Theaster Gates wasn’t sure he wanted to participate, because our meeting would take place soon after his interview on the Colbert Report and he seemed concerned about over-exposure. Burnout. It’s understandable; the man is everywhere. And with his recent win of the Artes Mundi prize he’s even more everywhere. Needless to say, we felt honored that he agreed to be on our show.
Our producer Stephanie and I met Theaster and his studio manager Kate at 7200 S. Kimbark, a whopping 28,000-square-foot studio/compound that once functioned as an Anheuser-Busch distribution warehouse. We followed Kate, clumsily carrying our production equipment, through room upon room: the wood shop, the ceramics studio, the staging area, the outdoor courtyard, the library, the Black Cinema House, the gallery, the private downstairs bar. Stephanie fell on some stairs and spilled her coffee all over the floor, poor thing. Finally, met Theaster in his private studio where our interview was to take place. We were not permitted to film anything other than what happened to be captured behind Theaster, in this case a beautiful wall filled with books Theaster keeps close by for quick pickings.
And then the interview happened. I’ll leave you to judge that for yourself.
It’s not hard to see why Theaster has reached the level he has. The guys is smart. Period. Add to that a roster of star-making characteristics including a kind of charisma not seen since the stage shows of Tom Jones and you’ve got something truly unstoppable. Adoring fans are throwing properties his way in lieu of panties. He flirted with all of us including me, Stephanie, and a female companion he brought along to the interview that day. The only one of us who seemed impervious to the charm was Kate who smiled politely. She’d perhaps seen it all before. For the rest of us, it was too new to be anything but novel.
Later that day I ran into Theaster at an opening at the Arts Incubator, his residency and exhibition space at 301 East Garfield Boulevard. Theaster was working so I didn’t expect much in way of a conversation. But he stopped me and said that our time together was a very special exchange and that he had learned some things about himself. Despite his initial concerns he was glad he participated and, most certainly, so am I.
Until next time,