This weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting the Stony Island Arts Bank for an excellent furniture exhibition. Stony Island Arts Bank was founded by artist Theaster Gates in 2014 as a multi-functional space for residents on the south side of Chicago. Some parts of the space are programmed, like the library, lounge and bar, and others are spacious galleries for short and long term exhibitions. If are unfamiliar with Gates’ work, it often has community, architecture and urban-planning layered with complex partnerships and civic engagement.
In the case of this exhibition, Casey Lurie was teaching Advanced Furniture Making at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), where I oversee the studio facility, and also teach. Lurie reached out to Gates, who has a sawmill and thousands of board feet of Ash which fell victim to the invasive Emerald Ash Borer in Chicago in recent years. Lurie requested the students utilize some of Gates’ Ash for their class, and Gates obliged, offering to host an exhibition of the work at Stony Island Arts Bank when the projects were complete.
With Julie Yost, the director of Programming at Stony Island Arts Bank, Lurie entitled the exhibition ‘From the Ash’ to memorialize the trees from Chicago’s boulevards and parks. After a prototyping phase, the sculpture and design students fabricated functional and sculptural objects from the Ash. In each piece you can see the effort and hard work of the students, along with Lurie’s patient guidance and knowledge. The objects highlight the creative conceptual rigor and commitment to craft typical of the SAIC student. I’d like to additionally shout out to my staff and student workers who assisted in many of these projects. While all of the projects were strong, here are a few of the highlights:
If you’re in the Chicagoland area, I’d recommend checking this exhibition out. All of these pieces are on view at Stony Island Arts Bank through April 7. Admission is free. I’m posting about this and other wood and furniture topics which you can find on my Instagram feed (@sethakeller).