Hallie Chen (MArch ’12) spent her 2011 summer working for Rebuild Foundation in Chicago, IL. Rebuild Foundation was founded by artist and planner Theaster Gates, a former GSD Loeb Fellow. It is an arts-based community development organization based in both St.Louis, MI and Chicago, IL.
Over the course of 3 months, GSD students living and working on the houses in Chicago ran place-based programming, design build apprenticeships with local youth, and cultural programming with the artists residency at Dorchester Projects. As practitioners in residence, they were given creative freedom to use the reclaimed material on hand and their relationships with neighbors to make things happen. Through this activity they reappropriated abandoned space as generative space, discarded material as art objects, and neighborly relationships as cultural capital. The fundamental tenets of the organization resonates deeply with design in that what others might see as crisis, designers see opportunity. It is this attitude and this philosophy that allows artists and designers to approach community development with a unique perspective.