Nicole Gallery Spotlight

Yolanda Green

Fritz Millevoix painting

Nicole Gallery is one of the oldest African-American owned galleries in the city. How did it all get started? A woman named Nicole Smith, founder of the gallery, became forever drawn to experiencing and sharing great art with others once she bought her first painting. Dedicated to presenting high quality Haitian, African, and African-American art and informing people about the culture behind each piece, Smith has kept the gallery going for over 25 years.

Inside, the gallery’s interior serves to complement the colorful multi-ethnic works of over 50 artists. Warm and elegant, the walls and ceilings are painted in gold and amber. Stairs lead up to a large space that allows visitors to observe the paintings and works of some of the 25 sculptors featured at Nicole Gallery. The space opens up into two rooms, each one dedicated to a specific artist, with a third room located downstairs. Subtle lighting, majestic brown window drapes, and dark carpeting provide an almost festive, yet calming environment for the vibrant portraits, landscapes, and sculptures featured.

Essud Fungcap - Gardenia 6

Each artist represented at Nicole Gallery creates work that is rich in history and culture. For instance, Alexandra Barbot’s work was on display throughout July and August.  Her acrylic and oil paintings of people and places throughout Africa, the Caribbean, and America often adorn the walls. However, Nicole Smith does not just put art on display, she also educates visitors about the dedication that artists like Barbot have for their culture. For example, Barbot illustrated “The Story of Little Haiti,” a book by David Brown. She also illustrated and co-wrote the English and Creole versions of “Mommy tell me about Haiti” and is involved in other book projects. The gallery takes pride in representing artists who seek to educate others about the culture from which their art originates.

Alexandra Barbot - Jorge (Georgias) Biassou

Other artists represented at the gallery include Fritz Millevoix, a painter who depicts bright, colorful, fantastical scenes of animals, mountains, jungles, and other natural landscapes. His style is marked with carefully placed patterns and eye-catching depth. Essud Fungcap is another artist at Nicole Gallery who is known for his work with color, and his style contains a distinctive tropical flare that originates directly from his bi-cultural upbringing. The late Allen Stringfellow, a Chicago-based artist known for the beautiful gospel and jazz themes within his work, was represented by Nicole Gallery for many years.

There are a few things a visitor can take away from Nicole Gallery, its artists, and its founder, who has kept the gallery self-sustained for several years now. Nicole Gallery holds a wide variety of cultural artwork, but as Nicole Smith has expressed, passion and hard work is what’s important to her and the artists represented, and it is ultimately what keeps Nicole Gallery still present in Chicago’s art scene after so many years.

Nicole Gallery is located at 230 W. Huron Street, just a few blocks away from the Chicago Brown Line stop. It is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11:00am to 5:00pm.