2012-2014 Prize Winner: Theaster Gates and Dorchester Projects

2012 - 2014
Launched to celebrate the VLC's 20th anniversary, the Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics honors an exemplary artist or group of artists who has taken risks to advance social justice in profound and visionary ways. International in scope, the biennial prize is awarded for a particular project's long-term impact, boldness and artistic excellence. Following an extensive research and evaluation process that enlisted the advice of a jury and a nominator's council of leading artists, art historians, and curators worldwide, Theaster Gates was named inaugural recipient of the prize for his Dorchester Projects. Gates is globally renowned for his genre-defying explorations of community, history, race, and politics.

A bold American artist with a global vision, Theaster Gates and his work expand the discourse of political enfranchisement and social inclusion. Gates began Dorchester Projects in 2006 by transforming two buildings on Chicago's South Side into community gathering spaces with a library, slide archive, performance space, and soul food kitchen. The ongoing piece examines urban renewal and social justice through the lens of arts, spirituality, alternative economies, and community engagement.

"Theaster Gates' project of historical reclamation, interrogation of archival legacies, and social construction of memory and cultural agency has it all tied together," said curator and historian Okwui Enwezor, who chaired the jury that selected Dorchester Projects for the Vera List Center Prize. "Dorchester Projects layers a meditation on the present African American experience by connecting it to the haunted remains of the past, making links with narratives of race consciousnesses, the Civil Rights Movements, but ultimately probing how the African American experience is enlivened by ongoing processes of testimony. Entering that installation is like entering a haunted space."

The New York Times

More information about Theaster Gates

A group of five jury members selected Gates as the inaugural prize recipient.

Okwui Enwezor, Chair
Carin Kuoni
Lydia Matthews
Susan Meiselas
Dorothy Q. Thomas

Twenty leading professionals in the visual and performing arts from around the world nominated twenty projects.

Negar Azimi
Omar Berrada
Zoe Butt
Sofía Hernández Chong Cui
T.J. Demos
Galit Eilat
Bassam El Baroni
Shiming Gao
Susanna Gyulamiryan
Shannon Jackson
Koyo Kouoh
Ana Longoni
HG Masters
José Roca
Gregory Sholette
Bisi Silva
Pooja Sood
Chen Tamir
What How and For Whom

Prize Founding Supporters
James Keith Brown and Eric Diefenbach
Elizabeth R. Hilpman and Byron Tucker
Jane Lombard
Joshua Mack
The New School