Theaster Gates, Jr.
Artistic Director

Theaster Gates creates platforms. In Chicago, Gates’ leadership of artist-led spaces has catalysed an evolution in perceptions of some of the most underserved parts of the city. Beginning with interventions in small-scale residences, now known as Dorchester Projects, Gates’ houses in Greater Grand Crossing became a nexus for globally engaged experiments in structures of individual and collective living, working, and art-making. Launched into the international art world as 12 Ballads for Huguenot House at dOCUMENTA13, the houses embodied a new system of values not only in the austere-yet-inviting atmosphere that incorporates once-discarded materials as design elements, but in the ongoing, flexible use of the spaces and the creation of new relationships and opportunities among artists, visitors, and students.

As evident in the synergistic design process of his mindful building practices and persistent challenging of organizational structures, Gates’ development projects function as an extension of his studio work. Gates takes on the problem of Black space as a formal exercise, reminiscent of Joseph Beuys' concept of social sculpture. The latest example of this work is the Stony Island Arts Bank, owned and envisioned by Gates, and opened in conjunction with the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial in October 2015.

At the University of Chicago, Gates is a Professor in the Department of Visual Arts and the College, and Director of Arts + Public Life, which is housed at the Arts Incubator in Washington Park. He also leads an urban research initiative known as Place Lab—a team of social scientists, architects, creative professionals, and business leaders. With support from the Knight Foundation, Gates and his team will create frameworks for reimagining the role that culture plays in the redevelopment of transforming African American communities over the next three years. Gates is helping to define the future of artistic place-based efforts, in research and practice.

Gates is also the founder and Artistic Director of Rebuild Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that endeavours to rebuild the cultural foundations of neighbourhoods and incite movements of community revitalization that are culture based, artist led, and neighbourhood driven.


Melinda Johnson-Martin
Culinary Business Incubator Manager 

Melinda Johnson-Martin is the Culinary Business Incubator (CBI) Manager for ArtHouse: A Social Kitchen.  Melinda comes to us with over 20 years of experience in Hospitality industry.   She has worked in various fields of hospitality from convention, exhibition, event services, customer service as a Corporate Concierge to teaching an Introductory course in the Hospitality industry to Ivy Tech Community College's NWI Corporate College students.  Melinda is passionate about the hospitality industry and helping others interested in entering the industry to be successful and thriving!  She has earned her Bachelors degree from Columbia College Chicago and completed post graduate instruction to earn her Executive Certificate in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Roosevelt University.


Sheila Freeman
Administrative Assistant

Sheila Freeman is the ArtHouseGary, Administrative Assistant. She served in higher education at Roosevelt University for 30 years and received her certification in Meeting Planning, Convention and Exposition Management in the School of Hospitality Management. She received Certification in Event Planning from Trendimi, the International Council for Online Educational Standards. She's coordinated events for 15 years and as a entrepreneur; starting her own company, Women Binding Together for Excellence for the past 6 years. Currently she sits as a Board member of Xaris Ministries', and volunteers as an Event Coordinator for City Life Center, a Gary based community organization.   


Arleen Peterson
Community Engagement Consultant

Arleen is the Community Engagement consultant for ArtHouse Gary Social Kitchen. Arleen is nonprofit leader and community organizer with over 20 years of experience.  Her career spans the areas of education reform, nontraditional high school development, school counseling, nonprofit fundraising and food insecurity management at the local, state and national levels.  Arleen is a lifelong resident of the Region and holds a MA from Ball State and BA from Indiana University.