Black Artists Retreat

“An enormous dreamer canny enough to make his outlandish ideas for the neighborhood a reality…[he is] a civic treasure on par with Chicago’s skyline and downtown museums.”
The New York Times

“…one of the most iconoclastic, and intellectually supple, figures in the contemporary art world”
The Financial Times (UK)

Theaster Gates, a charismatic figure in the contemporary art world, with a practice situated both within and without gallery walls, vacillating between aesthetics, urban planning, and activism, hosts his renowned Black Artists Retreat for the first time outside of Chicago.

For this year’s retreat, Gates, an Armory Artist-in-Residence, welcomes black artists and allies from Chicago, New York, and beyond for a weekend of communion, celebration, and multi-disciplinary exploration of this year’s theme: sonic imagination.

Retreat guests will be invited to actively think about the role of sound in the human experience and in art-making: the capacity to dream, feel, motivate and activate through sound, to think through and love through sound, to incant, incite or invoke using the invisible energy of wind and body to materialize form that moves us.

Through presentations, formal and informal conversations, side-bars, sharings, tributes, screenings, and meditations, the Retreat will explore how artists, performers, curators, historians and other leading thinkers in the fields of art production, cultural production, music, film and video, sound engineering, and the adjacent technical crafts of sound production, play, pray, worship, commune, entertain, interrupt, celebrate, heal, mourn and invite unity.

This gathering also celebrates the completion of the replacement of the wooden flooring of the Wade Thompson Drill Hall, which includes recycled pine planks milled by Gates’s workforce and repurposed from his Chicago urban manufacturing renewal project, Dorchester Industries, amongst other sources.

Opening Celebrations
Friday, October 11, 2019 at 7:30pm
Check Back in September for Ticket Info

To kick off the Black Artist Retreat 2019, Nona Hendryx and Esperanza Spalding join Theaster Gates and other very special guests for a magnificent tribute to our long lineage of sonic trailblazers. Stay tuned for participants and schedule.

Presented in partnership with Harlem Stage, as part of their Cosmic Synthesis of Sun Ra and Afrofuturism series.

Sonic Musings, Meditations & Testimonies
Saturday, October 12, 2019 at 11:00am
Check Back in September for Ticket Info

Join Theaster Gates and special guests for a kaleidescopic exploration of BAR 2019’s theme: Sonic Imagination. Through presentations, conversations, meditations, music and sonic moments we will explore the role of sound in our lives and practices, leaving space for a multitude of perspectives. Stay tuned for participants and schedule.

Sonic Soul Session #1: Roller Skating Party
Saturday, October 12, 2019 from 7:00pm–11:00pm
Check Back in September for Ticket Info

Put on your roller skates or dancing shoes and dance the night away in a Chicago-style James Brown-infused skating party celebrating the completion of the floor restoration project in the Wade Thompson Drill Hall. Featuring local DJs and skaters from the tri-state area black skate scene. Skate rentals and gear available on site.


Black Artists Retreat 2019: Sonic Imagination is made possible by a generous grant from the Ford Foundation.

Presented in collaboration with The Rebuild Foundation and The Lunder Institute for American Art.

Image: Terry Adkins, Native Son (Circus), © The Estate of Terry Adkins / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Courtesy of The Estate of Terry Adkins, Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein

Return to Arts at the Armory Listing  

Opening Celebrations
October 11, 2019

Friday at 7:30pm
Check Back in September for Ticket Info

Sonic Musings, Meditations & Testimonies
October 12, 2019

Saturday at 11:00am
Check Back in September for Ticket Info

Sonic Soul Session #1:
Roller Skating Party
October 12, 2019

Saturday from 7:00pm–11:00pm
Check Back in September for Ticket Info

Wade Thompson Drill Hall & Historic Rooms

2019 Season Sponsors: