Unframing the Prospects of Framed Views

Evita Tezeno

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the tastefully displayed works of art adorning the walls of Framed Gallery must be worthy of a thought-provoking conversation. For more than a year, the English language adage about the fact that multiple ideas that can be conveyed by a single image (“a picture is worth a thousand words”) has brought truth to the mission and vision of Framed Gallery in Cleveland’s historic Waterloo Arts District. The gallery provides a forum where the creations and ingenuities of African American artists convey a gamut of meanings and expressions that are the essence of historical and contemporary life and culture of a people that are more effective than a mere verbal expression.

Social, cultural and political events of the past four hundred years have exerted a powerful influence on the emergence of African American art as a distinct form of expression and civic consciousness. The Reconstruction, the Harlem Renaissance, the Federal Works Progress Administration and the civil rights movement are merely a few of the historical milestones that are central themes captured by artists shaping a unique perspective of the human challenge in America, often in the midst of uncertainty.

An art space that evokes conversation and imagination is the concept of proprietor Stacey Bartels, a practicing art therapist. Still, there is timeliness to such a venture showcasing African American-inspired works during an era when questions of race, contributions, and history permeate the public sphere and discourse. “Patrons come into the gallery and sit for hours gazing at a single picture that may conjure an emotional response,” says Bartels, who is finding gallery ownership an enlightening pathway toward a new journey following retirement in a few years.

Bartels venture introduces new and aspiring artists to an array of collectors seeking groundbreaking and imaginative artworks that enable spectators to experience a diverse sensory release through stimulating and entertaining exploration. The works range widely within contemporary figurative art genre with regard to subject, style and media. Framed Gallery is the only art space in the Cleveland region dedicated to presenting and preserving the artistic aesthetic of African American artists. In a delightfully open and airy space, Bartels is able to present a combination of emerging, mid-career and established artists creating contemporary works. All of the artists possess a unique worldview and nuance that distinctly defines a personal aesthetic, capturing their own voice and vision through style and composition.

“Art is my passion and life’s work,” says Bartels. “I want everyone to have access and be able to enjoy a range of talent that is mindful and inspirational, yet provocative and sometimes emotional. Whatever the case, the art I present, all original works by the artists, helps to unframe patterns of communal ideologies and sentiments that potentially dismantle social and cultural stereotypes and constructs that have come to foster separation and distance among people and cultures in society.”

As the reaction to the activists flooding cities across the nation expressing anger, outrage and dismay over the devaluing of Black bodies, art is a medium of mediation that can be healing, therapeutic, invigorating and uplifting. Art has a way of rejuvenating the soul, according to Bartels, as it sometimes exposes the good, bad and unattractive nature of history and events. It can be through visualization and shared acceptance of African American art and insight that new discoveries can ignite conversations for more realistic and affirming acceptance of the human condition.

Additionally, educational programs and events are a part of Bartels’ outreach objectives. Among the scheduled events are panel discussions with some of the artists whose works are on display. Likewise, there is always the highly anticipated Walk All Over Waterloo on the first Friday of every month.

Ideally, according to Bartels, the public salons will explore the historical contexts in which many of the artists established their careers, as well as discuss contemporary issues in the study of the African diaspora with a focus on the globalization of personal art and expression, as well as establishing collections. “Ultimately, my vision for Framed Gallery is to facilitate an understanding and appreciation of the various ways in which shifting attitudes about race and identity are reflected in African American art, how it is understood by audiences, and how it is collected,” Bartels explains. “Art should be made available to everyone—I want everyone in the community to be able to acquire and afford artworks that are appreciated and relatable. More important, patrons should collect works that will become legacy—passed down from generation to generation.”

The 1,500 square foot space is open Wednesday through Saturday from 1:00 to 5:00pm, or by appointment by calling 216-282-7079.


15813 Waterloo Rd

Cleveland, Ohio