Ever since I've decided to become a full-time artist, I have been fascinated by the idea of galleries. Now, I'm no stranger to them, I've been an "artist" since around 1975, but lately I've been reaching out to several to get a feel for what is considered quality art these days. I find in general that cutting edge, test the limits art is under-represented. I mean, these venues are trying to stay in business, and must present art that has the best chance of selling, not only to the discerning collector, but to the average person as well. I get that. So how can emerging artists gain exposure?
I live in the Cleveland area, a region of the country that struggles to keep its art community afloat. New York or LA it's not. I have also found it to be relatively frustrating as an artist, not in the sense of my own art being noticed, (the act of creating is enough for me), but the inability of the arts community to be relevant. Is it a certain lack of interest in the community? A lack of the ability to connect on the part of local artists and art groups? Lousy PR?
I recently visited Columbus and went on a gallery stroll with my son and business partner. There is an area called "Short North", which is alive with interesting galleries. The whole city is all-in with art and it shows in the diversity of galleries and public displays. I ended the day with a show by the 83 gallery which was filled with adventurous and energetic works. I came away with a certain wistfulness for a similar experience in Cleveland.
Now, I live in Lake County, which is just east of Cleveland. There is a very weak art scene here, even less than in Cleveland, which has an organization called Can Art, which does its level best to drum up interest, to mixed results.
This leads me up to the subject of this blog, which is Stella's Art Gallery. My wife noticed artists putting art pieces up in the building in which she works, and proceeded to grill them about where they came from, and the answer was Stella's.
Now, those of you who are familiar with my work, (you're reading this on my website, so I hope so!), know that my work is...unusual. My wife is keenly aware of this of course, and mentioned this to the artists. They mentioned that Stella's has an annual "Oddball" show, a title which caused me a bit of dismay, (I would have preferred "Alternative"), but the idea intrigued me. So, I decided to visit.
I was greeted by Dani, one of the co-owners. She gave me an enthusiastic tour of this most interesting and eclectic gallery. A combination of display rooms and artist-in-residence studios, with a wide variety of styles and techniques, as well as art lessons for all levels of skill. It is located in a very unobtrusive building, and is one of those spaces that has several rooms in a kind of comfy maze, which lends itself to exploration. This, I thought, is what's needed. A gallery that represents the local art scene, but is also open to new ideas. Although "Oddball" as a show title may be a bit off-putting to some artists who engage in unusual work, if I was to be honest, that is exactly what my work is, and so I am going to embrace it. I am planning on entering some pieces, and whether or not my work is accepted, I plan on attending the opening just to network with other oddballs. From the dadas to the surrealists, cubists, abstract expressionists, pop artists and so on, it's a fact that their work was considered "oddball" in its time. I get the feeling that this gallery understands that. Maybe we'll call this The Oddball Movement.
This gallery represents the artist. What more can we ask? I will be renting space here in February for a show of my own and can think of no better place to emerge. If you live in the Cleveland area, come to Stella's. The Oddball show will be in October, so if you wanna meet a couple, come on down. They have continuous showings of course, including a stunning photography show, running right now.
Maybe a fire can be lit in a big way for the arts in this area, starting here.