Local gallery features Hatian artwork
By Brandon Kosters
“In search of new adventures,” said Nicole Smith, who immigrated to the United States from Haiti in 1973. “At that time, many people were leaving Haiti,” Smith said. “I came because I wanted to come.”
In 1986, Smith founded the Nicole Gallery in Chicago. The gallery has represented prominent artists such as William Carter and Allen Stringfellow. In the spring, the gallery will host a show of the work of Willard Wignan, whose microscopic “Art in the Eye of a Needle” work has garnered international attention.
In January, the gallery hosted its “Artist for Haitian Earthquake Relief: Fundraising Exhibition for Le Centre d’Art de Port-au-Prince.” Donations collected will benefit the severely damaged art center, which Smith says is “the creator of Haitian art.” She is also accepting donations to aid other Haitian artists whose lives have been impacted by the earthquake.
In February, Smith originally intended to exhibit works by William Carter, Allen Stringfellow, and Anna Taylor. “I might change that because of the situation in Haiti. It might be that I have one part of the gallery dedicated to showing those artists works, and one gallery used to show the Haitian work.”
Smith has also built close relationships with artists such as Fritz Millevoix. Smith says that in 1988, Millevoix called her from an art supply store. “He said that he had just arrived from Haiti, and the owner of this store gave him my number,” she said. “He came and showed me a collection of his paintings, and as we were talking, two ladies walked in. Within five minutes one had purchased one of his paintings!” Dozens of Millevoix’s paintings have sold throughout the years.
Smith is originally from Petionville, a Port-au-Prince suburb which she said has been barely affected by the hurricane. She has wanted to visit Haiti to offer her support, but said that “Things are so chaotic. It’s very hard watching these kinds of things. Very hard.”
For now, Smith will continue to help from a distance through her work in her gallery. “I love the artists,” she said. “I love them to get the recognition they deserve, and I love helping to bring the beauty they create into the lives of others.”
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