fulfilled all those criteria. It really is trying to accomplish something on behalf of Gary with Gary.”

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