Art Letter (7/16/10)
Last month, my wife, Amy, and I did the grand 3rd Friday Night Tour of the Bronzeville Art District. It was an outstanding evening and itís happening again tonight. Maybe I should refrain from being totally honest here, but I felt like I was in another country Ė and I loved it.
Maybe we should have started at The DuSable Museum, for an overview. This is a charming, underfunded museum that addresses the grand vision of African-American history and culture. Its done a good job with what itís got, but itís a big subject that deserves to be covered in depth. If only the DuSable Museum had more money!
We all know I go to a helluva lot of art exhibits in Chicago. We know I am egalitarian and want art to be accessible. We know that I encourage people to broaden their horizons and seek culture where they normally wouldnít. And I am guilty of insufficiently following my own advice. The reason this tour is so wonderful is because thereís so much to see, so much to experience and because I was so ignorant. Inexcusably, this was my first visit to the DuSable Museum in the 30 years Iíve lived here. Iíd been to 3 of the 6 venues before, but doing it all in one night got me in touch with a a part of town Iíve under-appreciated, an aesthetic as strong as any, but inadequately embraced by me, and whole lot of wonderful, gracious people eager to share their culture and values with a growing audience.
Faie African Art Gallery was an unexpected gem. Iím sorry, but Iíve only seen white people selling African art before. Seems rather detached. Itís a much richer experience to have a Black woman who viscerally understands the culture and the art discuss it with you. Worth a trip all by itself - and the cookies were exceptional.
Blanc Gallery is beautiful and in an attractive building. Iím not sure I have the place figured out. The space is nice. The art is good. Yet the feeling remains that the gallery is primarily rented out for functions and the art is secondary. Blanc Gallery is still worth a quick visit because of the elegance of the facility and its outdoor courtyard.
I can count the very few Chicago cultural institutions that have been around for 70 years on one hand. The South Side Community Art Center is one of them. It is proud, beautiful and very full of art. SSCAC conveys care; care to showcase its community and care to teach and inspire. Staying afloat is obviously tough here, but the value and love is palpable. Charles White, Gordon Parks and Archibald Motley are alumni.
There are many outstanding African-American artists exhibiting in Bronzeville. Many go on to significant careers, at about which point white people begin to appreciate them. But we are damned late. It is stupid to wait for it to come to us when we can go right there. There is some great art at prices that are a digit less than they will be when they leap the white divide.
One of the most generous and affective leaders of Bronzeville is Andrť Guichard of Guichard Gallery. His constant encouragement to get me and everyone else to Bronzeville is paying off. I bet the tours were his idea and he deserves massive credit for weekly generating a video showcase of Bronzeville collectors. I believe he has identified 100 worthy participants.
Those of us in the artworld pretend to be open minded, up for new experiences, inclusive, and say we value art of all cultures. But maybe we arenít what we think we are. Artists of color are always looking at the white mainstream, yet invariably remain true to the life experiences in their art. On the other hand, us white folks are pretty much ignorant. We stick to our path until it is a rut.
Itís time our attitude and our behavior grows up - and participating in the Bronzeville Art District Tour - ever third Friday of the month, through October - is a very good way to start!