Visual Arts
Deathbed by Jason Seeley
Deathbed by Jason Seeley

Collect Art Now

by / Jan. 5, 2016 11pm EST

Some local artists have an idea about what we could all do to help make the new year better than last year or the year before. Buy more art.

To that end, artist A. J. Fries has started up an organization called Collect Art. Fries runs it with his marriage and business partner Karen Eckert. Full information on the project and enterprise is on their website,

Some 26 local artists are involved—with likely more to be added down the road—in a stylistic range from representational to abstract and gradations in-between.

There are two basic purchasing protocols—galleries as they are designated and presented on the website—Custom Gallery and Featured Gallery.

The Custom Gallery shows samples of the different artists’ work and basically asks, would you like to have a work custom-made for you by any one of them you select—or more than one if you wish—for a set price of $250 per artwork. But first, on-line, there’s an “input” questionnaire that you’re encouraged to fill out to let the artist know something about you—your tastes and distastes—to help him or her produce a work precisely to your liking. Questions about color preferences. Or if you prefer black and white. Whether you’re okay with nudity, or risqué imagery. Yes or no, or a little is okay, but not a lot. Whether you like nature art. Anything else you’d want the artist to know about yourself. And information if you wish to provide it on your past experiences collecting art. Or visiting art galleries and art show openings. How often you go.

The Capture by Maria Pabico LaRotonda

The Featured Gallery at the moment is still under construction, but will show actual completed works by the organization artists, with prices—ranging from under $100 to several thousands—that you can purchase. What you see is what you get.

The website includes a list of Frequently Asked Questions and answers, and personal stories vis-à-vis artmaking and collecting by Fries and Eckert. Fries talks about his determination from childhood to become an artist. The first formal art experience he says he remembers was seeing images in a book of an Edward Kienholz installation. “I was confused. I was intrigued. I was hooked,” he writes. “Since then my love of art has grown exponentially. I’ve devoted my life to seeing, discovering, exploring, and above all creating art.” And more recently, he says, promoting art, “not just my own art, but art in general.” As a serious project, but sometimes by comically unconventional methods, such as the time he and a friend staged a tailgate party at the Albright-Knox. “My goal is to show people how fun and exciting and accessible art is.”

Eckert’s story is a very different one. She says that prior to meeting Fries—she says they met “the new-fashioned way, online,” and “fell disgustingly in love” right from the start—she didn’t concern herself much about art. She had other priorities, as a suburban mom of three and high school English teacher. And her home was decorated with “mass produced pictures that I purchased cheaply because they matched my décor. My home, my walls, had no personality, no originality. They had no voice.”

After getting to know Fries, his world, she says, all that changed. “I began to experience the community of artists in Buffalo. They are an incredible, amazing bunch…When I went to my first art show, I was nervous. I remember asking A. J. what I should wear, how do I talk about the art, what if I sounded inane or naïve? Art was intimidating. But then it wasn’t.”

Ultimately, she says, she “took the plunge.” She purchased a painting “that spoke to me.” Now her walls had a voice. And “I was hooked,” she said.

 “Meeting Karen has allowed me to see art in a new light,” Fries writes. “During our time together I’ve had the pleasure of watching her discover for herself how wonderful the world of art and art collecting is.” It’s a discovery and experience the pair want to spread to and share with the community at large.