“Josephine and the Beauty School Suite” 48″×48″ mixed media
I missed an opportunity to witness the beauty of Raub Welch. During my visit to Chicago last summer, my Sister-friend, Janis Gipson invited me to attend a gathering at the Bronzeville home of Raub Welch. She knows that I appreciate design and she assured me that the experience of his home would be nothing less than extraordinary. Busy formatting Garden Spices, I could not go, but I finally experienced Welch through social media. I traveled with him to Morroco, attended his opulent dinner parties, Wowed his floral designs, and remembered through his Black Hair Experience.
I caught up with Welch and asked him to give you a glimpse at what he does. He was scurrying with projects underway for Afro Opulence, one of his ventures, but he agreed to a phone talk, as he Ubered to his destination. – Victorine
Raub Welch grew up in Pulaski, IL, a small county town. When asked how he discovered art in Pulaski, Welch assured me that he was artistic as a child. He grew up with “very liberal parents” who encouraged and nurtured him to pursue his passion. “They never made me play sports; they supported me being the most creative person I could be,” Welch indicated. “I was number 7 of 8 children, and we were all totally different in personality, but we were each given the support we needed for our area of interest.” Welch was always spiritually grounded, believing, “We are all spiritually connected. We can’t navigate this world alone. So even if it’s just through (nature’s elements), we’re all connected and the universe supports us. We all have gifts. And it’s up to us to figure out what we need to give to the world.” His gift has been shared through his many modalities of art in expression.
Several years ago, Welch moved from the Northside of Chicago to Bronzeville, a vibrant Southside predominantly Black community that has enjoyed a resurgence that welcomes art. During the Great Migration, Bronzeville was a thriving neighborhood and Welch has made his home a studio/gallery for his painting, interior design, and events. “I moved to Bronzeville to complete the clarity of who I am, who we are,” says Welch. He noticed the discrepancy between the economic level of the North and South sides. “The Southside is 10 years behind the Northside, in terms of product lines,” Welch discovered. “I really noticed the haves and have-nots. You admire these fine homes and then see a kid with underwear pulled down.” His artwork uses butterflies, symbolic of having “wings to fly away from oppression.” Welch seals his commitment to Bronzeville and embraces it with the events held at his home.
Welch opens his home to the community through workshops. “We host workshops on gardening, and have had celebrity chefs do cooking events,” says Welch. He also has art sales from his collection made affordable so young people can begin to collect. “I receive as much as I give,” Welch admits. His home evokes a “Lifestyle,” unique to Welch and is unapologetically Black.
Although Welch has exhibited his artwork worldwide and has Very Raub Interior Design, with incomparable panache, and gatherings that are legendary, his current project is with his product line in his company, Afro Opulence. As a designer, Welch serves predominantly Black women who were constantly asking for products. Noticing this “gap in product line” he created Afro Opulence. “I have sisters and a daughter,” says Welch. “Afro Opulence is a product line that celebrates Black women.” In an homage to Black History 2020, he created AFRO♤ART! Creations from the Black Hair Experience. I thanked Welch for allowing us to see images from his event:
I asked Welch if he would consider bringing his design skills to the South. He challenged me, “There are folks that (have skills) there.” Yes, but like the world, we need his Black magic too – Afro Opulence