Stepping into the home of Jess Fijalkovich and Chris Harvey is like stepping into an art gallery: a colorful and eclectic selection of photographs and prints in gilt frames hang on the walls.
Most of their collection showcases local artists, a highlight of their own work, and purchased prints – but some of Fijalkovich’s favorite items are those she’s collected by swapping her own photos regionally and internationally. , a practice she started at the start of the pandemic when she had more time to dedicate to her art.
“Barter has been a way of exchanging goods and services, and I found the idea fascinating,” she said. “I’ve amassed a collection that has personal meaning to me. It’s not just cool to have the art, but to connect with people and hear the story of how a piece was made. which I can now live with.
The couple decided to take the idea and start a new initiative specific to northeast Ohio: an Instagram-based project that facilitates connections between local artists interested in swapping their wares with each other at no cost. .
bARTer’s Instagram (@barter_barter_barter) launched last month, showcasing artists from a variety of mediums: everything from graphic novels to fiber art, textiles and more.
The hope, they said, is to remove the access control and barriers that often exist in traditional conservation spaces and to strengthen the community.
bARTer founders want to disrupt traditional practices in the art space
Harvey, a graphic designer, said the idea was inspired by studying ancient civilizations and indigenous cultures that traded goods and services.
“Even before we had money, barter has always existed,” he said. “I wanted [bARTer] be in the spirit of a trading post where we facilitate connections and community and where they can work on the trade.
Although they failed with a request for funding from the Knight Foundation as part of the latest art challenge, they were determined to pursue the project on their own. Harvey said the “DIY” approach was very much in the spirit of bartering.
The pair first met while working in previous positions at the Akron Art Museum, Fijalkovich said, and they discovered a common goal “to disrupt our little corners of the art community in Akron and beyond”.
In 2020, the museum’s senior management was rocked by allegations of racism, sexism and bullying – a controversy that Fijalkovich said was a microcosm of a larger art world that is not always inclusive.
Harvey and Fijalkovich wanted their project to be different: a place where everyone, regardless of experience, training or background, could feel empowered as an artist.
“We wanted to get away from a lot of the access control that happens [with traditional art institutions]”, Harvey said. “If you don’t follow a ‘traditional’ route, you feel like a lot of things are out of reach. I went to graphic design school in [Cuyahoga Community College], but I don’t have a traditional four-year art background, and I feel like there aren’t always opportunities for people who don’t have that college label. It’s cool and it’s useful, but you can learn a lot of other ways.
Any artist can apply to be featured on bARTer via an online form linked to their Instagram page.
“A lot of these places can stifle creativity and get your hands on a lot of stuff and there’s so much control there,” Fijalkovich said. “I’m more interested in the bottom-up approach where it’s the people powering what’s happening to run the show without any intimidating demands.”
Connecting Northeast Ohio Art Scenes Through Social Media and Events
Fijalkovich now works as an art liaison at the Cleveland Print Room, an art gallery and darkroom for photographers. She noted that despite the cities’ proximity to each other, the arts communities of Akron and Cleveland feel “disconnected.”
“It’s a really fragmented art scene,” she says. “It’s hard to understand why this is happening, but we want to bring together what feels like a disconnected community.”
In addition to the Instagram page, bARTer will expand its reach through live events in the area starting this month with a print swap at Akron’s Community Darkroom, 540 S. Main St., on April 30. to 19h. All found photographers, printmakers or photo collectors are encouraged to print a pride to trade, connect with other artists and build their art collection.
“What I love is the chance to build your collection,” Harvey said. “When you buy local art it’s usually cheaper, more unique and you can point to something and say someone on the street did it and here’s the story behind it.”
They plan to organize more events for other media as soon as more artists participate.
“What I love about this project is that you can also learn about local artists in the city,” Harvey said. “It introduces you to a new art that you may not be familiar with, and you can support someone in the same field and build that community.”
Reporter Abbey Marshall is a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms. Learn more at reportforamerica.org. Contact her at [email protected]