The Rebuild Foundation and its founder Theaster Gates have announced the launch of a new initiative to provide training for un- and under-employed people on the South Side of Chicago. Dorchester Industries will pair participants with Rebuild Foundation’s artists-in-residence and local tradespeople to learn new skills and create and sell art and design objects.

As part of a benefit and auction for the Stony Island Arts Bank (SIAB), the programmatic center of Rebuild Foundation, Dorchester Industries’ first class of participants produced works to be sold. Under the guidance of Japanese ceramicist Koichi Ohara, the participants have produced wooden tables and Japanese-style ceramic dishware over the last month. Eight of the participants worked directly with Ohara to produce over 2,000 pieces, including soup bowls, tea bowls, and sake sets. Fifteen of these will be sold at the auction in sets packed in handcrafted boxes. Works by Theaster Gates, Anselm Kiefer, Eddie Peake, and Antony Gromley will also be part of the auction. The proceeds from the participant-produced work will go to the participants, while other money raised will go to the rebuild Foundation’s exhibitions and community programs.

Dorchester Industries was started as a carpentry program that sought to find sustainable uses of trees destroyed by emerald ash borer beetles in Chicago’s parks. Some of the wood from those trees was tooled into the tabletops which will be used at the auction.

Table produced by Dorchester Industries. (Rebuild Foundation)

The first products of the Dorchester Industries are tables made from ash trees killed by emerald ash borer beetles. (Courtesy Rebuild Foundation)

“It is unquestionably better to teach a person to do something than to do it for them, and that is the precept at the core of Dorchester Industries,” explained Theaster Gates. “By providing workforce training in highly employable crafts such as carpentry or pottery work, we support the people in our community in real and tangible ways while also fostering an engagement and appreciation for a variety of art forms.”

The benefit and auction will also be a public preview of Glenn Licon’s A Small Band (2015) installation at the SIAB. The installation is comprised of neons spelling out “blues, bruise, and blood,” a reference to the “Harlem Six,” a group of young black men falsely accused and convicted of murder in the 1960s. Exhibitions and programming at the SIAB often “explore the representations of the black body in art.”

An online portion of the benefit auction is now open through November 5th on Paddle8.

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