By Taroue Brooks
Heart & Soul recently caught up with Omari J. Henderson Co-Owner of ZuCot gallery
What inspired the creation of Zucot Gallery?
Due to my father, Aaron F. Henderson, being an artist, I grew up in and around Art Galleries and Museums. Unfortunately, the talent to draw and paint completely skipped me (and landed on my brother) so the next best thing for me was to learn the business. When my brother, Onaje and I, were in college (studying engineering) we formed a company to help manage my father’s art career. That business, Premier Art, still exists today. Under that umbrella, we eventually expanded beyond our father and started working with other artists and producing exhibits in Atlanta. Over the years, we started leasing gallery spaces and producing multiple day (and sometimes weeks) exhibits which helped grow our brand and customer base. After several years of this, we felt like it was time to move into our own space. During one of our signature Art Tastings, we were fortunate to meet Troy Taylor (who was in attendance). Troy was building his own art business in Atlanta and we eventually partnered with him to build the Zucot brand. The ironic thing about all of us is that we have college degrees in engineering, but our love for art, culture, and business couldn’t be contained.
How has the pandemic impacted your business?
The pandemic, like other businesses, has forced us to think about how we interact with clients and artists in a very different way. Our clients can no longer experience work or services in our space, so we have to be creative about how we connect with them. We want people to know that although our doors are closed, we have curated several ways to virtually continue the experience. In addition to our art clients, the space also serves as a social venue and can be leased for numerous types of events. We’ve obviously had to eliminate this from our offering for the immediate future, but we hope that these patrons also join us for the virtual content.
What are you doing to maintain your viability while the pandemic has everyone on lockdown?
With the pandemic, we are moving our relationships to an online platform. We pride ourselves in being able to serve the community with a non-threatening art environment that invites people to learn and then collect. The pandemic has really forced us to change the way connect with art enthusiasts. Art Tastings are signature events that are typically held in the gallery. These events are usually held once per month and are designed to be an informal workshop for people to learn about collecting art, understand the materials used to create work, and ask as many questions as needed. We arm you with the tools to become great collectors. During the pandemic, we are still making these connections through social media and live streams. Art Tastings will now be held twice/month and executed over streaming platforms. We are also using social media on a daily basis. Bringing you inside collector’s homes with pics and videos, showcasing new work every week, and making it easy to purchase your favorite pieces without being in the gallery.
As the largest African American owned art gallery in the Southeast Region of the United States, how do you develop more African Americans to become collectors?
We believe that all of us can be Custodians of Culture by collecting Art. When you look back through history, you can always point to Art as a defining piece of any civilization. Within the community, we have a responsibility to preserve this part of our culture and pass it down through generations. Our business model is really based on breaking down the intimidation factors that a lot of people have about collecting art. For a lot of people, art collecting is a new frontier, so our goal is to demystify the experience and make everyone feel comfortable with asking questions and learning, which leads to collecting. We facilitate this in a number of different ways: Art Tastings, connecting clients with artists, 1-1 curating and consulting, and virtual views, which allows clients to take a picture of an area where they are thinking about hanging a piece and we will digitally enhance that area with the work.
How does Art impact society?
Art impacts society so much that I don’t even know if it can truly be quantified. What we see in our everyday lives from buildings to clothes to what we know as culture is art. We give these art forms different names like architecture or design, but in reality, art and its influence is all around us every day. If we are specifically discussing fine art: I personally believe it is truly one of the last forms that we have to completely express ourselves. Visual artists document time in a way that includes personal perspective. Once the work is complete, it lives on and becomes a lesson to those in the future. It is then the responsibility of the collector to be the custodian of that work ushering this perspective to future generations.
Tell us about your nonprofit component to the gallery.
Serving our community has always been a foundation for ZuCot Gallery. To further build on this mission, we started The Art Brothers Foundation about 3 years ago. The purpose of this non-profit is to serve as an art education outlet for students of all ages. We host young people from all over Georgia and share a curriculum that teaches entrepreneurship, art, and culture in just a couple of hours. It’s been an amazing experience to see K-12 students light up when they come into the gallery and get inspired to pursue careers in this space.
What is the process/qualifications for an artist to have their art featured at your gallery?
There are talented artists all over the country. Unfortunately, we only have the bandwidth to work with a small number. However, we try to rotate our exhibits every 3 months to allow for a fresh aesthetic. We typically work with artists that are mid-career professionals. They must have a broad body of work, be actively producing and most importantly have the talent that meets the needs of our clients. Artists are welcomed to submit their work on our website. We review submissions quarterly and then determine whether or not they can be added to one of our future exhibits.
Follow us on facebook
About ZuCot Gallery
ZuCot Gallery is the largest African-American owned fine art gallery in the Southeast. Located in the historic Castleberry Hill district of downtown Atlanta, our 3,500 sq. foot space offers an eclectic decor and features some of the most prolific contemporary artists of our time.
Our mission is to promote original works of art by living African American artists and provide both novice and seasoned collectors with meaningful and unique services that enhance the art collecting experience. Collectors benefit from our services, which include educational programming, events where like-minded individuals may network, and our offering of the highest quality original works of art.
ZuCot Gallery believes that what you hang on your walls is a reflection of you, it is a window into your character, your convictions, and even your soul. We are uniquely positioned to help you make a difference in ensuring that your art is a reflection of what is important to you. Owning and displaying original African-American art provides meaning and financial value; with the ZuCot experience, it can also be deeply spiritual.
We are custodians of our culture.
Omari got his entrepreneurial and innovative spirit at an early age from his dad and uncle who leveraged their experiences and ventured into entrepreneurship. Not only was he his uncle’s first employee, he started a The Campus Advertiser newspaper while studying Chemical Engineering at Tuskegee University and distributed newspapers to 4 regional universities.
Spending his early career as an innovation lead with P&G in Paris and Brussels played a key role in providing global exposure and mastery of the art of navigating challenges. This formed the foundation of what has been a successful innovation leader career with 3 major corporations: P&G, The Coca-Cola Company and Chick-fil-A.
Aside from the major corporations he worked for, Omari‘s entrepreneurship ventures include founding his own consulting company in 2010; a couples’ experiences brand (ThoughtfulMate) in 2015; and serving as Co-Owner of ZuCot Gallery, the largest African American owned fine art gallery in the Southeast.
He is the founder of Youth Challenge Incorporated Foundation, a non-profit mentoring program and rites of passage for young men ages 12 – 17.
Omari is passionate about helping others get to whether they need to be, whether it’s through mentoring the next generation of leaders or inspiring the community to appreciate the Arts.
He is a very family-oriented man who enjoys spending time with his wife and children.