GRAND BOULEVARD — One of the South Side’s biggest cultural events is back for another summer, with plenty in store for art connoisseurs and novices alike.
The 17th season of the Bronzeville Art District Trolley Tours starts 6 p.m. Friday, featuring new artists, collaborations and sponsors.
The free, family-friendly event — which runs every third Friday from June to September — allows neighbors to tour Bronzeville-based art galleries on a double-decker bus while enjoying live entertainment.
The “Solo Series,” in which artists are featured in a month-long solo exhibition, is also making a comeback. Jerry Lynn, a Texas-based artist, will kick off the program, said Andre Guichard, co-owner of Gallery Guichard.
“It was a very well-received program because it allows the collectors to get a better feel for the body of work by the artists and allows the artists to elaborate on different subjects and theories,” Guichard said. “Last year, we had a total of five different solo exhibits during the course of the year. We exhibited Jerry’s work 15 years ago at our first gallery location, when he and his brother painted together. This is his first show by himself.
Vrdolyak Law Group, one of the tour sponsors, will be giving away 100 t-shirts of the featured solo artist every month throughout the season. Prisoner Wines will offer free wine tastings during the art crawl, Guichard said. Moor’s Brewing Company also will have free samples of its beer for the public.
Attendees will have the opportunity to commune with nature in the Great Migration Sculpture Garden and enjoy the blossoms, now in full bloom, Guichard said. Several artists from the nearby Bronzeville Artists Lofts will open their studios to the public so that people can see their work, as well.
Resident musician Isaiah Collier will oversee the live entertainment this season and for the Palm Sunday series, a monthly event honoring Gerri’s Palm Tavern, a Bronzeville watering hole that drew artists, activists and musicians from around the world. Kicking off this weekend’s event will be Michael Damani, a blues guitarist from the West Side.
“[The Bronzeville Trolley Tours] shows you what collaboration really means, and that collaboration is possible in the African American community on the South Side in Bronzeville,” Guichard said. “We’re not creating anything. This is a community that has 80 years of art movement and entrepreneurial success with more firsts than Harlem, even. There’s so much that’s special about the community, from the architecture to the great art movements and collaborations that are happening today.”
His wife and partner, Frances Guichard, agrees.
“There’s a dearth of cultural information and education in our communities, especially amongst the broader community. It’s our mission to be able to expose that information to be able to help them understand the importance of culture and education. All of those things we talked about during the their visits, we try to inculcate, or give them training and learning that they can take with them to help give this a base they can continue to expound on,” Frances Guichard said.
“It’s so important for us to know the culture of people of color, and we’re not a monolith.” she said.
In addition to the Vrdolyak Group, the Bronzeville Art District Gallery Tour is sponsored by AARP, the city of Chicago and the University of Illinois Cancer Center. This season’s tour schedule is available on the event website, where patrons can also RSVP for a spot on the double-decker bus.
The Guichards are also busy preparing for the 7th annual Bronzeville Mayor and First Lady Ball in July, which raises money for charitable organizations around the city. This year’s recipient is Kaleidoscope4kids.
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