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The Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics





Theaster Gates in front of “The Dorchester Projects”, photo by Sara Pooley.

Theaster Gates has been named the inaugural winner of the biennial Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics. Marking the center’s 20th anniversary, the prize honors an artist who has taken risks to advance social justice in profound and visionary ways. The prize is awarded on the basis of a particular project’s long-term impact, boldness, and artistic excellence.

Rather than a one-time award, the prize represents a two-year commitment to an artist’s practice.

Theaster Gates, “The Dorchester Projects”, 2010.

Selected by an international jury, Gates’ The Dorchester Projects will provide a platform for extended educational and public programs across the university, including the presentation Reflections on the Dorchester Projects at Parson’s Sheila C. Johnson Design Center in fall 2013.

A bold American artist with a global vision, Theaster Gates and his work expand and problematize the discourse of political enfranchisement and social inclusion. Gates began The Dorchester Projects in 2006 by transforming two buildings on Chicago’s South Side into community gathering spaces with a library, slide archive, performance space, and soul food kitchen. The ongoing piece examines urban renewal and social justice through the lens of arts, spirituality, alternative economies, and community engagement.

In the words of jury chair Okwui Enwezor: “Theaster Gates’ project of historical reclamation, interrogation of archival legacies, and social construction of memory and cultural agency has it all tied together. The Dorchester Projects is extraordinary. The installation layers a meditation on the present by connecting it to the haunted remains of the American past, making links with narratives of race consciousnesses, the Civil Rights Movements, but ultimately probing how the African American experience is enlivened by ongoing processes of testimony. Entering that installation is like entering a haunted space.”

In the media:  The New York TimesArtInfo, and GalleristNY

More information about Theaster Gates

Prize Jury
A group of five jury members selected Gates as the inaugural prize recipient.

Okwui Enwezor, Chair
Carin Kuoni
Lydia Matthews
Susan Meiselas
Dorothy Q. Thomas

Nominating Committee
Twenty leading professionals in the visual and performing arts from around the world nominated twenty projects.

Negar Azimi
Omar Berrada
Zoe Butt
Sofía Hernández Chong Cui
T.J. Demos
Galit Eilat
Bassam El Baroni
Shiming Gao
Susanna Gyulamiryan
Shannon Jackson
Koyo Kouoh
Ana Longoni
HG Masters
José Roca
Gregory Sholette
Bisi Silva
Pooja Sood
Chen Tamir
What How and For Whom

Founding Supporters
We are grateful to the following who have made possible the establishment of the Vera List Center Prize.

James-Keith (JK) Brown and Eric Diefenbach
Elizabeth R. Hilpman
Jane Lombard
Joshua Mack
The New School for Public Engagement

About the Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics

In celebration of its twentieth anniversary, the Vera List Center is launching a new biennial prize, to be awarded for the first time in 2013. International in scope, the Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics will honor outstanding achievements in art and politics, and recognize an experienced artist or group of artists who engage political themes and advance social justice in profound and visionary ways. The prize will be awarded on the basis of a particular project’s long-term impact, boldness, and artistic excellence.

The prize initiative unfolds across various platforms and over an extended period of time. It serves as a catalyst for activities that illuminate the important role of the arts in society, and strengthen teaching and learning at The New School in art and design, social science, philosophy, and civic engagement. A presentation of the winning project, a conference, various classes, and an online and print publication featuring select nominated projects complement a cash award and short-term New York City residency for the honoree. In the spirit of the center’s twenty-year history, the prize provides the opportunity for an ongoing public conversation on art and social justice as a global issue that engages audiences in New York City, nationally and around the world.

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About Vera G. List

Philanthropist Vera G. List; “Where Are We Now,” 2010. Journal launch in the Vera List Courtyard.

Twenty years ago, at the height of the culture wars, a time of rousing public debates about freedom of speech, the arts, and society’s relationship to art, the Vera List Center for Art and Politics was founded at The New School, with an endowment from university life trustee Vera G. List. For more than forty years, Vera List (1908-2002) was a significant presence at The New School as great promoter of the university’s mission of lifelong education. She joined the university’s volunteer leadership as a member of the board of trustees in 1956 and was named a life trustee in 1985.


The generosity of Vera List and her husband, Albert List, helped shape the intellectual, artistic, and physical landscape of the university. The New School Art Collection was founded with a major grant from the Albert A. List Foundation. Astudent writing award celebrates students’ writings inspired by the hundreds of art works installed throughout the campus. The Lists also supported the university’s educational mission by establishing a major teaching and research facility, the Albert and Vera List Academic Center. Vera List financed the renovation of common spaces, including an atrium and courtyard, endowed numerous scholarships and, in 1992, endowed the Vera List Center for Art and Politics out of her deep interest in the intersection of education, art, and politics.New Page

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