An art gallery meant to bring people together on historic Black Wall Street is parting ways with a nonprofit organization designed to advocate for minority businesses.
The Black Wall Street Gallery will be moving after the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce announced Thursday a final judgment was issued in small claims court that the gallery must vacate its current space at 101 N. Greenwood Ave. by midnight Aug. 31.
The chamber announced in July it had served a notice of eviction to the gallery’s art proprietor, Ricco Wright, saying he was months behind on rent, but Wright said the gallery would remain open.
Now, he says it’s moving.
Wright told the Tulsa World on Saturday he was fighting to stay in the historic space, but in reality, it was limiting him.
Wright said he was losing the interest of potential donors because they were wary of the chamber.
Disputes between the chamber and its merchant tenants have occurred before. Wanda J’s Next Generation, a popular eatery in the Greenwood District, was in a legal dispute with the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce over its lease, the World reported previously.
Wright said Saturday he thinks the chamber favors franchises over locally-owned minority businesses, but chamber president Freeman Culver said the chamber welcomes any black or integrated entrepreneurs or businesses that can pay rent faithfully.
In July, Culver told the Tulsa World, “There is no free lunch in our society,” and said the chamber had done all it could to support the gallery.
Culver said Saturday that Wright paid a discounted rate of $600 per month from September through December before saying he wanted to pay the fair market price for the space. However, that price, $1,600, turned out to be too high, and the chamber worked with Wright to settle on the price of $1,150, which Wright paid January through April before he stopped, Culver said.
Culver said Wright was "protesting" by not paying rent, but he didn't tell the chamber. It took a judgment from small claims court to settle the matter and get the rent paid, Culver said.
"We hope he is successful," Culver said. "I hope he has the greatest gallery in the world. It just didn't work out on the corner in deep Greenwood."
Saturday, Wright said he had paid rent through August, and he plans to remain there until the end of the month.
“I’m in a situation now where my vision is able to be bigger and better because I got out of my own way,” Wright said.
He plans to announce a new location and series for the gallery soon but kept details concealed Saturday.
“Just know that something even bigger is coming very soon,” Wright said.
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