New downtown space a multifaceted approach to art

Published 8:06 pm Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Contemporary Art Exchange is not an art gallery. The newest art space on East Main Street in Washington may have art on the walls and be primed for its first one-man show opening on Friday night, but it’s not just about selling art.

It’s about the exchange of ideas: conversations and instruction; surrounding oneself with art and artists.

The plan is also to fill a gap within the artistic community in representation of those who don’t have the time, inclination or know-how to market their own work.

The woman behind Contemporary Art Exchange has met many of those artists. Tina Jandrow spent many years on the road from her home base in Washington, selling her artwork in Chicago, New York and other more art-centric cities. Along the way, she met many artists with one thing in common.

“I saw a lot of really talented artists that just couldn’t get into a gallery,” Jandrow said.

With Contemporary Art Exchange, Jandrow is reaching out to unrepresented artists, offering not only a venue for their work, but online and print marketing in order to reach a much broader audience.

“Essentially, I want to market art from the more rural areas, from North Carolina and parts of South Carolina. We have so much talent in this area,” Jandrow said. “I’m trying really, really hard to get some of the more talented people out of the woodwork — people who are doing really great work but don’t have time to market themselves. … I’m looking for that type of craftsmanship, quality and skill that I have encountered frequently since I’ve been here.”

They include stain glass artists, those who work in mixed-media, acrylics, oils, ceramics. They come from as far away as Asheville and Washington, D.C., as close as right here in town and from a wide array of backgrounds.

“Some of these folks are self-trained; some of them are not,” Jandrow said.

Immersion in art is the goal, regardless of whether one is an art lover, or an artist. The space is a spacious mix of contemporary and historic: contemporary in industrial cement floors and spot lighting; historic in exposed brick walls complete with original fireplaces. Barn doors will section off one area for events ranging from painting classes to poetry readings; comfortable seating will encourage visitors to sit and stay awhile amidst the ever-revolving artwork on display.

Jandrow said Contemporary Art Exchange will serve as a place to encourage the artist in everyone, regardless of age or experience. There, the emphasis will be on the process of creation, as opposed to an end product, something she learned when she taught classes at her Water Street studio many years ago. Then, she found that, before they even lifted brush to canvas, many people’s work was hindered by what they thought a painting should look like.

“They’d walk up to the easel and just freeze because they would have this vision that something just needs to look ‘like this,’” Jandrow said. “There’s a lot of freedom for the non-artist to just play with it. As we get older, we kind of push that aside, the ability to create or be creative. (To think that) when you paint a sailboat, it has to be a series of triangles. It doesn’t have to be.”

To Jandrow, Contemporary Art Exchange will be an interactive experience — a place to share, to learn, to have a glass of wine before dinner and be immersed in art.

“People have stories in art. I think it’s important that it have meaning,” Jandrow said.

Contemporary Art Exchange will host an opening exhibit of the acrylic abstract work of Greenville artist Jack Blount. The reception will be held Friday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and is open to the public. Contemporary Art Exchange is located at 127 E. Main St.