Latest entry at Van Aken District is an approachable contemporary art gallery

Art appreciation just got a little easier, thanks to a new, novice-friendly gallery inside the Van Aken District.


Sandwiched between Bonobos and CLE Clothing Co., District Gallery opened its doors Aug. 25. According to partner Karen Chaikin, the 1,500-square-foot gallery was conceived as a casual, inviting place for Clevelanders to both buy and learn about contemporary art.


“Our goal is to create a space that is approachable where both the first-time buyer and the seasoned collector want to spend time,” explains Chaikin. “We want to teach people that anyone can be a collector and everyone can enjoy art.”


The District Gallery team hopes to accomplish that end by reflecting that spectrum in the artists featured—from emerging to midcareer to established. They also plan to host educational lectures, discussions, presentations, and kids programming.


Along with in-store experiences, District Gallery will also offer in-home art consulting and curating to help buyers determine what works best on their walls—leveraging a combined 50 years of collecting experience between the gallery's three partners. In doing so, Chaikin hopes to help consumers increase their confidence in art collecting.


“We want people to learn to trust themselves and their taste and to buy the pieces that speak to them,” says Chaikin. “Once you buy and love your first piece, it's much easier to buy the second and third.”


For the gallery’s first exhibition, “Our Favorite Things,” Chaikin worked with partners Bob Roth and Richard Uria to curate just that. According to Chaikin, the exhibition showcases a large range of work, from photo-realism and lenticular pieces to works by iconic pop artist Jim Dine and British abstract painter Ian Davenport. Local artists Marti Steffy, Alan Crockett, and Paula Rubinstein are also in the mix.


Though the team considered several areas in finding a location, Chaikin says the community feel and artsy vibe of the Van Aken District seem like a perfect fit for District Gallery.


“We felt very much at home the minute we visited the Van Aken District, and we think people will feel very comfortable hanging out in our art space,” says Chaikin. “We feel like a natural part of the fabric of Van Aken.”

Read more articles by Jen Jones Donatelli.

As an enthusiastic CLE-vangelist, Jen Jones Donatelli enjoys diving headfirst into her work with FreshWater Cleveland. Upon moving back to Cleveland after 16 years in Los Angeles, Jen served as FreshWater's managing editor for two years (2017-2019) and continues her work with the publication as a contributing editor and host of the FreshFaces podcast. Along with her work at FreshWater, she is the newly minted editor-of-chief of Edible Cleveland and a contributing editor for Destination Cleveland. When not typing the day away at her laptop, she teaches writing and creativity classes for Creative Groove, Literary Cleveland, Cleveland State University, and more. Jen is a proud graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.
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