No Bare Walls
Accessible Art for the Modern Collector
LIsa Cooper sits in a quiet corner of her home, which doubles as an art salon that features contemporary works from emerging artists.
Photos by Ryan Lavine
Contrary to what you might think, purchasing art doesn’t require a master’s degree or a winning lottery ticket. “Great art is available at every price point,” says Lisa Cooper, art advisor and owner of Elisa Contemporary Art in Fairfield. “My rule: only buy what you love.”
Cooper lives by her own advice. She and her husband Mitch Cravens, a local tennis pro, began collecting art shortly after they married as a way to celebrate milestones together. After years of reverse commuting, they couple moved to Fairfield from Riverdale, where they also have a gallery.
Last year, the couple opened an art salon in their bungalow off South Pine Creek Road that showcases affordable art from emerging artists. The salon offers a unique opportunity for potential buyers to view art in natural light and familiar settings. Each room is home to several groupings of art, some of which is for sale, while other pieces are from the couple’s personal collection.
The salon is a great resource for both novice and experienced art collectors, and regularly hosts informative lectures aimed at helping locals discover what they love. “First find out what speaks to you,” says Cooper. “Once you discover what artists and styles resonate, do your own research. Follow your favorite artists on social media, subscribe to art blogs and attend local art fairs.”
While an original piece may not fit into your immediate budget, affordable art is accessible. “Focus on emerging artists, works on paper, limited edition prints, photography, and auctions.” Locally, research can begin at Southport Galleries, where you’ll find work by emerging and established artists, many of whom are local to the area. The gallery recently featured work by six female abstract artists, another exhibition included photography by Southport resident Andrew Smith with Donald Sigovich, and original paintings by Rob Brooks.
Take a walk through The Southport’s Delamar Hotel, where one of Brooks’ contemporary realist paintings “Ice” is a fixture in the lobby. In fact, the hotel showcases original art on the walls of its public spaces and guest rooms throughout its three locations.
Other non-traditional galleries are popping up around town, offering “hang time” to featured artists in turn for filling their walls with curated eye candy. Jarosa Studio in Greenfield Hill is treating its waiting room like a gallery, featuring work from local talents Kristin Golier and Karen Rooney Proto. Clients can expect to see new artists featured on a near monthly basis.
This type of exposure can catapult an artist to the next level. Jen Scully of Mack and Ro started selling her popular art prints and canvases at Popshop Market, a bi-annual open air market at the Fairfield Theater Company. Following collaborations with local retailers like The Beehive and Saltwater, she now spends most of her time working on commissioned pieces for clients and interior designers sourcing for their own projects. Scully is moving beyond the easel to produce a line of wallpaper that’s already garnering interest around town.
“I like to think that my artwork is accessible — both in look and price,” explains Scully. “My work has a coastal vibe, and not too serious look, if you know what I mean.”
Many of these artists are pursuing art as a second career after taking time off to raise a family. Fairfield resident Kyra Dwyer, a former member of the Coast Guard, always felt comfortable on the water, but painting for an audience was out of her comfort zone.
After her art continuing education class ended in 2003, some of the group continued to meet privately. They used an art room in a classmate’s building and hired teachers from the community, including their current instructor Gus Moran, a professor at Housatonic Community College. The class continues to meet weekly and paint, often over a bottle of wine. “The class is open to everyone,” says Dwyer. “The only rule is that you must love art!” Dwyer is also an Associate Member at The Nest Arts Factory in Bridgeport. This open studio space and art collective is available to the public by request and at certain times of the year as part of the Bridgeport Art Trail, a unique way to discover local talent.