Retreat, a New Artist-Led Creative Concept Opens at the Currency Exchange Café

Rebuild Foundation, the arts, education and cultural development organization founded by artist Theaster Gates, and Dorchester Industries announced the opening of “RETREAT,” an artist-led activation aimed at providing a platform for creatives in food, music, art, and more to develop their work at the south side Currency Exchange Cafe. This most recent artist-led activation is an extension of Gates’ Black Artists Retreat, an artist-led convening, and Rebuild’s work to empower creatives through innovative cultural initiatives. This year-long activation will host a series of events, programs, and artist residencies that provide space and community for artists to collaborate, create, work, and retreat.

Retreat Rebuild Foundation Chicago DefenderThe café, which will serve coffee, tea, cocktails and light bites, will offer co-working spaces with Wi-Fi and small meeting space for creative entrepreneurs; a pop-up store selling new and used vinyl records highlighting local musicians and providing opportunities for local artists to stock their records on consignment; and commercial kitchen for culinary artists, restaurants, licensed food vendors and food trucks to serve RETREAT patrons after devastating restaurant closures and a canceled festival season.

“Now, more than ever, artists and creative entrepreneurs in our communities need synergetic, intentional spaces curated for them and by them without a tremendous amount of overhead,” said Theaster Gates, artist, and Founder of Rebuild Foundation. “Given the lack of venues and lack of investment in Black cultural venues in our city, we want to demonstrate how our communities are enriched with the presence of artists. At RETREAT, we are able to offer workspace for the artists to realize their potential. Artists can make recordings, host small live music performances, and work with an intentionally intimate group of people right in their own community.” 

The Currency Exchange, located at 305 E. Garfield Blvd, has been a South Side mainstay since 2014. Last year, the space hosted Peach’s at Currency Exchange Café, a landmark creative collaboration between two South Side businessmen, Gates and Chef Cliff Rome. This year-long activation brought innovative, world-class cuisine to a staple community space that celebrated shared culture and history.

“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the livelihoods of our artists was devastating, and our programming was developed largely around opportunities for creatives to develop and perform again,” said Baredu Ahmed, Director of Programming and Operations at RETREAT. “Over the next year, RETREAT will serve as a home away from home for artists to have space where they have opportunities to perform for small, in-person audiences in an intimate, socially distanced environment intended to foster creative collaboration.”

Retreat Rebuild Foundation Chicago DefenderTo care for the health and safety of all RETREAT guests and staff and in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines and local government mandates the layout of the space has been reconfigured with special consideration given to social distancing guidelines; masks will be required; and capacity will be limited and require pre-registration for special events and performances. The café’s outdoor patio and adjacent bus lot will stay open, weather permitting, to accommodate additional outdoor seating and special events.

The café will reopen on October 9, 2020, with the following hours:

  • Tuesday-Thursday: 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.
  • Friday & Saturday: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
  • Monday & Tuesday: Closed


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