Rebuild Foundation Kicks Off Final Phase of Renovation at Vacant St. Laurence School, Supporting Artisan Entrepreneurs of Color on Chicago’s South Side
JPMorgan Chase $300,000 investment to help Rebuild Foundation promote inclusive economic growth by providing local artisans, small business owners with training, workspaces
Rebuild Foundation, founded by Chicago native and artist Theaster Gates and recognized for transforming neighborhoods and celebrating innovative artistic practices on the city’s South side, along with JPMorgan Chase, has kicked off the final phase of renovation of the previously vacant St. Laurence School.
The St. Laurence School, which closed 16 years ago, will house Rebuild Foundation’s new Arts and Innovation Incubator, currently operating out of the Stony Island Arts Bank. Rebuild Foundation and JPMorgan Chase also celebrated the first graduating class of the Artisan Entrepreneur Program, an intensive 10-week business development program that was completed by 30 entrepreneurs working in the creative field.
With $300,000 support from JPMorgan Chase’s 2017, three-year, $40 million commitment to create economic opportunity on Chicago’s South and West sides, the Incubator helps local artisans and small business owners of color grow their businesses through hands-on training and mentorship. JPMorgan Chase’s investment will allow Rebuild Foundation to accelerate St. Laurence School renovations and expand access to its Incubator for more local artisans. In addition, Rebuild Foundation is revitalizing retail storefronts along commercial corridors on the South side to house the entrepreneurs’ work by offering them leasing opportunities at below-market prices.
“Artisan entrepreneurs on Chicago’s South Side have the talent, drive and innovative ideas they need to succeed—and now they also have the space and institutional support that all entrepreneurs need,” said Rebuild Foundation founder Theaster Gates. “We’re thrilled to partner with JPMorgan Chase to bring life-changing, hands-on training and mentorship to small business owners in this part of the city.”
As a teacher, South side native Darnell Dowd has dedicated his life to giving back to the community. Darnell was an amateur artist when he stumbled upon the Incubator and developed a plan to turn his passion for art and education into a business. Darnell now builds custom-made cabinets and teaches his craft to others on the South side. “I love what I do, but lacked the business background to create a steady revenue stream,” said Dowd. “I am excited to continue scaling my business and give back to my community by mentoring others who share the same passion.”
“By joining forces with Rebuild Foundation, we are creating opportunities for local artisans and small business owners to grow their business and help revitalize the neighborhoods where they work and live,” said Peter Scher, Head of Corporate Responsibility, JPMorgan Chase. “The St. Laurence School renovation is a great example of how we can all work together to create economic opportunity on the South side.”
The renovation of the St. Laurence School and the launch of Rebuild Foundation’s Arts and Innovation Incubator follows research from the JPMorgan Chase Institute, which found the limited cash liquidity of small businesses threatens to constrain the economic vibrancy of some neighborhoods on Chicago’s South and West sides. By investing in the training of local artisans and small business owners and providing them with working space, this investment aims to encourage the revitalization of these neighborhoods and create economic opportunity and jobs for residents.
In the past year, JPMorgan Chase already deployed half of this $40 million pledge to support job skills building, the expansion of small businesses, neighborhood revitalization and financial health. Among other philanthropic investments, the firm announced the expansion of the Entrepreneurs of Color Fund to Chicago, following its success in Detroit. Joined by Fifth Third Bank, Accion Chicago and LISC JPMorgan Chase launched the $5.5 million fund to provide minority entrepreneurs with critical access to capital, education and other resources.