Image (left): Theaster Gates, “The Runners,” part of the “Processions” series, September 21, 2016. Image (right): Theaster Gates, “Plantation Lullabies,” part of the “Processions” series, October 13, 2017.

June 7, 2019

Hirshhorn To Host Fourth of Theaster Gates’ Commissioned “Processions” Series
Featuring Experimental Dialogues and Performances
June 16–17, 2019

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden has announced that the museum will host “Discussions of the Sonic Imagination” June 16–17. This will be the fourth event of Theaster Gates’ ongoing performance series titled “Processions,” which has comprised powerful collaborative performances that introduce unexpected and unexplored connections between African and African American culture and history, theater, music, dance and chant.

Begun in 2016 as a Hirshhorn commission, “Processions” is a series of events that have brought together a diverse group of local and national artists using music and storytelling to engage participants in moments of reflection and inspiration.

The upcoming two-part program at the Hirshhorn will offer opportunities to explore the complex ways that sound unifies and defines the human experience. Featuring a number of visionary leaders in the arts, the two-day reflection presents a series of keynotes, performances and conversations with scholars Tina Campt, Ashon Crawley and Saïs Kamilidiin; jazz composer and pianist Jason Moran; drummer and bandleader Mike Reed with saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell; writer, director and performer Ione; bassist Luke Stewart; drummer Savannah Harris; singer Jessica Boykin-Settles; saxophonist Brian Settles; members of the Black Monks; and more.

“Sonic Imagination: the capacity to dream, feel, motivate and activate through sound; to think through and love through sound; to incant, incite or invoke using the invisible energy of wind and body to materialize form that moves us. This capacity to deeply consider a sonic measure that heals, disrupts, enables and unify is a powerful wielding,” Gates said. “Our hope is to offer conversations and performances infused with sonic complexity and musical ambition that provoke and shine a light on the tremendous dexterity of contemporary art and musical practices.”

For the first part of “Discussions of the Sonic Imagination,” the Hirshhorn will host a symposium, Sunday, June 16, 2–4 p.m., inviting speakers, performers and audience members to explore both the personal and broader scope of their sonic imagination.

The second part of the program, Monday, June 17, 6–7:30 p.m., will feature a series of performances that challenge participants and audience members to yield to the power of deep listening, allowing for moments of tonal unison.

“We are excited to see Theaster’s three-year ‘Processions’ series culminate in a fourth performance,” said Hirshhorn Director Melissa Chiu. “For the past 20 years, Theaster has worked within both his local community and the larger global arts community to promote the exchange of ideas between creative individuals. This iteration of “Processions” offers a unique opportunity for continued collaboration to discuss and develop new narratives around the transformative power of sound.

“Discussion of the Sonic Imagination” at the Hirshhorn is presented in partnership with Park Avenue Armory and Lunder Institute for American Art at Colby College, with the support of the Ford Foundation and the Rebuild Foundation. “Processions” has been made possible with support from the Sidney E. Frank Foundation and the Skanby + Gould Foundation.

About the Artist

Theaster Gates is an artist born in the United States who has exhibited and performed at the National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), Whitechapel Gallery (London), Art Gallery of Ontario (Canada), Punta della Dogana (Venice) and Documenta 13 (Kassel, Germany), Kunsthaus Bregenz (Austria) and Fondazione Prada (Milan). He has received awards from Artes Mundi 6, Creative Time, the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, United States Artists and, most recently, the Nasher Sculpture Prize 2018. Gates’ most ambitious project to date is the ongoing real estate development, known as “Dorchester Projects.” In 2006, Gates purchased an abandoned building on 69th and Dorchester Avenue on Chicago’s South Side, collaborating with architects and designers to gut and refurbish the buildings using found materials. Gates is the founder and executive director of the non-profit Rebuild Foundation, which now oversees a network of buildings across the South Side including Dorchester Projects and the Stony Island Arts Bank. He is professor in the Department of Visual Arts and senior advisor for Cultural Innovation and advisor to the Dean at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago.

About the Hirshhorn

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is the national museum of modern and contemporary art and a leading voice for 21st-century art and culture. Part of the Smithsonian, the Hirshhorn is located prominently on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The collection includes major holdings of painting, sculpture, photography, mixed-media installations, works on paper and new media, making it one of the most important collections of postwar American and European art in the world. The Hirshhorn presents diverse exhibitions and offers an array of public programs on the art of our time—free to all, 364 days a year. For more information, visit

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Image (left): Theaster Gates, “The Runners,” part of the “Processions” series, September 21, 2016.

Image (right): Theaster Gates, “Plantation Lullabies,” part of the “Processions” series, October 13, 2017.