Gourmet Galleries

The average college student usually doesn’t spend much time in art galleries — the most art some students see in a week spans the bulletin boards littering the Davis Center walls.Along with many other Burlington restaurants, grocery stores and coffee shops, venues such as City Market, Mirabelle’s and The Red Onion display local art and offer a new notion of what an art gallery can be.City Market allows co-op members to display their art in a month-long exhibit, housed on the wall directly facing the checkout line.The paintings and poems are hung near the seating area for optimal viewing while patrons eat or wait to purchase their food.City Market plays host to both amateur and professional artwork year round. As the name implies, the Member Artist Gallery belongs to the members, rather than the Market. The co-op does not take any part of the artists’ profits. This month’s artwork follows a central theme of “Brazil,” created by Andrea Mello Farley.The art, along with a poem, represents the tradition, people, architecture and culture of this diverse South American country.Rich colors, vibrant characters and intense detail captured on canvas and in writing fill the wall through almost 20 total pieces.Following stories of human experience, one particularly striking piece depicts a woman, dressed in bright hues washing clothes outside, which contrasts sharply with the white facade of a house.Artists use this outlet to express themselves — where they’re going and where they have been. The self-taught Farley considers herself one such artist.Farley feels a connection to this particular foreign exhibit, being a world traveler herself. She has lived in the places that become the subjects of her art. “My work is deeply influenced by my roots and my travel … I was born and raised in Africa and traveled to Australia,” Farley said.Her exhibit is entitled “Tropical Batiks” and most of her work can be seen at her gallery on West Road in Burlington.The City Market co-op doesn’t find a lot of controversy in the art they show. “The subject matter of the art at City Market isn’t typically very controversial,” employee Macon Hartman said.Though they do not typically have a problem with censoring art, if there were ever a piece that was deemed too inappropriate, the co-op would consider the customers first.   “We occasionally censor the art,” Hartman said. “We don’t like to, but this is a family store.”On Church Street, the sandwich shop The Red Onion proudly houses art prints of Roy Newton, a 10-year veteran.Sitting among the paisley-printed wallpaper, enjoying a turkey sandwich, the cramped but comfortable home-style deli provides a quiet place to enjoy Newton’s print art.Similar to City Market, the deli does not take any portion of the profit that Newton receives from his work.Newton began showing his art at the deli due to a contact at the restaurant. He has been the restaurant’s house artist ever since.”I’ve been showing my prints at The Red Onion for over 10 years now,” Newton said.  “The late Paul Poss was kind enough to ask me if I’d like to be their ‘resident’ artist and so [it has] been my resident downtown ‘gallery’ space ever since.”Newton appreciates his connection to the local eatery, especially in this economic downturn.  His connection to The Red Onion makes Newton feel particularly lucky. “The Red Onion is a win-win situation for me, even in this economically depressed time,” he said. “I’ve had great success over the years with my Red Onion shows.”Newton also appreciates his college fan base, stemming from UVM, Champlain and St. Michael’s students.”It’s enabled me to build up a regular customer base, because The Red Onion has a very dedicated clientele of both professional workers from downtown Burlington and from the more fluid student population of the local colleges,” Newton said. Demand for café space is extremely competitive at other downtown venues, like the small Main Street mainstay Mirabelle’s, which serves primarily dessert and lunch. The space has become extremely popular for artists to show their work.”The art rotates once a month, but we currently have a three-year waiting list for artists,” Mirabelle’s co-owner Alison Lane said. Many artists have no problem waiting for their turn – the restaurant is a highly trafficked location, Lane said. Lane sees a benefit for artists in housing their work in a restaurant rather than an art gallery. “A lot more people see it, we have a couple hundred people here every day.”Mirabelle’s offers a bright space filled with high energy guests.  Behind the closely-spaced tables, sits a collection of framed drawings and paintings.”The artists love it and they have exposure,” Lane said. “They can have lunch among their art.” This gives an intimate setting for both the artist and viewer.Inside the brightly-lit café, customers can come in off the street to enjoy a cup of coffee and admire the wall of framed artwork displays, which seem to be universally enjoyed.”It reminded me of a place I go in Brooklyn,” sophomore art student Eileen Dirks said.Although she does not take any of the profits, Lane believes there is an advantage to giving Mirabelle’s wall space to local artists. She finds that art brings people together and creates an improved dining atmosphere.Additionally, “it means I don’t have to buy art,” Lane said. “Some of the artists are friends and it’s just nice to have the art change often.”In a college town where there are more restaurants and shops than art galleries, it seems to be a perfect fit for both artists hoping for exposure and viewers looking to enjoy art outside the quiet stuffy atmosphere of a traditional art gallery.