Natala Abrego

Written by Natala Abrego

Modified & Updated: 02 Jun 2024

Sherman Smith

Reviewed by Sherman Smith


The Stony Island Arts Bank is a remarkable cultural institution that is situated on Chicago’s South Side. It is not just your ordinary arts center – it is a treasure trove of history, art, and community engagement. The building itself has a rich and fascinating history, having been a bank, a community hub, and now a vibrant arts space.

But what sets the Stony Island Arts Bank apart are the extraordinary facts that make it a truly unique landmark. From its impressive collection of rare books and archives to its innovative programming, this institution holds a special place in the hearts of both locals and visitors alike.

In this article, we will delve into 18 extraordinary facts about the Stony Island Arts Bank, uncovering the hidden gems and intriguing stories that make this cultural landmark a must-visit destination. So, strap in and get ready to explore the wonders of the Stony Island Arts Bank!

Key Takeaways:

  • The Stony Island Arts Bank in Chicago was transformed from an old bank into a vibrant cultural center by artist Theaster Gates, offering a diverse collection, events, and artist support.
  • This historic landmark promotes inclusivity, community engagement, and the transformative power of art, making it a must-visit for anyone seeking inspiration and connection.
Table of Contents

The Stony Island Arts Bank is housed in a historic bank building.

Located in Chicago, Illinois, this creative hub and cultural center occupies a beautiful neoclassical building that dates back to 1923.

It was transformed by Theaster Gates.

The renowned artist and social activist, Theaster Gates, led the transformation of the once-abandoned bank into a vibrant space for artistic expression and community engagement.

The building served as a bank for over 90 years.

Originally known as the Stony Island Trust and Savings Bank, it operated as a financial institution for the South Side community from 1923 until its closure in 1981.

The collection includes over 60,000 items.

The Stony Island Arts Bank houses an extensive collection of books, vinyl records, photographs, and other archival materials that celebrate African American history and culture.

The arts bank serves as a research library.

Researchers, artists, and the general public can access and explore the diverse collection, which spans topics such as black literature, music, visual arts, and more.

It hosts numerous cultural events and exhibitions.

From art exhibitions and film screenings to live performances and educational programs, the Stony Island Arts Bank offers a dynamic calendar of events that engage and inspire audiences.

The building features impressive architectural details.

Visitors to the arts bank can admire the grand marble columns, ornate moldings, and beautiful mosaics that provide a glimpse into its rich history.

It provides a platform for emerging artists.

The Stony Island Arts Bank actively supports and showcases the work of up-and-coming artists, providing them with a space to exhibit their creations and connect with the community.

It promotes cultural preservation and revitalization.

Through its programming and initiatives, the arts bank contributes to the preservation of African American heritage and fosters the revitalization of the surrounding neighborhoods.

The building is considered a work in progress.

Theaster Gates envisions the Stony Island Arts Bank as an ever-evolving project, constantly evolving and adapting to meet the changing needs of the community.

It offers artist residencies.

The arts bank provides opportunities for artists to immerse themselves in the vibrant creative environment and develop their artistic practice through residential programs.

The space encourages dialogue and collaboration.

With its communal areas, including a reading room and a performance space, the Stony Island Arts Bank fosters dialogue, exchange, and collaboration among artists, researchers, and visitors.

It has become a cultural landmark in Chicago.

The Stony Island Arts Bank has gained recognition as a significant cultural institution, attracting visitors from near and far who come to experience its unique blend of art, history, and community.

It has been featured in documentaries and media coverage.

The remarkable transformation and impact of the Stony Island Arts Bank have been highlighted in various documentaries, articles, and media outlets, further amplifying its importance.

The collection includes works by renowned artists.

Visitors can explore works by influential artists such as Jacob Lawrence, Archibald Motley, and Theaster Gates himself, among others, as part of the impressive collection.

It offers educational programs for all ages.

The arts bank organizes workshops, lectures, and educational initiatives tailored to different age groups, inspiring a love for art and culture in the next generation.

It is a center for community engagement.

The Stony Island Arts Bank actively involves the local community through partnerships, outreach programs, and participatory projects that encourage active participation and dialogue.

It celebrates diversity and inclusivity.

The arts bank is committed to promoting a diverse range of voices and perspectives, fostering an inclusive space where everyone feels welcome and represented.

The Stony Island Arts Bank is a testament to the transformative power of art and culture. Through its remarkable collection, engaging events, and dedication to community empowerment, it has become a beacon of creativity and inspiration. Whether you’re a researcher delving into African American history, an artist seeking inspiration, or a community member looking to connect with others, The Stony Island Arts Bank offers an extraordinary cultural experience that truly transcends boundaries. Visit this architectural gem and immerse yourself in the vibrant world of art, knowledge, and community.


The Stony Island Arts Bank is truly a remarkable landmark that seamlessly combines art, culture, and history. From its humble beginnings as a neglected bank, it has been transformed into a vibrant space that fosters creativity, community, and social engagement. With its rich collection of archives, stunning exhibitions, and diverse programming, the Arts Bank has become a haven for artists, scholars, and local residents alike.

Whether you’re exploring its architectural marvels, delving into its vast collection, or simply enjoying a performance in its captivating auditorium, the Stony Island Arts Bank is sure to leave a lasting impression. It serves as a testament to the power of preservation, restoration, and the transformative nature of art.

Visiting the Stony Island Arts Bank is an experience like no other – a journey that invites visitors to embrace the beauty of art, the power of history, and the boundless possibilities of creativity.


1. What is the history of the Stony Island Arts Bank?

The Stony Island Arts Bank was built in 1923 as a functioning bank but fell into disrepair in later years. It was acquired by artist and activist Theaster Gates in 2012, who transformed it into a vibrant art space.

2. What can visitors expect to see at the Arts Bank?

Visitors can explore a rich collection of archives, including books, photographs, and records, as well as enjoy exhibitions, performances, and educational programs organized by local artists and scholars.

3. Does the Arts Bank hold any special events or programs?

Yes, the Arts Bank regularly hosts events such as artist talks, live music performances, film screenings, and workshops. Check their website or inquire during your visit to stay updated on the latest events and programs.

4. Is there an admission fee to visit the Stony Island Arts Bank?

No, admission to the Arts Bank is free for all visitors. However, donations are always appreciated to support the continued operation and maintenance of this unique cultural institution.

5. Are there any nearby attractions or amenities?

Located in Chicago’s South Side, the Arts Bank is surrounded by other cultural institutions, cafes, and parks. Visitors can easily explore nearby attractions such as the Museum of Science and Industry or take a stroll along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Discover more fascinating cultural landmarks, from Sudan's vibrant cultural center in Al-Fasher to Elgin's inspiring community engagement initiatives. Don't miss exploring Germany's historic preservation marvel, Herzog August Library, where centuries of knowledge await.

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