The Story Behind the Harris Family Foundation King Harris Forum

The Story Behind the Harris Family Foundation King Harris Forum


[MUSIC PLAYING] THEASTER GATES: The mill came
together as a creative project. There were 90,000
trees that needed to be cut over the next five years. And those trees had a disease
as a result of this infestation of the ash board beetle. The city really
needed a solution. What do we do with all these
trees that we have to cut? I suggested to the
city of Chicago that we consider the
creation of a mill so that those trees could
be cut into usable lumber. One of the things that’s
been really exciting for me is to see the University
of Chicago’s Harris School being willing to think about
creating this triumvirate of community based
work, artistic work, and institutional work. And now with the mill,
we have the ability to reclaim materials as
fuel, strips of lumber, new works of art, and a pretty
strong employment program. When I first learned
of the forum, and I realized that it was
supposed to be this place where Harris students could also
meet with community members, I thought, this is
the kind of project that I want to participate in. JOAN HARRIS: In my view, there
are two kinds of artists. One is an artist who makes art,
so he or she can make more art. And then there’s the artist who
makes art to change the world. Theaster Gates is
in that category. What he makes brings new
life to old material. There is nothing more wonderful
or more inspiring than that. KING HARRIS: I think it’s
great the milled lumber within the Harris Family
Foundation King Harris Forum was milled by local
people from the community. This is what we’re about. CARLOS CARPENTER: Who would
grow up in the city of Chicago thinking that, you know,
they can be a woodworker? This mill benefits
the neighborhood, giving young people
an idea of something that they can possibly
pursue as a career. DAMON DORCHUCK: It
allows a community to see sustainable
manufacturing that you just don’t get to see very often. THEASTER GATES:
The Keller center is a really interesting space
because while its principal investment and interest in
pedagogy is around policy, I think that one of the
things that it aims to do is to demonstrate how
policy impacts the everyday. In this case, what does it
mean for a large institution like the University
of Chicago to kind of be invested in the
ongoing revitalization of this neighborhood? And I think that the
reactivation of this wood is just one way that
we’re demonstrating not only the value
of local investment and the ability to
measure that impact but also just the
value of the people who live on the South
Side and the contributions that we’re able to make. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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