Gallery Guichard, the black-owned art gallery located in Bronzeville, recently won the GRAND prize in a virtual pitch competition. This competition was hosted by the National Urban League (NUL) and Courvoisier Cognac during the NUL National Conference. Andre and Frances Guichard, both artists for over sixteen years, competed in this competition. In 2005, the couple got married and opened Gallery Guichard. This Bronzeville staple is the home of contemporary artworks from artists around the world. The couple’s mission is to create a platform for artist to display their artwork for the larger community. The visionary of the gallery is to include “art that touches the soul.” Andre and Frances are aware of some artists’ challenges in getting their art out to the masses. They want to provide an experience of bringing the art community closer together.
Courvoisier Cognac has a new global philanthropic platform, titled Foundation 1828™, dedicated to providing $1 Million to support Black businesses across the country over the span of 5 years.” The award-winning cognac brand wants to encourage the spirit of entrepreneurship through meaningful financial and educational support that empowers small business owners and entrepreneurs in underserved communities around the world. Gallery Guichard is the grand prize winner of the $75,000 financial grant. The funds will help them grow and scale their business which will benefit the Bronzeville community. This award will allow Gallery Guichard the opportunity to create more jobs and support the ecosystem within the art community. The ecosystem includes the artist, framer, labeler, and website builder, to name a few. The bulk of their income comes from events, and the global pandemic hurt them financially by banding in-person events. Luckily the gallery was able to pivot from in-person tours to virtually gallery tours.
Once the pandemic hit, engagement plummeted because of not being about to view the art in person. Now art lovers have access to 17 art exhibits online; the exhibits are being archived at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The Guichard’s were motivated to apply for the Courvoisier financial grant by the Urban League. They thought the initial funds would help them pivot and expand the virtual platform, allowing them to expand on what is currently working. They noticed artwork helps boost everyone’s mood and transfer positive energy from the artist to the consumer. The Guichard’s noticed the shift to wellness because of the pandemic. The extra funding will allow them to help others on a spiritual level through art. The funds will also enable them to expand the gallery by 3000 square feet.
The pitch process included a heavy emphasis on their work in the community. The Guichard’s provided data related to gallery invites, the number of responses, and written components. They received business coaching and from the Urban League. The judges felt their passion, energy, professionalism, and commitment to the community. The Guichard’s are grateful for the opportunity to receive support from Courvoisier. This is a world-renowned brand that is entuned and connected to Chicago. Courvoisier’s goal is to support small black businesses and help them carry out their dreams in the community. The Gallery’s clientele indulges in Courvoisier Cognac, and it is great to see this brand giving back on a large scale. This couple was honored knowing they were a strong contender as they competed with some of the best black-owned businesses across the country. When they found out they were one of three finalists, they were both excited and nervous. Frances recalls dreaming about her pitch and how it would help the surrounding urban community. This type of funding will create more jobs, support more families, and encourage entrepreneurship. Embarking on a multi-year partnership with the National Urban League means more opportunities for business coaching and accounting resources.
The keys to success include building your strength to carry you through hardships so that you can continue to help others. Andre and Frances’ advice to other black-owned businesses is to dream big. They also suggest you understand how to translate your dream into a business plan. Don’t be afraid to keep going, don’t give up. Make sure you look at all aspects of the business and get advice for accounting, marketing, etc. Andre notes you should be aware of your passion and the gap that it will fill. Be original and don’t duplicate the efforts of other established business owners. In November 2021, Galley Guichard is hosting “Art Conversations – Art of Love.” During this event, 25 couples will enjoy a fine cuisine created by Michael Bonner from Lettuce Entertain You. This will be a safe place to discuss love and relationships. For more information, please check out www.galleryguichard.com and social media @gallery_guichard.
Theresa Horton is a contributing writer for the Chicago Defender. Find her on social media @passionateresources.