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March 1, 2016

Hyde Park Historical Society Honors Theaster Gates and Dean Boyer

The Hyde Park Historical Society (HPHS) presented University of Chicago professor Theaster Gates and Dean of the College John Boyer with awards at its annual dinner on Saturday, February 27.

Theaster Gates is a professor in the Department of Visual Arts and serves as the director of arts and public life for the University. Gates and his brainchild, the Rebuild Foundation, received the 2016 Marian and Leon Despres Preservation Award for their work in preserving the architectural heritage of the South Side.

According to its website, “The Rebuild Foundation is a nonprofit organization that endeavors to rebuild the cultural foundations of underinvested neighborhoods and incite movements of community revitalization that are culture based, artist led, and neighborhood driven.”

HPHS chose to recognize Gates and the Rebuild Foundation for their work on the Stony Island Arts Bank. The abandoned building that housed the Stony Island Bank was purchased from the city of Chicago for $1 in 2013. Gates and the Rebuild Foundation repurposed the building to house art exhibitions and archives of the foundation.

“Because of the work that the Historical Society does, I hope that we can encourage more people to think more closely about the assets that we have on the South Side to make amazing things happen,” Gates said in his acceptance speech for the award.

Dean Boyer received the 2016 Jean F. Block Award for his book The University of Chicago: A History, published in 2015. Although he officially began writing this book three years ago, it is based on several shorter monographs, the first dating back to 1996.

According to Ruth Knack, the HPHS board member who presented Boyer with his award, only six books have measured up to the standard of the Block Award since it was instituted in 1988. She mentioned several points of the book that intrigued her: the intellectually grounded educational philosophy, the connection between UChicago and Hyde Park, and the financial growth of the University.

“[The award] was a complete surprise…I think it’s very appropriate. Jean Block was herself a historian of the University, so to receive this award is a great honor, all the more so because this is a group of folks who are concerned not only with the history of our neighborhood but also with the present and future of [it],” Boyer said.

The HPHS also awarded the Hyde Park Jazz Society, represented by Judith Stein and Almarie Wagner, with the 2016 Paul Cornell Award for their work promoting jazz music in Hyde Park.

Guest speaker and University of Chicago alumnus Jay Mulberry closed the evening with a presentation on his friend Cyrus Leroy Baldridge, an accomplished 20th-century artist.

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