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Theaster Gates Studio and Rebuild Foundation, in partnership with the Prada Group, are proud to launch the Dorchester Industries Experimental Design Lab. This three-year incubator is a think tank for emerging talent across fashion, design, furniture architecture and the industrial arts.

Anchored on Chicago's South Side with annual activations in New York City and Los Angeles, the Experimental Design Lab is a space of exchange, training, mentorship and amplification for rising designers of color. Public programming hosted across Rebuild Foundation's sites will deepen the awardees' engagement with the South Side community. The Experimental Design Awards will honor designers who have demonstrated extraordinary potential. The inaugural cohort of awardees will be nominated by leaders across the artistic industries, ushering in a new era of design intelligence and cultivating a nucleus of creative energy on the South Side.


Dorchester Industries is an artist-led manufacturing platform that creates furniture, objects, and spaces using exceptional but often overlooked materials sourced throught the City of Chicago. 

This project, the vision of artist and founder Theaster Gates, has a dual mission: to create beautiful things well and to train our employees to pursue careers in the building trades and creative industries. The objects produced through the collaborative creative process are sold under the Dorchester Industries brand, with proceeds supporting the mission to promote culture-based, artist-led, neighborhood-driven community revitalization. 


Wood: From discard to purpose

Dorchester Industries began with its carpentry program, developed in part as a response to the City of Chicago’s need to find sustainable uses for trees destroyed by the emerald ash borer beetle. Dorchester Industries took delivery of tens of thousands of ash trees, and to date has milled 1,000 of these locally felled trees into highquality lumber before turning them into handcrafted woodworking objects such as tables and hardwood for flooring and other projects.


Clay: From earth to hearth

Dorchester Industries produces handmade, functional stoneware, including Japanese and African-inspired functional and sculptural ware. The objects are designed and handmade in the studio, then fired in the Dorchester Industries anagama kiln, which was constructed onsite by employees from reclaimed fire brick. Dorchester Industries' wares are currently on display and in use at Afro Mingei, a space inspired by the philosophy of mingei, which celebrates the beauty in ordinary objects created by everyday craftsmen. Dorchester Industries hopes to open a full retail space in the fall of 2019. 


Workforce training: From underemployed to thriving

The Dorchester Industries apprenticeship program pairs people with Rebuild Foundation’s artists-in-residence as well as local tradespeople—from masons and general contractors to landscapers—to learn new skills as well as have direct, hands-on opportunities to create and sell new art and design objects.

Leveraging the potential of art and design to create jobs and promote ethical redevelopment in Chicago, Dorchester Industries’ workforce development programs have focused on masonry, millwork, carpentry, and pottery—all crafts and trades that are a hallmark of founder Theaster Gates’s studio practice. The program highlights the underlying vision of Rebuild Foundation as well as Gates’s social practice to use the arts as both a uniting force and an economic driver within the South Side community—a model that, in time, could be replicated in other similar neighborhoods throughout the U.S. 


“It is unquestionably better to teach a person to do something than to do it for them, and that is the idea at the core of Dorchester Industries.” 

-Theaster Gates, Founder of Dorchester Industries