Theaster Gates Plans Green Line Arts Center for University of Chicago Arts Block in Washington Park

The proposed arts center will occupy a vacant terracotta-and-brick building on Garfield Avenue. All images courtesy of Jonhnston Marklee.

The University of Chicago has announced plans to further develop the major arts and culture corridor located along a stretch of the city’s historic East Garfield Boulevard known as the Arts Block, with a proposal for the Green Line Arts Center. The plan is the latest phase of the Arts Block initiative led by artist Theaster Gates, a professor in the University of Chicago Department of Visual Arts and director of Arts + Public Life.

Revamping a vacant, terracotta-and-brick building on Garfield Avenue, Los Angeles–based firm Johnston Marklee & Associates designed the concept for the Green Line Arts Center, which proposes to preserve the building facade and incorporate a jazz club in a nod to its 1920s legacy. Adding a modern third floor with a peaked roof, the new facility will house a live performance theater, a dance studio, a cinema, and studios for artists in residence.


Image courtesy of Johnston Marklee.

The university is working with local residents, elected officials, and community organizations in the development of plans for the center and public space. Currently in its conceptual phase, the proposed center may be built across from one of the sites under consideration for President Barack Obama’s presidential library. 


Image courtesy of Johnston Marklee.

“The Arts Block is a welcome addition to the Washington Park community and serves as another important step toward building an iconic arts hub on the South Side,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “Creating a new arts corridor will not only bring economic opportunities for the surrounding neighborhoods, it will engage and inspire more residents through major public art and culture projects. That can have a multiplying effect, further strengthening neighborhoods and communities throughout the South Side.”

Theaster Gates will be the featured speaker at the 2016 Contract Design Forum, to be held November 9-11, 2016, in Del Mar, California. Learn more about Forum here.