DORCHESTER
INDUSTRIES

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Dorchester Industries is an artist-led manufacturing platform that creates furniture, objects, and spaces using exceptional but often overlooked materials sourced throught the City of Chicago. 


This project, the vision of artist and founder Theaster Gates, has a dual mission: to create beautiful things well and to train our employees to pursue careers in the building trades and creative industries. The objects produced through the collaborative creative process are sold under the Dorchester Industries brand, with proceeds supporting the mission to promote culture-based, artist-led, neighborhood-driven community revitalization. 

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Wood: From discard to purpose

Dorchester Industries began with its carpentry program, developed in part as a response to the City of Chicago’s need to find sustainable uses for trees destroyed by the emerald ash borer beetle. Dorchester Industries took delivery of tens of thousands of ash trees, and to date has milled 1,000 of these locally felled trees into highquality lumber before turning them into handcrafted woodworking objects such as tables and hardwood for flooring and other projects.

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Clay: From earth to hearth

Dorchester Industries produces handmade, functional stoneware, including Japanese and African-inspired functional and sculptural ware. The objects are designed and handmade in the studio, then fired in the Dorchester Industries anagama kiln, which was constructed onsite by employees from reclaimed fire brick. Dorchester Industries' wares are currently on display and in use at Afro Mingei, a space inspired by the philosophy of mingei, which celebrates the beauty in ordinary objects created by everyday craftsmen. Dorchester Industries hopes to open a full retail space in the fall of 2019. 

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Workforce training: From underemployed to thriving

The Dorchester Industries apprenticeship program pairs people with Rebuild Foundation’s artists-in-residence as well as local tradespeople—from masons and general contractors to landscapers—to learn new skills as well as have direct, hands-on opportunities to create and sell new art and design objects.

Leveraging the potential of art and design to create jobs and promote ethical redevelopment in Chicago, Dorchester Industries’ workforce development programs have focused on masonry, millwork, carpentry, and pottery—all crafts and trades that are a hallmark of founder Theaster Gates’s studio practice. The program highlights the underlying vision of Rebuild Foundation as well as Gates’s social practice to use the arts as both a uniting force and an economic driver within the South Side community—a model that, in time, could be replicated in other similar neighborhoods throughout the U.S. 

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“It is unquestionably better to teach a person to do something than to do it for them, and that is the idea at the core of Dorchester Industries.” 

-Theaster Gates, Founder of Dorchester Industries