Manifesting ourselves in the world

Lobby at Stony Island Arts Bank

An inspiring story here from the South Side of Chicago, where a man bought a disused bank and turned it into “a stunning cultural centre.”

In doing so he has partly recreated the world in his own image.

Theaster Gates believes strongly in a culturally-driven approach to urban redevelopment. He bought the “vacant, dilapidated ghost” of a building for $1, then raised around $3.5m for its restoration. Sources included taking 100 pieces of marble from the building, carving them into ‘bank bonds‘, and then selling them as art for $5,000 each.

As well as the hard organisational and financial skills of ‘outer’ leadership needed to make this project happen, it also required strong, clear inner leadership:

  • Purpose: to revitalise a neighbourhood and the people who live there
  • Values: “a culturally driven approach to urban redevelopment”, and
  • Vision: “A repository for African American culture and history, a laboratory for the next generation of black artists,” … “a space for neighborhood residents to preserve, access, reimagine and share their heritage, as well as a destination for artists, scholars, curators, and collectors to research and engage with South Side history.” “An institution of and for the South Side.”

The net result is that “a crumbling but beautiful relic has been transformed into a living institution.” Theaster Gates has created “an inspiring, voluminous space that retains the character of the neoclassical-style building… A contemporary art gallery, media archive, library, and community center that will host exhibitions and artist and scholar residencies.”

And what Theaster Gates has really done is manifested his own purpose and values into the world.

He has restored a building, which will help restore a neighbourhood, as “part of an evolving way of reimagining that culture should be central to the way our cities and neighborhoods work”, and ultimately rethinking “the role ­artists play in public life.”

What we achieve in the outer world is a reflection of who we are in our inner world.

And to accomplish it we need to combine both inner and outer leadership.

The Churning is a book in two halves that provides tools for developing our inner and outer leadership, building inspiration and results in times of change.

Photo By Steven Vance via

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