Episode 205: Terry Scrogum/Theaster Gates

August 2, 2009 · Print This Article

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Terry ScrogumThis week: Richard talks to Terry Scrogum, Executive Director of the Illinois Arts Council about the state of the budget, their programs and more!

Next, Kathryn Born talks to Theaster Gates. Theaster Gates is a Chicago artist and University of Chicago faculty member who works with everything from executing ideas in urban planning, to Japanese sculpture, to performance art. He recently did “Temple Exercises” in the 12 X 12 space at the MCA, and among his upcoming projects is the possibility of buying an entire block on the south side. This project may someday include, among other things, a Soul Food-Japanese fusion restaurant which serves honey dipped, crunchy fried mac-and-cheese unagi rolls and Saki Kool-aid.
Illinois Arts Council
Terry Scrogum
Theaster Gates
Shirley Madigan
The Perfect Storm
IAC Master/Apprentice program
peer review panels
League of Chicago Theatres
UBS 12 x 12: New Artists, New Work at the MCA
Spertus Museum
Candy Store Gallery
Theaster Gates’ Shine King
Little Black Pearl
South Side Community Arts Center
Dan Peterman
Experimental Station
Ken Dunn
Creative ReUse Warehouse
Dawoud Bey

17 thoughts on “Episode 205: Terry Scrogum/Theaster Gates”

  1. Greg Ferris says:

    dearest bas,
    for your consideration

    cheers! 😀

  2. Does the Illinois Arts Council have grant categories that apply to those under served artists who design automobiles and cereal boxes?

  3. Balzac says:

    If the current trajectory remains true, there won’t be grants for anyone soon enough, inlcuding those who design hamburger packaging!

  4. Paul Germanos says:

    State-sponsored art is as dangerous as state-sponsored religion.

  5. Balzac says:


    That’s just silly. Theocracy by no means equals arts funding. I’d love to hear your syllogistic logic connecting the two. Please enlighten us.


  6. Yeah, there may be a little logic problem perhaps there — but you too Balzac. State-sponsored religion is not equal to a theocracy. Italy, e.g., has had Roman Catholic Christianity as the “official” religion for centuries; it has been state-sponsored yet not forced for quite some time. They haven’t had much a theocracy (or even much of a strong central government at all) for most of that time, other than when Julian or somebody tried to force a Vatican-ruled area (which was of course then attempted theocracy). Signed, Nitpicking Mark. But I would probably stand with Paul if he said “State promoted art,” which is what he means, I think.

  7. Paul Germanos says:

    It is what it is. Expression and religion are both covered by the First Amendment for a reason.

    (1) Funding a thing is one way to exercise control over it. And that control tends to increase according to the need of the recipient.

    (2) Funding one thing, while not funding another thing, tends to diminish the thing not funded. It’s a matter not only of withholding material support but also recognition.

    To what degree do you wish the state to control what art is made? choose which artists make it? Have you any suspicion?

    Is it reasonable, for example, to be suspicious of medical research funded by pharmaceutical manufacturers? Well, of course: The firm is understood to be a profit maximizer, and science instrumental in the generation of that profit.

    In what sense are art and religion instrumental?

    Unlike the hard sciences, art and religion communicate abstract ideas of value by means of more-or-less concrete signs and symbols.

    And it’s by means of attachment to signs and symbols, and values held in common, that the state itself is sustained.

  8. And support tends to become yet another consensus correct tool in the hands of the gatekeepers; one used more to further their own careers than to truly support art. At least in my opinion (and many others).

  9. Balzac says:

    Paul do you have any recent example of “funding one thing stifles he non funded” you are speaking as if this was quantifiable and a whole lot of non-funded art gets made whether it is funded or not, so I call shenanigans on your reasoning. Please list 5 concrete examples.

    Mark, the Vatican, really? C’mon, come up with some funding-art-is-crushing-the-will-of-the-people from the last 50 years or so and I’ll be more inclined to beleive that this Paul’s line isn’t somehow sour grapes motivated.

    Mark and Paul, are you advocating an end the. To gvt funding of all arts? Let the market decide etc.? Very Ayn Rand! You’ll probably get you wish. Sadly.

    I think any effort to support or promote the arts should be encouraged, there isn’t a whole lot of that sort of thing out there (ah the NEAs individual artists grants I remember you wistfully).

    I think Paul’s blanket statement was one of those swings at the transgressive and evocative that spawn online flame wars….oh dammit….now I’m part of the problem.


  10. I was nitpicking your logic and vocabulary, Balzy, (kinda hyperfinicky, I know!) and giving an example of a theocracy, — which has nothing to do with whether something is recent or not.

    I personally am far from, am even opposite, Rand (which stuff I find to be crap excuse/apologies for selfishness, and a form of quasi-intellectualism for middlebrows, too ).

    I do feel that public (government, Lotto funds, etc.) support should be aimed at infrastructure. The absence of support (and all that “believe in the market” BS) is horrendous and appropriately bemoaned by lefties like me, but we often forget to criticize the way in which support is often used, when given in piecemeal fashion, as yet another tool in the hands of a tiny power elite for their own career-building. It often not only does not help art or artists, but actually is detrimental. That was my point, although something of a tangent, I’ll admit.

  11. Balzac says:

    And not at all incorrect. This has been a discussion of sweeping statements laden with hyperbole, so your example was on the money, tangential or not.

  12. Paul Germanos says:

    Giving, properly called, is altruistic. Offering support to parties of which you are a part, while withholding support from parties of which you are not a part, is nothing other than the pursuit of self-interest.

    Ayn Rand named altruism a vice; and the rational pursuit of self-interest she called a virtue.

    Having argued for people to look beyond their own self-interest I’ve set myself against Rand. Too, contra Rand, I don’t believe that pure laissez-faire capitalism is a good, or sustainable, thing. And [insofar as I have read her works] she misses the erotic, and the unknown, entirely.

    But why ought I to need to write such things? While under cover of an alias, you connect my real name with Rand and her so-called philosophy. So that either I remain silent and accept that connection, or in refutation I am forced to make a public profession of my politics, ethics and religion. You want to practice a McCarthy-like policy of naming and shaming?

    Should this encourage me to believe that people like yourself can be trusted to make unbiased judgments?

    Beyond that, why not consider her? If Ayn Rand, a/k/a Alisa Rosenbaum, had the experience of losing her property and career to the Left, and not the Right, she should be ignored? The idea that identity [political, sexual, racial, etc.] determines standing has the effect of robbing the inquiry of all available evidence, and forcing bad conclusions.

    More, the act of preventing categories of people from partaking in a state-sponsored activity [reference education, grants and exhibitions in Chicago] is a Civil Rights violation.

    If I’m carrying water for anyone, here, it’s the Libertarians–as my great desire is that while in public people are well-behaved, and that while in private people are left alone. Do you understand that?

    Examining your comments, I’m worried about your ability to read, write and reason. Try to work through the following:

    (a) Ducks float;
    (b) wood floats.
    True: “The duck is as buoyant as a piece of wood.”
    False: “Ducks are wood.”

    (a) Lives and property are lost to fire;
    (b) lives and property are lost to flooding.
    True: “Water can be as dangerous as fire.”
    False: “Water is fire.”

    I wrote: “State-sponsored art is as dangerous as state-sponsored religion.”
    You wrote: “Theocracy by no means equals arts funding.”

    Do you see your error? I’ve made [and explained] a good comparison based upon like properties; and you’ve wanted to have me say only that one thing IS the other.

    You’ve responded to my apprehension about any government’s arts-funding as though it was an attack upon your own person. So that it’s needful to be curious about your own perspective: Do you derive pleasure from in some cases giving and in other cases withholding assistance? Do you find yourself sitting on various boards, at which time you receive flattering attention?

    You seem to be in the tyrannical habit of demanding unreasonable things, such that you wish me to bring before you five examples of art not made…

  13. By the way, I found Theaster Gates wonderfully inspiring. Thanks for interviewing him.

  14. Balzac says:

    “Ayn Rand, a/k/a Alisa Rosenbaum” a banner day for wikipedia when you wrote this one!

    “Examining your comments, I’m worried about your ability to read, write and reason. Try to work through the following:”

    You sir are a class act all the way!

    You’re right, I actually dropped out of my remedial high school program, I actually am embarrassed by having you call me out like this. Hopefully I will be able to enlist a tutor to work through your obviously superior logic and verbiage. I am also embarrassed to find that ducks not made of wood? Boy is my face red!

    I think you are akin to Rand, you think I’m akin to McCarthy, we really need to put together a costume party! Do you have Halloween plans yet?

    Oh Paul, your personalizing things shows the sad person hiding behind a thin veneer of pseudo-intellectualism and rant. I feel bad for you, I really do.

    Try and appreciate that some people actually need funding to do their work. I sincerely doubt this system exists to maintain some macro editorial control over art. People really do occasionally create programs and do things in order to support an activity they think is worthwhile! I know! Who knew! IAC selects juries of artist and art professionals in the community to make these decisions, oh wait, they are picked by the IAC so they must be shills for the state sponsored aesthetic!! Sorry I hadn’t thought that through, the remedial education and all.

    Art funding facilitates a lot of great work, and once that check has been written, the state, by and large has zero editorial control. Any time I’ve been funded through government monies it has come with no strings attached, in Illinois you don’t even need to report what you did with the money! AND they stopped the practice of oaths to the supreme leader, no drinking of Kool-Aid, nothing! Shocking!

    I would assume that anyone who touts themselves as being on the libertarian pile is sufficiently privileged as to not have to mingle with the riff-raff who actually need help. Libertarians are one of the few groups less sensible than the objectivists. Ron Paul 2012!
    I think you just can’t accept that the sweeping “State-sponsored art is as dangerous as state-sponsored religion.” was just you trying to be transgressive, and you crapped upon a lot of great stuff in your generalizing.

    I hope you don’t dive further into muddy hypocrisy by actually participating in this evil system by going to gallery shows, or the AIC, you may very well be supporting state sponsored religion style art! The horror!

    I’m sure you will post some have-to-get-the-last-word-in parting, insult laden shot. If it makes you feel better about yourself to resort to “you’re stupid” style name calling to anyone who disagrees with your sweeping generalizations, please do what you need to do.

    Best wishes!

  15. Paul Germanos says:

    Among other things: I am an Arab, and I am a Jew.

    In the years [2002, 2003, 2004] following September 11, 2001, I drove a taxi in Chicago: 12-24 hours a day, 6-7 days a week. I took home roughly 15,000 dollars before taxes. But I digress, as the point isn’t about money.

    During that period the police stopped me, and questioned me about my race and religion. Ironic, inasmuch as I was driving to pay a debt for [state] graduate school–where I received no degree, but did experience the professors [yes, again] stopping the seminars and inquiring about my race and religion.

    Where else? Election judges have asked when I made an effort to vote; it’s happened at job interviews, and in the workplace too.

    Police, state professors, election judge, government employer: All wielding authority in the name of The People; all exercising personal bias under color of that authority. It happens too often. Trust?

    While I am not a member of the Libertarian Party, the idea that there ought to be a realm of the private–free from government interference–is very, very appealing to me. I wish that art, literature, religion, family, etc., were simply left alone.

    This [1/2] episode was/is about state funding of the arts. The first question to ask is whether it ought to exist, and if so in what form–rather than taking as given that it is always a good thing. I made an effort to express that [my] perspective in as clear and concise a manner as possible. Again: The experiences of my life, and who I am as a person, ought not to concern you. So what if I see the world in a different way?

    Abel was recognized; Cain was not. What was the effect upon Cain? Isaac was taken in; Ishmael was put out. What division arose? Joseph was given something of distinction; his brothers were not. What was the effect upon the brothers? and where did it lead the people? If I think about these things, too, is that bad?

    Sometimes, the thing not given has as much or more consequence than the thing given.

    Seventy years ago: A boat of refugees seek shelter, and FDR’s [big, Left] government turns them back. To what end do they go? Was the not giving of consequence? Is it only the Right to fear?

    In blessing, I bless you. And in cursing, I curse you. I am sorry: Take back tenfold what you have wished for me, according to the desire of your own heart.

  16. Balzac says:

    Take a deep breath Paul, no need to perfom curse rights to set a pox upon my lineage.

  17. Claudine Ise says:

    I agree that the Theaster Gates piece was wonderful! Can I change the subject for a sec – I think this post needs a bit of hijacking if that’s ok with y’all — Paul your Jewish/Arab heritage is to say the least a complex one – I am curious if you’ve seen the show that’s up at Spoke right now, the Tirtza Even and Toby Millman exhibition about Palestine. I have been wanting to see it but have not been able to get away on a Saturday yet. If you saw it, would you share your thoughts? I really hope to see it this coming weekend.

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