Small Works displays lower cost gifts


The Soda Plant Art Collective Environment, also known as the S.P.A.C.E gallery, has opened its studio for the third annual Small Works exhibit.

The S.P.A.C.E gallery is like any other contemporary gallery in that most of the art, no matter how breathtaking or unique, is out of the price range of a typical college student. This is not the case at the Backspace Gallery.

In time for the holiday season, the gallery exhibits gifts that cost an average of $150 or less in the front, and those that are $50 or less in the back. All pieces are 12 inches or less in size and crowd the walls, eclectically arranged by S.P.A.C.E owner Christy Mitchell.

Recently appointed as the SEABA interim director, Mitchell welcomed visitors for the opening reception on Friday, Dec. 2 from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., her hair festively adorned with feathers.

“We started this in December of 2009 because we wanted to offer a show that was open to everybody, as long as [their artwork] is 12 inches or less in size,” said Mitchell. “I’m always so pleasantly surprised by the really talented work that hasn’t been shown before. The Small Gifts Under $50 we just started this year.”

Confined by time and the management of other aspects of the Art Hop, Mitchell handpicked the gifts under $50, while the more expensive pieces were acquired through an open call to artists.

Though it is predominately a showcase of local Vermont artists, Mitchell was pleasantly surprised by some foreign talent.

“This year we got a piece from South Korea. I guess people with internet access can find just about anything,” Mitchell laughed.

Fueled by snacks and wine, conversation buzzed among older couples, young adults and families who attended.

With so many pieces – over 200 according to Mitchell – there was a lot to look at. The more expensive pieces highlighted artists like Alli Moore, a painter from Brooklyn and former roommate of Mitchell’s.

A piece of thin brown cardboard without a frame was the setting for bold, black acrylic lines that formed indigenous patterns enlivened by color.  Though bearing hefty price tags, her contribution to the Gifts Under $50 at the end of the gallery was just as beautiful, if not more admirable for its frugality. Her small paintings were on sale for $10 to $30.

Wax dolls and animal heads were commonplace, as was artwork from contributing artists like Elvira Trump and Hilary Ann Love Glass, whose studios were open for guests. 

Trump sold $5 photo cards of naked and headless Barbie dolls, while Glass sold whimsical frames of imaginary creatures for $20 to $30.

Inspired by these local artists, Mitchell said that she has only fallen harder for the creative collective of Burlington. 

“You kind of find out who else is making art around you and meet artists you wouldn’t have known otherwise,” Mitchell said. “Small Gifts Under $50 shows that a person that loves art and [doesn’t have a lot of money] can go in there and appreciate the work and afford it. I’ll try to limit what I buy so that everyone else gets a chance.”

The Small Works exhibit will be open during the South End Holiday Hop this Friday, Dec. 9 through Sunday, Dec. 11 and remain open into January.