Urban Studies: Placemaking

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Urban street corner

For the first time, undergraduate and graduate students from UChicago, across the country, and from around the world, are being invited to come to UChicago this summer to study and work with artist and Director, Arts + Public Life, Theaster Gates, and Place Lab.

The UChicago Summer Urban Studies: Placemaking Program seeks to expose students to the concepts of placemaking, community development, and public interest design while providing intensive hands-on, project-based experience.

Place Lab, an organization founded in 2014, is made up of professionals from law, urban planning, architecture, design, social work, arts administration, and gender and cultural studies. It is a partnership between the UChicago Art initiative, Arts + Public Life and the Harris School of Public Policy. Under the direction of Theaster Gates, Professor of Visual Arts at UChicago, Place Lab aims to create mindful city building, to redefine community development through the use of art, and to question traditional modes of development. Place Lab seeks to be a catalyst for expanded impact at the intersection of arts, culture and public policy around the globe.

Arial map of Chicago“I learned early on that art has the capacity to change people’s perceptions—not only about a concept or an idea, but also about a place. What I’ve tried to do is leverage my understanding of art and how people view art to help them reimagine what can happen in poor neighborhoods."
Theaster Gates

Students will explore Gates’ theory of Ethical Redevelopment, an atypical process for transformation which focuses on nine principles: repurpose + re-propose, engaged participation, pedagogical moments, the indeterminate, design, place over time, stack leverage and access, constellations, and platforms. Archeworks, a Chicago-based design school, research lab, and think-tank who use design as an agent of change in the public interest, will teach the program alongside Theaster Gates. Through Archeworks’ vast network of industry experts, civic leaders, award winning practitioners, and successful social entrepreneurs, students will be given the tools and access to make a difference in the world, and the accountability to do so.

In addition to earning credit for one undergraduate course, students will be engaged in the community through an intensive, hands-on internship in Washington Park, and have the opportunity to strengthen their voice through a Literary Placemaking workshop. Once a week, working with an instructor from the Writer’s Studio, students will engage in Literary Placemaking: Place, Voice & Point of View where students will learn to write the heart and soul behind the data.

Using Chicago as a primary inspiration and focus, this course will offer students the opportunity to explore and practice the creation of place on the page. Through the study of voice, setting and point of view, they will use creative writing as a tool to reflect upon, express and deepen the human element of place. Writing assignments will draw from urban experiences such as fieldwork and in-class explorations, culminating in a creative nonfiction piece that can be shared at the program’s live lit finale.


Program Requirements

  • Eligibility: current undergraduate at UChicago or another college or university
  • University housing is available


  • Applications accepted beginning mid-November
  • Rolling admissions: apply early; courses and housing can fill before the deadline
  • Submit all application materials by the end of April 2017
  • To apply, submit an application with personal statement, application fee ($40), and transcripts

Program Details

  • Program Dates: June 19 – July 28, 2017
  M T W R F
A typical weekly schedule:
A.M. Internship 4 hours Class 3 hours Field Day hours Internship 4 hours Internship 4 hours
P.M. Internship 3 hours Class 2 hours Field Day 3 hours Internship 3 hours Internship 3 hours


Program Costs



Student Life Fee (one time fee)

Double: $338 per week per person
Single: $413 per week per person

$249 per week per person (3 meals per day, 7 days per week)

Cost is dependent on length of study from;

$TBA per 3 week session to $TBA for 10 weeks

Students who cannot prove that they have adequate health care coverage in the US must enroll in the University Student Health Insurance (U-SHIP) plan and will be billed accordingly.


Contact Us


1427 E 60th Street
Second Floor
Chicago, IL


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