With just days remaining until the doors of ArtHouse: A Social Kitchen opens in downtown Gary, installers were transforming the exterior walls into outdoor artwork that designers say will be ‘a visual calling card’ along 5th Avenue for the building that is being turned into a center for visual and culinary arts. On Monday, the installers had finished one wall of Light-Lab – a steel and cable framework strung with color-filtering lanterns – and were working on a second wall as dusk fell.
ArtHouse: A Social Kitchen is a collaboration between the city of Gary and Chicago’s Theaster Gates, known for his practice of repurposing unused urban spaces. A long vacant beer warehouse on Chicago’s Southside is now a community film center. Three empty homes, side-by-side on a street in the Woodlawn neighborhood, were turned into community museums and exhibit spaces. The old Stony Island Bank, another landmark that was vacant for decades, is now a cultural center. In Gary, it is the old Dusties’ Restaurant across from the RailCats Baseball Stadium being repurposed to help spur downtown economic development.
Inside, Arleen Peterson showed the interiors that will be used as an incubator to grow culinary businesses, spaces for performing artists and exhibit spaces for visual artists that will come together as a destination for food, culture and art in downtown Gary. All will be on display at the grand opening, 4 to 6 p.m., Saturday, November 19.
ArtHouse offers two culinary training programs to qualified individuals. The culinary entrepreneurs program cultivates and incubates food entrepreneurs by training them to launch and succeed in food-related businesses.
“That program is for someone who may be baking cakes at home, selling to friends and wondering how to get their products to the masses,” Peterson explained. The kitchen has multiple ovens, refrigeration units, and spaces for dry goods. “All they will need to do is bring their ingredients. This is the only commercial kitchen in Lake County.”
The second is a food-service basic training program to train Gary residents for entry and above-entry level food industry jobs and assists with job placement.
Saturday’s debut will feature two Gary residents offering food selections, an outdoor marshmallow roast and hot apple cider, food trucks, and performances.