Rebuilding the Community: The Stoney Island Arts Bank

It was an hour and a half ride via the CTA but it was completely worth it.

I hopped off the number 6 Jackson bus on Cornell and 67th street. An area of the south-side of Chicago that I am fairly familiar with, since it use to be a part of my daily commute of my first year in the city. I was a visitor in the neighborhood that I called home for a year three months.

As I made my way towards my destination, I was delayed by the random fall rain shower. Determined not to let the weather hold me back, I continued on my midday journey to the Stoney Island Arts bank. A grand foundation that stands mighty on the busy street on Stoney Island avenue.

Stoney Island Arts Bank

The history of this building is as fascinating as the revitalization of the space. The Stoney Island Arts bank is a part of the Rebuild Foundation, a non-profit that seeks to rebuild cultural foundations in underinvested neighborhoods. In addition to the Stoney Island Arts Bank, Rebuild has several other locations around the neighborhood that are about ten minutes a part from each other in distance. Each building focuses on culture based, art led, and community driven movements.

Since its opening in early October, the Stoney Island Arts Bank has welcomed over 5,000 visitors from around the world to its unique space; there’s a reason why. The free, community-gallery space includes collections of books, music, memorabilia, and imagery,that you will not find anywhere else in Chicago.

Johnson Publishing Library

The Johnson Publishing Library, donated by the Johnson Publishing( home to Ebony and the former Jet magazine), is a phenomenal collection of books that were written by or about African-Americans and other various ethnic cultures.

The Frankie Knuckles Collection, named after the ‘God-father’ of House Music, contains the personal vinyls of the world famous DJ. The archives have yet to be opened for public use.

The Stoney Island Arts Bank is also home to some of the most fascinating and controversial “Negrobilia”(best way to describe it),exploitive figures to abolitionist documents by local business man Edward Williams.

Lastly, there is the huge donation of slides from the University of Chicago that features images from around the city. Delicate sources that are now public resources.

The man behind this awesome vision is the local artist Theaster Gates. He is an inspiration for sure! A man who was born and raised in Chicago, became successful in his own career, and has open his gates(pun intended) to bring in opportunities for those in his own community. And to top it off, Gates continues to put in work. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Chicago and continues to produce artistic works and installations.

Not only is the Stoney Island Arts Bank a place of inspiration but of action. The space continues to develop as it host events like ‘Frankie Fridays’, and community cataloging. The space is truly about bringing the Chicago community together.

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Be sure to visit the space Tuesdays through Saturdays, you can take an afternoon tour or even become a professional collection specialist. Visit the site for more details!

Taylor J

The Haute Seeker is a digital platform created through the curious lenses of Taylor Justin, whose mission is to actively seek and share the cultural diversity found in the city of Chicago. Taylor is an Ohio-born, Southern-raised transplant who loves to vintage shop, museum hop, and live “like a local” in every city she visits. She is Jill of all trades and has an extensive background in fashion, marketing, sales, event planning, and community engagement.

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