Hundreds, if not thousands, of cars each day pass through the intersection of Ridgefield and Drum Hill Roads. Yet many people don’t realize that when they pause at that three-way stop, they are only a few feet away from browngrotta arts, a unique, international showcase for contemporary fiber arts. Founded in 1987 and named for husband-and-wife team Rhonda Brown and Tom Grotta, browngrotta arts curates and promotes the museum-quality artwork of more than 100 artists from over 20 countries. Unlike other mediums, the prominent textile and fiber artists tend to be women. browngrotta arts is committed to promoting, exhibiting and documenting the work of these trailblazing artists.
While art textiles and fiber sculpture had a very fertile field in the sixties and seventies, by the eighties a lot of that excitement had died down. “We recognized a niche and wanted to become the premier fiber dealer in the world,” says Grotta. Today, art collectors and customers from all over the world consider browngrotta arts to be a leader in the field.
Sales of artwork through browngrotta arts are primarily online. For publicity, they have released over 50 substantial art catalogs to date, and they also maintain an online gallery. All photographs are taken by Grotta, who has a fine arts degree in photography from Rochester Institute of Technology. Photos are often taken from more than one angle and in different lighting conditions. “We realized that these artists needed help photographing and displaying their art the way people see it,” says Grotta.
The husband-and-wife curators also attend art fairs and participate in co-partnered exhibits with museums and public spaces. They’ve placed works in museums as well as private and corporate collections both in the U.S. and abroad, including the permanent collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago. While they provide commissioned works to architects and interior designers, Brown and Grotta hope to see textile and fiber arts become more accessible to the general public. “We want people to buy what they like. Art shouldn’t be intimidating,” says Brown.
Twice a year, browngrotta arts opens their space – a renovated 1895 barn that also acts as the couple’s home – to the public for a 10-day “Art in the Barn” exhibitions. With over 3500-square feet of space and ceiling heights of up to 21 feet, the barn makes it possible to exhibit oversized pieces of artwork that wouldn’t be feasibly displayed in a smaller gallery. “We like to use the barn as a backdrop to show the scale of the piece as well as how it can be displayed,” says Grotta. Unlike flat paintings, which must be hung on a wall, fiber and textile artworks can be installed from beams or even self-standing. While the term fiber art might imply that the pieces are lightweight, Brown says, “You would be surprised at how heavy wool and linen can be when you’re talking about a 13-by-9-foot piece.”
browngrotta arts is currently gearing up for their Spring 2022 exhibition entitled “Crowdsourcing the Collective: a survey of textiles and mixed media art”, which will be held from May 7 – 15. Typically, a show takes about 5 ½ months to organize, beginning with invitations to artists that browngrotta arts has worked with in the past as well as artists whose work they have been following. While previous shows have centered around a theme, the upcoming show will be a bit broader. “This year we found it hard to narrow our artistic explorations to a single theme because there has been so much turmoil and changes in the last two years,” says Brown. They reached out to artists to help curate an exhibition that reflects where we are as a society today. The result is a diverse group of artists whose education, experience and inspiration varies, as do their techniques and the materials they use. “The variety of work in ‘Crowdsourcing the Collective’ illustrates that there is strength in numbers,” says Grotta.
browngrotta arts hopes to draw local crowds into their barn to experience the upcoming show. “While we are well established worldwide, locally, we really are a hidden gem,” says Grotta. “We would love to become a destination not just for global art collectors but for everyone.”
browngrotta arts is located at 276 Ridgefield Road. “Crowdsourcing the Collective: a survey of textiles and mixed media” art runs form May 7 – 15, 2022. For more information, go to browngrotta.com •