Over the past several years, Chicago artist Theaster Gates hosted a series of ritual meals at Dorchester Projects, a city block on Chicago’s South Side in a community with wonderful people and richness. These meals came 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 about people sharing ideas and resources, a place where conversations begin at the table and end in friendship.
Soul Pavilion is a critical component of an exhibition at the Smart Museum of Art entitled, “Feast, Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art.” In this work, Theaster Gates is collaborating with chef Michael Kornick, soul-food expert Erika Dudley and performers Yaw and Khari, to host a series of ritualized dinners at Dorchester Projects, a group of once-vacant homes in the Grand Crossing neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. A diverse mix of curated guests and members of the public will join Gates for five dinners that will combine meals served on specially commissioned ceramics created in collaboration with Japanese master potter Kouichi Ohara, performance, and discussions around a variety of themes: The Geography of Soul (February 19), The Art of Soul (March 11), The History of Soul (April 15), The Politics of Soul (May 6), and The Community of Soul (June 3).
Soul food embodies a belief in friendship, neighborliness and homage to slavery, the American South and struggle. Using objects, buildings, corporate branding, labor and hospitality, Gates will explore why we eat what we eat.
To make Soul Pavilion accessible to all, Otherwise conceived, designed and developed a website for Soul Pavilion. The background is a visual of Soul Ware, a mood image that expresses how the ritual of sharing meals brings people together through food. An important design element is the grid, the structure alluding to how Soul Ware is designed to be stacked and the repetition referencing the rituals of soul food. The site is designed to share the rich experiences at Soul Pavilion through music, video and photography.