Saturday, July 11, 2009

Can You Hang?

My apartment is a hodge podge-y mix of bits and pieces from places like IKEA, Pottery Barn, West Elm and a few little boutique shops. Pretty mass-produced for the most part. But the pictures on the wall and pillows on the sofa are the odds and ends that help make a space a home.

There's really no rhyme or reason to my design scheme other than I happened to like a particular item. Or it's red. Somehow or other it's become a signature color, though if you were to look in my wardrobe you wouldn't find more than one or two articles of clothing in fire-engine red.

If I had to put a name to it, I'd say the look of the space is "eclectic eccentric." The Cartman plushie and handmade doll from South Africa gazing at me from my bookcase would agree. Weird, yes, but it works.

But there was one wall that taunted me with its blankness for the longest time. I must have looked at a thousand prints and posters for inspiration--nothing. I checked out modern and classic art exhibits. Nada. I searched frantically on Google, using terms like "modern art" and "contemporary art" without luck. Do you any idea how many hits that brought up? Oye. It became easier to pinpoint what I didn't like rather narrowing down what I could commit to putting on that blank, load-bearing menace.

In a totally random moment, I ducked into an art gallery in a school for students with special needs near my job during my lunch hour. Called WVSA ARTs Connection, the school uses the arts to teach kids and helps them learn business skills and money management through the sale of their work in the gallery and commissioned pieces. Students receive a 30% commission and the rest goes to support the art program.

The artwork was simply amazing and humbling for someone who can barely draw a recognizable stick figure. And as I strolled through the gallery, I finally found it--the picture I had been searching to find for months. Surprisingly, after all the Jackson Pollack and Andy Warhol prints, and Guggenheim knockoffs, the perfect picture turned out to be a colorful abstract by a 14-year old boy named James. It was a total win-win. My wall was now brightly adorned and both the school and James benefited from the sale.

Original, affordable art that's actually art. And for a good cause. Picture that.

Sometimes you just need to unplug and explore the nooks and crannies in your own backyard. You never know what treasures you'll find.

WVSA ARTiculate Gallery, The School for ARTs in Learning & WVSA ARTs Connection, 1100 16th St NW, Washington, DC 20036. For custom orders, call 202.261.0204 or email

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