CTA and Artist Theaster Gates are Ready to Provide Riders with a More Enjoyable Travel Experience with the Return of the AESOP DJ Booth

June 1, 2023

The interactive art installation at the 95th/Dan Ryan Terminal, created by Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates, returns for another summer of sonic activation beginning with the AM commute Monday, June 5

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Theaster Gates Studio, and Rebuild Foundation announced the exciting return of AESOP (An Extended Song of Our People), the famed public art project and DJ booth designed by Gates and programmed by Rebuild Foundation at the 95th/Dan Ryan Red Line station. AESOP was established in 2019.

AESOP is an interactive public art installation created by world renowned artist and Chicago-based social innovator Theaster Gates. AESOP is the first known artist-designed and constructed broadcast studio/disc jockey (DJ) booth in a transit facility. This year, DJ Ayana Contreras will be returning as the guest host of the DJ Booth. There will be live programming on Mondays (7-10 a.m.) and Fridays (3-6 p.m.) through Friday, October 27, except for the following public holiday: Monday, September 4 (Labor Day).

AESOP provides South Side commuters with a public cultural amenity that celebrates shared history, showcases local talent, and centers the sonic histories and contributions of Black and Brown people. The DJ Booth, made from a custom desk from the Johnson Publishing Company headquarters designed by Arthur Elrod, pays homage to Chicago’s rich cultural history and legacy of Black excellence. The walls in the installation are comprised of slate elements that were salvaged from the former St. Laurence Church, a sacred site that is frequently memorialized in Theaster’s artistic practice materially and thematically, prior to its demolition in 2014.

The DJ Booth and associated live music programing is presented by Rebuild Foundation, Gates’ non-profit platform for art, cultural development, and neighborhood transformation on the South Side. This programming is broadcast over the 95th/Dan Ryan station’s public address (PA) system and via speakers in the DJ booth so that commuters are honored and celebrated as they travel throughout the city and return home.

Theaster Gates, a Chicago native, is an internationally acclaimed artist, and Professor and Special Advisor to the President for Arts Initiatives at the University of Chicago. The artwork commissioned for the North Terminal Building of the 95th/Dan Ryan station serves as a treasured piece of the CTA’s transit art collection, aligning with the agency’s goal to commission original works of art to better the transit experience for all customers and to foster community pride in the neighborhoods it serves. On display in the station’s South Terminal Building is artist Theaster Gates’ visual piece, america, america – a pair of large tapestries made from decommissioned fire hoses. The civil tapestries were created by the artist to formally materialize the history of the civil rights struggle in the U.S. The work also serves as a reminder of struggle and acknowledgment that the work of equity and equality is an ongoing effort not carried by one people but by all.

Over the last decade, the CTA’s public art collection has nearly doubled to include nearly 90 permanent works of art across all eight rail lines and multiple bus facilities. This dynamic and immersive collection of public art includes mosaics, art glass, sculptures and interactive installations created by nationally and internationally acclaimed artists, many of whom are local.

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About Rebuild Foundation

Founded by artist Theaster Gates in 2010, Rebuild Foundation is a platform for art, cultural development, and neighborhood transformation. Rebuild strengthens creative communities through grants, classes, residencies, access to our collections and free public programs. The Foundation is well known for innovative, ambitious, and impactful arts and cultural initiatives, hosting projects and programs that amplify the history, value, and promise of Black creativity at local, national, and international scales. Rebuild operates a constellation of sites on the South Side of Chicago including the Stony Island Arts Bank, Retreat at the Currency Exchange Café, Dorchester Art Housing Collaborative, Kenwood Gardens, and the forthcoming arts incubator at the former St. Laurence Elementary School. To learn more about Rebuild Foundation, please visit: https://www.rebuild-foundation.org/


About Theaster Gates

Theaster Gates lives and works in Chicago. Gates creates work that focuses on space theory and land development, sculpture and performance. Drawing on his interest and training in urban planning and preservation, Gates redeems spaces that have been left behind. Known for his recirculation of art-world capital, Gates creates work that focuses on the possibility of the “life within things.” Gates smartly upturns art values, land values, and human values. In all aspects of his work, he contends with the notion of Black space as a formal exercise – one defined by collective desire, artistic agency, and the tactics of a pragmatist. Gates has exhibited and performed at Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2019); Haus der Kunst, Munich (2019–20);, Victoria & Albert Museum, London (2021–22); Whitechapel Gallery, London (2021–22), Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France (2019); Sprengel Museum Hannover, Germany (2018); Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland (2018); National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., USA (2017); Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada (2016); Fondazione Prada, Milan, Italy (2016); Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK (2013); Punta della Dogana, Venice, Italy (2013) and dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel, Germany (2012). He was the winner of the Artes Mundi 6 prize and was a recipient of the Légion d'Honneur in 2017. He was awarded the Nasher Prize for Sculpture 2018, as well as the Urban Land Institute, J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development. Gates is a professor at the University of Chicago in the Department of Visual Arts and the College.

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