“People tell me that my house looks like a museum,” says Kendall Glover, a longtime art collector whose home will be one of four featured in the ninth annual tour of home collections of African American art this weekend. “One of the reasons I collect African American artists in this city is that it tells their stories and it validates their experiences,” says Glover, who has built his collection over several years. “The pieces I have are very comfortable friends of mine. They represent living memories, experiences, and life journeys.”
The collections—all owned by Bronzeville collectors—are not those you’d find in a museum. “We wanted to identify art collecting in neighborhoods that are not recognized as hotbeds of artistic activity,” says Patric McCoy, a well-known collector on the South Side whose non-profit organization, Diasporal Rhythms, organizes the tour. “Our mission is to dispel the myth of the art collector as a private entity. We’re going to open our doors and let people see what we collect.”
McCoy’s mission is, in part, a response to the traditional relationship between art collectors and museums. Historically, art museums were comprised of former private collections donated to the institution. For example, Bertha Honoré Palmer, the 19th century culturati, gave dozens of French Impressionist artworks to the Art Institute when she died. Today, Palmer’s collection still makes up the bulk of the museum’s Impressionist gallery.
“We are inherently creating an institutional concept,” says McCoy. “When art collectors get together, a museum is formed at that moment. The artwork is being preserved, honored, and we are it’s caretakers.”
“The monetary value of black art is controlled by white America,” says Raub Welch, an artist who has been collecting African American art for the past twenty years. “It’s very hard for an artist of color to get themselves in the circles of collectors.” Welch, for one, plans to change that, one purchase at a time.
Two tours leave from the Logan Center at the University of Chicago this Saturday, October 11, at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Each tour is limited to 100 people. Tickets are $40 ($20 for students). Pre-registration is suggested at diasporalrhythms.org.