Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood embodies the decorative luster and structural strength in which this popular metal alloy implies. With a rich history and flourishing modern-day renaissance, Bronzeville is celebrated as a “Black Metropolis” and world-renowned center of Black life and culture.
Located ten minutes south of downtown, Bronzeville borders Lake Michigan on its east and serves as a crucial link to Chicago’s wide-spanning South Side. It’s home to spectacular Victorian-era architecture, magnificent 19th century mansions, and the Robert W. Roloson Houses, a group of four pre-existing row homes, redesigned by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1894.
Creativity and culture are its hallmarks. A multitude of homegrown entertainers, intellectuals, artists, and writers have hailed from here to embark fame on the national stage. Titans such as Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Dinah Washington, Quincy Jones, the Marx Brothers, and Herbie Hancock, along with civil rights activist Ida B. Wells, Pulitzer prize-winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks, and boxer Joe Louis, are just a few of many who head the list.
A description of Bronzeville can’t be wrapped up tightly with a bow. Instead, it’s the flow and unraveling of the ribbon that ripples a stream of surprises found throughout.
Rich traditions spark community pride. The Bud Billiken Parade, held since 1929, attracts close to one million spectators. It is the largest Black parade in the United States and takes place on the second Saturday in August each year.
Bronzeville boasts the largest Black art district in the nation. Awe-striking works can be viewed at the Bronzeville Artist Lofts. Gallery Guichard, owned by Andre Guichard, Frances Guichard and Stephen Mitchell, is a main attraction. Its mission is to expose patrons to multicultural artists specializing in the African Diaspora — a worldwide collection of communities descended from Africa.
The Guichards — deemed “The Mayor and First Lady of Bronzeville” — are highly respected in the art world. The monikers have a history of their own as the first “Mayor of Bronzeville” owned the Palm Tavern, which is where the Gallery Guichard is located today. The Guichards host an annual fundraiser ball to highlight existing community pillars and raise funds for local nonprofits dedicated to helping Bronzeville youth.
Dig deeper into local art culture and enjoy the Bronzeville Art District virtual and in-person art tours held on the third Friday evening of each month through December. It can be a physical trolley tour or a virtual visit to five galleries.
The community enterprise “Build Bronzeville” is having a strong impact on revitalizing the area through culinary arts, entrepreneurship, environmental beautification, and historical destinations. One of its unique initiatives is Boxville, Chicago’s first shipping container marketplace that uses modified shipping containers as commerce space for budding entrepreneurs.
What’s ahead? The future holds the mega $3.8 billion re-development, Bronzeville Lakefront, on the former 48-acre Michael Reese hospital site. This is the first project helmed by predominantly Black developers who will transform the area for retail, residences, and green space. Planned is a 500,000 square foot ARC Innovation Center — a life sciences center focused on health equity; a Bronzeville Welcoming Center — where visitors can learn its history and cultural landmarks through a digital museum; and a new Metra Station.
The Bronzeville Lakefront project, combined with the neighborhood’s current assets, is a beacon of hope. It’s the building block to transform dreams into reality through investments and jobs bringing economic stabilization and opportunities to Bronzeville.