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Theaster Gates brings something to see and hear to 95th Street Red Line station

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Transit Authority President Dorval Carter and others tour artist Theaster Gates' new art installation — a radio station — at the 95th Street/Dan Ryan Red Line Station on Monday, April 8, 2019.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Transit Authority President Dorval Carter and others tour artist Theaster Gates' new art installation — a radio station — at the 95th Street/Dan Ryan Red Line Station on Monday, April 8, 2019. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Theaster Gates takes everyday, sometimes abandoned, objects — sun-bleached planking, light bulbs, vintage magazines — and transforms them into something entirely new.

But when the Chicago-based artist — whose work has been displayed in museums across Europe and North America — thought about what would work best at the rebuilt 95th Street CTA Red Line terminal, he didn’t think he could cram all that needed to be said in a mural.

That’s why he opted for “An Extended Song of Our People,” a glass-fronted DJ booth and broadcast studio sandwiched between an employee restroom and an electrical room in the terminal’s north end.

“On a Friday evening during rush hour, it’s probably going to be pumping out house music — getting you ready for the weekend,” Gates said Monday morning, during the unveiling of “ESOP,” along with a pair of “tapestries” that feature flattened, decommissioned fire hoses.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his wife, Amy Rule, and a host of CTA officials were on hand to celebrate the artwork — the final part of the $280 million 95th Street terminal reconstruction project.

Gates said he hopes the sounds floating out across the station will reflect “the music of these times and the music of the past of black and brown people.”

He said he hopes to have a roster of DJs from across the city with a love of black music.

“I’ve never had a permanent work of art be as living as this one is. It’s kind of a new step for me,” Gates said.

Emanuel, who credited his wife with urging a close look at Gates’ work for a possible commission, said: “Theaster Gates is the greatest ambassador for the city of Chicago around the world. He represents our city wherever he goes and when he goes there, he never forgets where his home is.”

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