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Renowned artist, educator and urban planner Theaster Gates to serve as advisory consultant for Marygrove campus planning

Arts & Culture, Detroit, General Foundation News

Furthering its commitment to engage residents, creative practitioners and community advocates in an equitable Marygrove campus planning and neighborhood recovery process, The Kresge Foundation has announced a new partnership between Theaster Gates Studio and the Marygrove Conservancy.

As part of the Foundation’s $30 million pledge in new grant funding to sharpen its focus on racial equity and justice in cities across the country, the Theaster Gates Studio grant is one of 20 Detroit-specific efforts to support racial justice in Kresge’s hometown. Gates will serve as an advisory consultant to the Marygrove Conservancy during the campus master planning project.

Marygrove Campus

The Marygrove Conservancy is currently working to redevelop Marygrove campus into a community hub for educational, arts, cultural and community-based programming. The Marygrove team will engage the expertise of internationally renowned artist, educator and urban planner Theaster Gates on campus master preparation, arts and culture planning and community engagement within the broader context of the Live6 community. Live6 includes four neighborhoods surrounding the Livernois and McNichols corridors: Bagley, Fitzgerald, University District and Martin Park.

“Marygrove Conservancy is privileged to have Theaster’s thought leadership and experience as a resource to our campus master planning and neighborhood redevelopment efforts,” said Racheal Allen, chief operating officer of the Marygrove Conservancy. “This partnership will specifically support the creation of artistic based, ethical development projects for artists and entrepreneurs of color in the Fitzgerald and Bagley communities.”

“This grant illustrates Kresge’s commitment to centering creativity and residents’ voices in planning processes with aspirations for wellbeing and equitable outcomes,” said Regina Smith, managing director of Kresge’s Arts & Culture Program.

Gates is founder and Executive Director of Rebuild Foundation, a nonprofit platform aimed at strengthening communities through neighborhood regeneration and the development of educational and arts programming and amenities. A proven commitment to racial equity can be evidenced through his work as an artist and studio practice. A separate entity led by Gates is the Theaster Gates Studio, which has been successful in creating hubs and archives for Black culture that serve as catalysts for discussions on race, equality, space, and history.

“Theaster and his team have a track record of using creative and inclusive approaches to the complex spatial, economic, and cultural challenges on Chicago’s South Side, as well as other majority Black and historically economically disinvested neighborhoods,” Smith added. “Over the years, these have resulted in respectful and creative approaches to workforce development, historic preservation and culturally-based programming – approaches that will be critical to the equitable redevelopment of the Marygrove campus and contiguous neighborhoods.”

A portion of the new grant funding will directly support the Conservancy and Theaster Gates in leading phase two of Marygrove’s Community Impact Incubator program, which will create a platform for cultural and community developers to spur artist-led, neighborhood-based development and entrepreneurship that reimagines assets on Marygrove’s campus and in the Fitzgerald neighborhood of northwest Detroit.

“With a focus on engaging the campus’s predominantly African-American neighborhood and supporting Black creative practitioners, this work will advance the foundation’s racial justice efforts and equitable development goals for the Livernois-McNichols community and the city of Detroit at large,” said Wendy Lewis Jackson, managing director of Kresge’s Detroit Program. “With this partnership, we hope to fundamentally transform the way neighborhoods are ethically developed in Detroit and across the country, with an explicit focus on Black creative practitioners to reflect the population in the Live6 community.”

Gates lives and works in Chicago creating work that focuses on space theory and land development, sculpture and performance. Drawing on his training as an artist, urban planner and preservationist, Gates redeems spaces that have been left behind.

Inspired by his experience and the “9 Principles for Ethical Redevelopment,” the partnership will engage Detroit-based artists, developers, urban planners and architects to help reimagine assets on the Marygrove campus and the neighborhood that surrounds it.