GREATER GRAND CROSSING — Theaster Gates is planning to turn the former St. Laurence Catholic elementary school in Greater Grand Crossing into a maker space, according to a Wednesday announcement.
On Wednesday, Place Lab, the development partnership between the University of Chicago’s arts and policy schools run by Gates, announced it would turn the former school into a space for education and job training in design and fabrication.
Work is expected to start this summer as youth in the neighborhood paint murals on the windows to tell the history of the building.
Chicago artist Ruben Aguirre will lead a group of youth at the building to explore pattern making as a way to view culture and identity.
The murals are expected to be unveiled in August.
No one was immediately available Wednesday to discuss the larger vision for the building at 1353 E. 72nd Street, a block from Gates' studio and the Black Cinema House.
“The space will accommodate artists and builders from a range of practices, offering training and apprenticeships that will augment neighbors’ skills and expand employment prospects,” Place Lab said in a Wednesday blog post announcing the project.
A representative from Place Lab was not immediately available to comment.
Gates acquired the building in 2014 for an estimated $451,500, according to Cook County property records, as the neighboring St. Laurence Catholic Church and parish hall were being demolished.
The church closed in 2002 with $106,000 in debt and $3 million in outstanding repairs needed for its buildings, according to news reports from the time. The Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago sold the buildings in 2005 to Eden Supportive Living, which planned to reuse the school, but struggled to get its plans approved by neighbors, leaving the buildings vacant.
The St. Laurence school will be converted into a space for education and job training in design and fabrication. [Courtesy of Place Lab]
The St. Laurence school has been vacant since the church closed in 2002.
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