Stony Island Arts Bank Opens as part of Chicago’s Architectural Biennial


Randy Crompton, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Alderman Leslie Hairston, CCLF President Calvin L. Holmes, Frederick Dunston and Director of Lending Operations at CCLF Wendell Harris celebrate the opening of the Stony Island Arts Bank

For the past 30 years, a nearly century-old bank in Chicago’s South Shore community has been abandoned and vacant. The 19,065 square foot building was acquired by the City of Chicago via condemnation in 2008 and soon captured the interest of visionary Theaster Gates. Gates, a world renowned artist, bought the building and transformed it into the Stony Island Arts Bank, a multi-use facility which would house offices for a nonprofit, provide event/exhibit/studio space, and a research archive/library. Gates sees the space as filling a dire need for a cultural and community space in the South Shore area. “For me personally, it is important because I want amazing amenities where I live and I deserve beautiful things in my neighborhood. Sometimes, in order for that to happen, you have to make it happen,” Gates commented.

The Arts Bank officially opened on October 3rd as a part of Chicago’s Architectural Biennial with an impressively large turnout. CCLF President Calvin L. Holmes and other staff members attended the Grand Opening along with important Chicago figures such as Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Alderman of Chicago’s 5th Ward Leslie Hairston, and City Treasurer Kurt Summers. During a short press conference, Gates welcomed the large crowd and thanked CCLF and State Farm for helping make the Arts Bank possible. Sherry Bowne, Philanthropy Analyst at State Farm added, “We appreciate our relationship and association with this amazing and transformational project.” CCLF provided a loan of $2,700,000 to Gates’ The Stony Group LLC to complete this project.


CCLF staff talk with a representative of the Rebuild Foundation

Many CCLF staff members received a private tour of the Arts Bank and learned about Gates’ history of redevelopment on the South Side and the other projects Rebuild Foundation is leading such as the Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative, which offers mixed income housing for artists and community members. They got the opportunity to explore the Art Banks’ 17,000 square foot gallery and arts space and hear about its distinctive collections, such as Frankie Knuckles’ collection of vinyl “House” music records and the personal archive of John H. Johnson who founded Johnson Publishing, which is best known for publishing Ebony and Jet magazines.

In the short time since the Arts Bank has opened, it has attracted visitors from all over the city and the world. CCLF is excited to watch the space grow as an artistic institution of Chicago.


Left: The main hall of the Arts Bank during the restoration and construction process. Right: The main hall after the Arts Bank opened in October with the installation Under the Skin by Carlos Bunga