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Nov 30
Historic Theater / Michigan Theater
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UMMA and the Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series Present: Theaster Gates "Afro Mingei"

Keynote for "Free to Speak! A Convening on Art, Slavery and Reconciliation"

RSVP requested.

Artist and social innovator Theaster Gates lives and works in Chicago. Trained in urban planning and ceramics, his artistic practice translates the intricacies of Blackness through space theory and land development, sculpture, and performance. Through the expansiveness of his approach as a thinker, maker, and builder, he extends the role of the artist as an agent of change. His performance practice and visual work find roots in Black knowledge, objects, history, and archives. His work focuses on the possibility of the “life within things” and redeems spaces that have been left behind. He is founder of the Rebuild Foundation, an artist-led, community-based platform for art, cultural development, and neighborhood transformation whose mission is to demonstrate the impact of innovative, ambitious and entrepreneurial cultural initiatives enriched by three core values: Black people matter, Black spaces matter, and Black objects matter.

Gates will be speaking on the occasion of the campus-wide Arts & Resistance Theme Semester which features the exhibition Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina currently on view at UMMA. This landmark exhibition includes more than 60 objects representing the work of African American potters in the decades surrounding the Civil War as well as several contemporary works from leading Black artists, including Gates, whose work connects the past to the present. The exhibition is a reckoning with the central role that enslaved and free Black potters played in the long-standing stoneware traditions of Edgefield, South Carolina. It is also an important story about the unrelenting power of artistic expression and creativity, even while under the brutal conditions of slavery. Hear Me Now highlights the joy, struggle, creative ambition, and lived experience of African Americans in the 19th-century American South.

Gates' Penny Stamps Speaker Series event will be a presentation of Black craft and the truth of racial complexity through the built environment. Gates’ presentation also serves as the kick off to "Free to Speak! A Convening on Art, Slavery and Reconciliation". Organized in partnership with exhibition co-curator and U-M Professor of History, Jason Young, the convening will take place on Friday, December 1, at UMMA. To see the full convening schedule and RSVP, click here.

Gates has exhibited and performed at Biennale Architettura 2023, Venice, Italy (2023)Fondazione Prada, Venice, Italy (2023); The New Museum, New York, (2022); The Aichi Triennial, Tokoname (2022); The Serpentine Pavilion, London (2022); The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK (2021); Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK (2013 and 2021); Tate Liverpool, UK (2020); Haus der Kunst, Munich (2020); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2019); Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France; Sprengel Museum Hannover, Germany (2018); Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland (2018); National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., USA (2017); Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada (2016); Fondazione Prada, Milan, Italy (2016); Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK (2013); Punta della Dogana, Venice, Italy (2013) and dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel, Germany (2012). He was awarded the Nasher Prize for Sculpture 2018, as well as the Urban Land Institute, J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development.

Theaster Gates is presented in partnership with the Penny W. Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series.  Free to Speak is generously supported by the U-M Inclusive History Project, the U-M Arts Initiative Arts & Resistance Theme Semester Fund, the Americana Foundation, Michigan Humanities, the U-M Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and the U-M Department of History.


The Arts & Resistance Theme Semester, organized by UMMA and the U-M Arts Initiative, is generously supported by the U-M Office of the Provost, the U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch, and Erica Gervais Pappendick and Ted Pappendick.

Hear Me Now is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, with support from the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Henry Luce Foundation.

Lead support for UMMA's presentation of the exhibition is provided by Michigan Engineering, the U-M Office of the Provost, the U-M Office of the President, the Americana Foundation, the U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, the U-M Inclusive History Project, and Michigan Humanities. Additional generous support is provided by Larry and Brenda Thompson and Melissa Kaish and Jonathan Dorfman. 


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