Risk-Funding to Propel Growth
Chicago-based Rebuild Foundation activates creative community resources to build vibrant neighborhoods, and catalyzes local economies by incubating small businesses, spurring creative architectural rehabilitation, and organizing programs that engage neighborhood residents in the arts. Rebuild was founded by Theaster Gates, himself an artist, to extend the community-building work he had been doing as part of his artistic practice. “The artist is an anomaly in the urban sphere,” said Gates. “We are sometimes doing work that’s complementary to, and sometimes counter to, the traditional forms of space reallocations, space reinvestment, and space development. But the artist is key to the arsenal of reinvestment in poor places.”
Support from LINC enabled the Rebuild Foundation to strengthen its operating capacity in Chicago and expand to new projects in Detroit, Omaha, and St. Louis. In each site, Rebuild enlists a team of artists, architects, developers, educators, and community activists to work together to integrate arts programs, apprenticeship training, and entrepreneurial projects into community-driven placemaking and neighborhood revitalization. LINC support enabled Rebuild to hire additional staff, formalize internal systems, and professionalize communications—while expanding its corps of volunteers in each of its project sites at the same time. All of this elevated Rebuild Foundation’s national visibility and brought added attention to its innovative model of artist-led and culture-based community redevelopment.
“LINC took bigger risks and offered deeper support to fewer organizations than a typical funder,” said Gates. “It offered a particularly helpful framework around emerging practices related to creativity. And being a sun-setting nonprofit was a brilliant idea. Focus ambition relative to time.”