LAA Art Collective’s Gallery Wall.  Photo credit:  Madalynne Flanigan.

Playful, Accessible, Introspective: Meet the LAA Art Collective

By Louise Feder

Peeking through the large front window at the LAA Art Collective Fine Art Gallery & Advisory, one might expect to spot a painting, or a table full of ceramics, sculpture, and prints. But when I walked over in early March, I instead found dozens of strings, on each of which was hung a series of painted postcards. A project by the Philadelphia-based artist Ash-Bob, each of the postcards were painted, then inscribed with a positive or thoughtful message on the back, visible to all as they passed through the mail on their way to the recipient and, eventually, the gallery window.

Equal parts playful, accessible, introspective, and clever, the installation is an encapsulation of the tone found inside the gallery. With pale blue walls, light filled rooms, and views of the Aquetong Spring out the back windows, the exhibition space is airy, welcoming, and not at all stuffy. Founded in 2016 by Lauren Addis, but without a permanent exhibition space until last year, Addis describes the Art Collective as a casual contemporary gallery.

“I want people to walk in here as they are,” she says. “Whether you’re passing through, you’re out walking, or or you’re popping out for a coffee with your children, this space is open to you.”

Lauren Addis, Founder of LAA Art Collective. Photo credit:  Contributed.

“It was about community as well as finding the space that checked the boxes,” Addis explains. “A walkable town, an art-centric town.”

Initially run from Addis’ home base in Bryn Mawr with a pop-up location in Wayne, it became clear in recent years that the artists on LAA Collective’s roster were in need of a regular, permanent exhibition space. And, while Addis was eager to open a gallery, she took a year and a half to decide on the right setting for the new location.

 

“It was about community as well as finding the space that checked the boxes,” Addis explains. “A walkable town, an art-centric town.”

Drawn to New Hope for its artistic legacy, walkability, and location along the Delaware River, Addis was already a frequent visitor to town. With several artists represented in the Collective living and working in New Hope (Kirby Fredendall and Ron Nicole) and Lambertville (Elizabeth Endres), she was comfortably familiar with the area’s character as well as its clientele. And then one day, it happened.

 

“I fell in love. I saw the building as it was just being painted,” Addis remembers. “I was walking to lunch with one of my artists who lives in town. We saw it and it turned out the building was being listed that day. So, it was somewhat serendipitous.”

The LAA Art Collective’s permanent exhibition space opened in New Hope this past September. And though the gallery has been open for less than a year, Addis has filled the calendar with a robust slate of programs. The front room rotates exhibitions every 4-6 weeks while works on a central table (sculpture, prints, ceramics and more) changes every other week. Then there are a number of days where Addis has artists scheduled to be present in the gallery, sharing their process, discussing new work, and answering questions.

Photo credit: Madalynne Flanigan

Creating moments for viewers to connect with artists in person is a priority for Addis. “I love when our artists are here and they can be in the space, interact directly with clients… share about their process, share about how they’re interacting with the community. Open up those doors between artist and client and process.”

 

Many of the included artists may be considered new to the Bucks County region, a majority having come through BFA and MFA programs in Philadelphia like those at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the University of the Arts. Addis is drawn to art and artists who are experimental, often working with materials in surprising ways. This focus on new, contemporary art imbues the gallery with an energy that is fresh and invigorating.

Critically, it is also inviting. To some, the idea of starting a collection, or contemporary art in general, can feel intimidating. But Addis is clearly passionate about helping viewers of all backgrounds and comfort-levels make genuine connections in the gallery.

 

“There are so many ways I see people engaging, and making that first addition to their home of a meaningful piece of art,” Addis says. “For some people that comes down to individual conversations… hearing about their home, seeing their response to work in person and different [media], color, and how [the artwork] makes them feel. A landscape in a bedroom can make someone feel quite differently than a bright abstract… We have lots of conversations about how they live, and what’s the void, or what space they’re looking to fill with art.”

 

And, once that connection has been made, Addis enjoys watching relationships between collectors and artists deepen and evolve. Thanks to the rapidly changing nature of the LAA Collective’s space, visitors can keep in pace alongside favorite artists as their work progresses.

Photo credit: Madalynne Flanigan

“They’re excited to see what series is next, what’s coming out next… And watching [visitors] develop into collectors over the course of an artist’s career is really fulfilling for me,” says Addis.

Addis even encourages visitors to bring in images of their home. After years of offering art consulting on-site in private homes (a service she still offers on a limited basis), Addis believes the gallery allows viewers exposure to a much broader, more comprehensive group of work all in one location. “Consulting can help people find their individual taste and discover what suits the whole family,” Addis remarks. “There is a lot we can do in person here to narrow down what direction and what choices might be right for art in their home.”

Like so many of us, Addis is looking forward to warmer weather. This spring, she is ready for sunny days, with the gallery’s front double doors wide open. She smiles, anticipating a time when artists are on LAA’s front porch, and visitors come in from a bustling sidewalk to ask questions, meet the artist, and have a drink.

Photo credit: Madalynne Flanigan

But no matter the weather or season, Addis and her hope for visitors to the LAA Art Collective is clear. “To come in, experience the art, ask questions, and just look,” she says. “There is never any pressure, the door is always open.”

Ash-Bob | The Survival Series is on view at LAA Art Collective now through March 18th. The gallery’s next exhibition is In Bloom | Featuring New Oil Paintings by Georganna Lenssen, running from April 14th to May 26th. There will be an Artist’s Reception on April 15th from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. In Bloom balances color, whimsy and joyful sensations that one experiences as flowers flourish in a garden space. Additional botanical inspired work in a range of media will be on view by Collective artists. A portion of sale proceeds from In Bloom will benefit The Kalmia Club in Lambertville.

Photo credit: Madalynne Flanigan

The LAA Art Collective Fine Art Gallery & Advisory is located at 15 West Ferry Street in New Hope, PA. Winter hours are Friday and Saturday from 11 am – 4 pm. Find more information about gallery programming at their website and on Instagram @laa_artcollective.

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