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Award-winning artist Theaster Gates began his lecture “An Analog but Very Important Conversation” with a slow, soulful prayer, which he sang, his rich voice filling the crevices of the packed theater at SCAD Museum of Art.
Then, playing Nina Simone’s "To Be Young Gifted and Black" on vinyl from a turn table on the desk from where he spoke, Theaster turned his pulpit into a parlor, inviting the audience into his perspective on space, race and art. He punctuated his narrative about salvaging the interiors of Crispus Attucks Elmentary School in Chicago – where he is implementing a philosophy of radical urban revitalization - with an image of his work, "A Maimed King."
I'm not mad at the museum. It just won't do more than it can do. I'm not mad at the 'hood. I just expect more from my 'hood.
Of the crumpled image of the civil rights icon caught in a lock, Theaster explained that he wanted to preserve this "mutilated" depiction of “the King” just as he’d found it. He recalled shooing away his assistant who dutifully went to wipe away the thick layer of dust coating the glass and frame because, to him, all of it symbolized an ideal trapped, half-realized, then abandoned. A metaphor for the reality facing black schools in Chicago.