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Theaster Gates (l-r), Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, and Michael Bloomberg at ArtHouse: A Social Kitchen

Michael Bloomberg visits Gary to see his philanthropic gift

Contributed By:The 411 News

A look at ArtHouse: A Social Kitchen

Billionaire and former 3-term Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg, 2002-2013, was in Gary Monday, a guest of Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson. He came to see how his gift of $1 million dollars has benefitted the city and to discuss community building through the arts.

Mayor Freeman-Wilson introduced him to the gathering at ArtHouse: A Social Kitchen as a “mayor of all mayors.” He looked the part, elegantly casual and comfortable with the attention, fitting the man who was elected to his first two terms as a Republican and his third term as an Independent in the Democratic stronghold of New York City. “We are so fortunate that he didn’t finish his public service and ride off into the sunset,” Mayor Freeman-Wilson said.

A private citizen now, Bloomberg is busy running his businesses that employ 20,000 in 70 offices around the world. His philanthropies focus on art, education, government innovation, and public health issues. “For the first time in the world, fewer people are dying from communicable diseases,” Bloomberg said, “but their lives are being shortened by lifestyle choices.” He’s an ambassador for UNESCO and represents the United Nations on climate change.

Also hosting the event was Theaster Gates, the Chicago southsider known for his practices of repurposing unused urban spaces. Gates re-design for ArtHouse was 1 of the winners in the 2015 Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Arts Challenge. The award was $1 million each to four cities to implement their ideas for an art project that fostered creative collaboration, addressed civic issues, and supported local economies. Gates said, “I had to convince the Bloomberg administration there were ways to think about art other than as a monument.”

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, through its partnership with the Legacy Foundation, contributed $600,000 to the ArtHouse project.

Important in his foundation’s selection process, Bloomberg said, was the winning ideas had to be replicable by other cities. Gates transformed the former Dusties’ Restaurant, 411 E. 5th Avenue, an underutilized downtown building into ArtHouse: A Social Kitchen. Since opening in November 2016, ArtHouse has served as a center featuring commissioned works of visual art, culinary training and business development workshops, and cultural programming that uses food as a medium for community engagement.

“My inspiration for this project was recognizing that Gary, a city of around 70,000 people, had roughly only 30 restaurants because there had been so much disinvestment in its community,” said Gates. “But there is a great food culture in the city. So, the idea of creating a cultural center that was going to do music and visual arts, but also was going to celebrate food as a cultural form, was unique and compelling to me.”

Testimony to ArtHouse’s successful culinary business program was abundant. Foods and drinks were provided by caterers who had completed culinary incubator classes. James and Chastity Shelby gave out bottles of Love Tea, their line of beverages manufactured in ArtHouse’s commercial kitchen. The program helped John Allen launch Foody’s, a recently opened Gary restaurant on 25th Avenue. Emily Edwards touted the development of a low-sugar, plant-based icing and food spread she intends for Whole Foods.

The culinary incubator program targets home-based food entrepreneurs looking to expand and grow their businesses. They get the how-to’s on opening a storefront business and learn ways to get their products to the masses. The free 8-week program helps with business development, and offers workshops, training, and mentorship opportunities.

ArtHouse also offers a food-service training program to help Gary residents gain entry and advanced-level food industry jobs and assists with job placement.


Theaster Gates (l-r), Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, and Michael Bloomberg at ArtHouse: A Social Kitchen


Love Tea’s Chastity Shelby (center) gave out samples of her product, manufactured in the commercial kitchen at ArtHouse

Story Posted:10/10/2018

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