Soul Manufacturing Corporation: Collaborating with Theaster Gates
Over the past months, Otherwise has been collaborating with Theaster Gates, one of this generation’s most important contemporary artists, to bring visual form to his extraordinary plans for Soul Manufacturing Corporation and one of its core components, Soul Pavilion.
Theaster Gates is a Chicago-based artist and urban planner known for transforming spaces, institutions, traditions and perceptions through his work in performances, installations and urban interventions. When Theaster is not making art for museums, he is committed to the restoration of impoverished neighborhoods, converting abandoned buildings into cultural spaces that can be shared and enjoyed by all members of the community.
In 2009, Theaster proposed Soul Manufacturing Corporation at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit. The goal was to pilot a project that would work with local residents to create a new line of ceramic wares that celebrate the foods of African Americans.
From there, Soul Manufacturing Corporation has grown into a multi-city initiative dedicated to the creative re-use of buildings and design education throughout communities of color. As part of this initiative, SMC is working with potters in Lilling, China, Tokoname, Japan and the Bemis Center in Omaha to realize Soul Wares.
Otherwise began working with Theaster in 2011 to help translate the vision for Soul Manufacturing Corporation into a simple, powerful, clearly articulated brand that brings form to this particular part of Theaster’s artistic and urban renewal practice. Distinguished by geometric typography, the visual identity is formed by the shapes of ceramic cups, bowls and ladles sitting on a shelf. Designed with big open spaces, the letters can be cutouts, allowing the logo to be seen through or to frame other visuals.
Soul Wares have become central to an ongoing series of ritual meals that Theaster has been hosting at Dorchester Projects, a city block on Chicago’s South Side. These meals have come to be known as Soul Pavilion — less of a physical space and more of a time set aside for eating and remembering. Soul Pavilion is a place for people to share ideas and resources. Soul Pavilion is also a critical component of an exhibition at the Smart Museum of Art entitled, “FEAST: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art.”
To make Soul Pavilion accessible to all, Otherwise conceived, designed and developed a website to serve as a digital platform for sharing the rich experiences of Soul Pavilion through music, video and photography. Otherwise has also designed invitations for the Soul Pavilion dinner — simple chipboard placards with foil stamping that evokes a raw and honest feeling.
Emmaline Niendorf is an Integrated Marketing Associate for Otherwise Incorporated.