H(om)e: A Conversation with Artist and Art Collector Raub Welch Of Afro Opulence

Interview and Photography by Zakkiyyah.

I first encountered Raub Welch a few years ago when I attended one of his beautifully curated art shows. Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting with him at his lovely south side home in one of Chicago’s most culturally historic neighborhoods, Bronzeville.

Walking into Raub’s home, I was immediately drawn to how meticulously curated his space was, and of course, his captivating art collection. His intentional decor ranged from his own work to artists such as Kara Walker. Raub has quite the curatorial eye and a home that is definitely worth celebrating. Learn more about Raub, also the Founder of Afro Opulence, by visiting his site focused on art, entertaining, design, and lifestyle: www.afroopulence.com.

Zakkiyyah: I was walking around your home and of course, I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful art collection throughout your space, which is very impressive. Your home is just immersed in art!

Raub: I’ve been collecting art for about 20 years now and I owned a gallery in Wicker Park, but I’m also an artist. And I remember when I bought my first piece I was about…19 or 20. I had just gotten out of school, I remember walking up to this gentleman and saying, “I want to buy this painting”. And it was like $1,000 and I told him I couldn’t afford it but that I was an artist and I really wanted that painting, so he sold it to me for half that price. And I’ve just been buying art ever since. I have a lot of friends who are artists, so I try to support them when I can, but it’s also an addiction. Now I pretty much have a house full of stuff. It’s like second nature, and it’s a lifestyle.

Z: How has your lifestyle as a practicing artist influenced the way you have arranged your home?

R: Well for a long time I was an interior designer, because I couldn’t get work with my art, just like so many artists starting out, you can’t make a lot of money. I was recruited to come to Chicago about 15 years ago to work at a design firm. I knew that was my passion at that time in my life, but I still had this yearning to do something in the arts. I knew I wanted to be in front of an easel doing what I loved to do.

Z: So I’ve noticed that around your home there seems to be this continuous color scheme with a lot of beige, crème, and white. Is there a reason for that?

R: Well this house is about the artwork, and I didn’t want anything to compete with the art. Everything is very neutral, but my favorite color is green such as the sofa you’re sitting on, it’s like earth for me. It’s all life for me. Everything around here is about uplifting the work that’s on my walls. If I buy a piece of art, I want it to be able to go anywhere in my home.

Z: You seem to have a vast collection of work around your home by artists of color, which I really appreciate. Could you elaborate on that?

R: About five years ago I told myself that I was only going to buy art from people of color, it was a very conscious decision. There are not enough of us to be buying black art works as well…and so I just started buying work from black artists. I love black art. My work is steeped in it, and I’m black. There came a time when I just realized that I have to buy art for the legacy of my people…and that legacy is to have these artifacts that are made by them. That’s why I buy black art.

Z: I can tell that you put a lot of love and work into your space. Do you see your home as an uplifting or celebratory space?

R: For me, I think it’s a celebration of things that I’ve chosen and things that I love to share with others. So anytime you’re in a community where you’re giving or hosting or even entertaining, it’s all celebratory… all of it, you know? It’s fun! It’s all about celebrating the things that I’ve done and the things I have. But most importantly, celebrating it all with the people I love.