Image courtesy of choosechicago.com
Along a narrow corridor of South Chicago sits Bronzeville, the city’s ultra-historic center of African-American culture since the early 1900s. A legacy hub of fine arts, music, literature and commerce, Bronzeville is a celebratory mecca for civil rights and human expression among the African Diaspora.
Once termed as Chicago’s “Black Metropolis” in the 1940s, Bronzville entered a renaissance in the 20th century as an entirely self-sufficient Black business district. In this seven-mile strip along 22nd to 63rd street, vibrant crowds filled dance halls with echoes of jazz, blues and gospel chatter. The 1920s Regal Theater was a prized venue for entertainers and musicians like Louis Armstrong, Sam Cooke and Nat King Cole. The community was also home to many prominent African-American writers, including the brilliant minds of Pulitzer-winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks and civil rights activist Ida B. Wells.
Bronzeville earned its bold name from the home of stewarding alderman Louis B. Anderson, who called his house Bronzeville. The first documented reference to the whole neighborhood as “Bronzeville” was in 1930 by James J. Gentry, an editor for the local Chicago Bee. In the 1940s, this new name for the neighborhood that encompassed Douglas, Grand Boulevard and Oakland started to catch on among residents as a celebration of the bronze and brown skin tones of the neighborhood’s residents. Eventually, the community would come together annually to elect an honorary “mayor of Bronzeville,” acting as its own self-sustaining economic and social engine.
The neighborhood faced economic decline in the latter 20th century, but has encountered a resurgence around the turn of the new century. Nowadays, Bronzeville is still a beloved locale with historic dives, galleries, monuments and architecture. The modern-day Bronzeville Art District (BAD) comprises six art spaces that work towards the preservation and continuation of a robust artistic legacy. This cultural center is strung together by a trolley line and adorned with public art installations.
One of the district’s dedicated art spaces is the renowned Gallery Guichard. Under the vision of artists Andre Guichard, Frances Guichard and Stephen Mitchell, the gallery opened its doors aiming to showcase emerging multicultural artists specializing in the African Diaspora. Through fine art exhibitions, curated events and art tours, Gallery Guichard primarily fosters underrepresented talent and mid-career artists. The gallery operates out of Bronzeville Artist Lofts — a restored and renovated century-old building that was once the city’s first African-American-owned and operated storefront. Located on the first floor of the Bronzeville Artist Lofts, Gallery Guichard features a rotating collection of works from numerous global artists including Abiola Akintola, Stephen ‘Sayo Olalekan, Pearlie Taylor, Marlene Campbell, Andre Guichard and many others.
This year, Gallery Guichard is partnering with the One Two Pru to showcase African Diaspora: Chicago, a new exhibition in the building’s iconic lobby from May 28 to November 25, 2021. The mixed-media installation weaves together the narrative of Chicago’s rich diasporic history, from its rich narrative of jazz and blues to the current homecoming to central downtown following the pandemic.
Together, One Two Pru and Gallery Guichard are joining forces to amplify the voices of underrepresented artists, and to carry forth Bronzeville’s electrifying artistic legacy. Learn more about the exhibition here and join this exciting journey to reopen Chicago through art — all from the city’s landmark address.