The Pigment team at Expo Chicago. Credit: Photograph courtesy of Patricia Andrews-Keenan

by Nadira Jamerson

Chicago’s home to walkable, bustling neighborhoods filled with fine dining restaurants, attractions, and robust nightlife spots — at least it is depending on which side of the city you live in. Even though the historically Black South Side is home to plenty of mom and pop spots — as well as the DuSable Museum, Brown Sugar Bakery in Chatham, and the former Obama home in the city’s Hyde Park neighborhood —  there simply aren’t as many art galleries and maker spaces as on the city’s whiter North Side.

Patricia Andrews-Keenan is out to change that. She’s the founder and owner of Pigment International, a South Side-based multimedia collective that promotes Black art, curation, and innovation. She founded Pigment International in 2018 as a Black woman-run space dedicated to connecting Black artists with galleries and reporting on the art, people, issues, trends, and events shaping Black contemporary art. 

Since its founding, Pigment International has held programs for Black artists and art enthusiasts across the South Side. Their current temporary gallery on 79th Street is part of the effort to revitalize Chatham — a predominantly Black area that Andrews-Keenan says has since been neglected due to gang violence and systemic racism. 

 “The Chatham neighborhood in Chicago was a very vibrant neighborhood — shops, and stores, and nightlife, and all of these things happening. But in the ’80s, when the gangs came, they pushed a lot of people out,” Andrews-Keenan says.

“Then we ended up with lots of empty storefronts and a decline in the community. The Greater Chatham Initiative has been tackling that. They invited us there. It’s bringing the community back through various different efforts. It’s using art to revitalize the community.” 

Her journey with Pigment International has shown her that Black Chicago artists and residents are eager to support their own. At the gallery, Andrews-Keenan says she is inspired by all of the folks who discover the space, praise the artists on display, and promise to come back. 

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