Special Advisor for Arts Initiatives

To: Faculty and Other Academic Appointees
From: Paul Alivisatos, President
Subject: Special Advisor for Arts Initiatives
Date: September 22, 2022 

I am pleased to announce that I have appointed Theaster Gates, Jr., professor in the Department of Visual Arts and the College, as Special Advisor to the President for Arts Initiatives. In this role, Theaster will be responsible for building support and planning the infrastructure for various arts initiatives, both at the University and in the communities surrounding our Hyde Park campus. He will work closely with David Levin, Senior Advisor to the Provost for Arts, to consider new initiatives and strategize about the role of the arts at the University, and in the University’s relationships across the city and around the world. Theaster will also engage students, academics, staff, and the community to broaden and deepen arts practice at UChicago. 

Theaster has held significant leadership roles at the University, including serving as founding Director of Arts + Public Life and as Senior Advisor for Cultural Innovation and Advisor to the Dean at the Harris School of Public Policy. 

In addition to his work at the University, Theaster is founder and artistic director of the nonprofit Rebuild Foundation, where he has developed an artist-led, community-based platform for art, cultural development, and neighborhood transformation. He has raised more than $100 million in local and national support for arts programming, redevelopment efforts, and artists grants. Theaster’s diversified and influential work frequently involves restoring distressed buildings to use for community gathering, artist-centered programming, and housing. 

Theaster’s art practice has received international recognition, and his Serpentine Pavilion 2022 Black Chapel is currently on display in London. Other current exhibitions and recent commissions include those for the Tom Lee Memorial Park in Memphis; the 2022 Aichi Triennale in Tokoname, Japan; and Afro Mingei at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas. In addition, Theaster’s major solo survey at the New Museum in New York City is slated to open later this fall. 

I look forward to working with Theaster in this new role.