By Madison Isaeff and W. Parker Luitwieler
The Threshold Art Gallery is a new and flourishing art gallery in Downtown Redlands that has been attracting a large community of artists and admirers to come together and celebrate local art. It is located on Vine St. near Redland’s famous Bricks and Birch. The Threshold is the perfect place to visit during a day exploring Downtown Redlands or after a cup of local Redlands coffee. Aeron Brown and his wife Michelle Brown are the owner-operators of the gallery. Aeron Brown is not only an owner, but also a local musician, visual artist and mixed media painter. In this article, he answers several questions about the gallery, events and his own personal experience in art.
Q: Why did you decide to open The Threshold?
A: My friend was ready to hand this place over to someone or close it down. It just seemed like the next step in my art career to take it off his hands, and that’s all apart of the process to being an artist. You just go to the next thing and the next thing. Part of the reason why I said yes to taking The Threshold was because I really believe I already had some momentum within the community to all the artists I knew. That momentum was there, and I missed being around more of an artistic community.
Personally and spiritually, I want to make friends and give people an encounter of something different when they walk into the Threshold Art Gallery. Anyone can step into this threshold of something new in their life that they’ve never experienced. Seeing into a piece of artwork is like seeing into a portal into another place of something powerful. You’re literally opening portals for people to be inspired within this gallery.
I wanted a prominent community and hospitality in art, so I started with the Threshold. I wanted to help other artists, get to the next level in my career, and be around other artists. I wanted to see what it felt like to run my own gallery and have a storefront that would improve the community. That is my hope, to see the city of Redlands go to the next level of appreciating art.
Q: What art do you typically sell at The Threshold?
A: The art that we typically sell is called contemporary art, which means that its just art that encapsulates the present time, along with some impressionism. We currently have many types of art: acrylic paintings, digital photography, surrealist collages, hand-lettering, monoprints, wall sculptures, oil paintings, illustrations, inks and pottery. There’s a lot of stuff we have here. Right now there are 13 different artists presenting, including me as well.”
Q: What is your favorite event you have at the Threshold?
A: My favorite events are our monthly featured artist events, which always happen towards the first weekend of every month. But we’ve had a lot of events! When we first started, we had many events with the local coffee from Anne’s Coffee. They would pull up an old vintage golf cart with coffee on the back end. We’ve had a bunch of amazing live bands play as well. I also like it when we have our workshops, because people get to learn practical skills. We have them every weekend, two-hour workshops typically on Saturdays. They are $40 a chair.
Q: Who is your featured artist of the month?
A: Our featured artist for January is Elizabeth Rydell, and her exhibit this month is called “Radiant Unravelling.” She is a mixed media artist from the San Clemente area. She mixes acrylic paints, ink, dyes, stencils, multiple mediums to create paintings on canvas. She’s even been collaging found objects into paintings, pieces of doorknobs, sticks, trinkets, etc. into an abstract formation. Her art name is “Eli Ry.” Our next featured artist for February is Christine White, she is doing a Koi exhibit of paintings of beautiful fish with abstract backgrounds called “Stillness, Boldness.” Her next show and artist reception is Feb. 10 at The Threshold.
Q: What is the goal you are trying to achieve through The Threshold?
We want to help artists have a place to exhibit their work that’s high quality, in this well-presented room so they feel like their work is showcased as a cohesive set. We let artists rent a wall for their work, to not only get some exposure, but also get some sales and a place for their audiences to come. A lot of artists only sell their work online or at festivals. Here, they can sell without solely having to rely on festivals. We can encourage the city into this movement of art that isn’t just from festivals, but rather a set place to show and experience it.
It’s also a good opportunity for people to buy or collect art as well, who don’t want to spend $10,000 on a painting, like in Palm Springs or Laguna. They can come here to Redlands, their own local area and home ground, to find quality, handmade or hand painted artwork on the walls for an affordable price. There are only a few paintings hitting the thousands region, as compared to the expensive prices up to four times as high in Laguna or Palm Springs. People realize how expensive it can be to buy original artwork elsewhere. We love offering that to the community, and our biggest goal is to see good, affordable art fall into people’s hands that they, themselves, can fall in love with.
One night, a guy came in off the street and walked around going “Woah!” looking around at everything. A week later, he came back and told me, “I just wanted to let you know, your art gallery changed my life.” I said, “How?” He replies, “All my friends said I’m completely different since the day I came to this gallery. I’ve just changed my attitude on life, I’m not as sad anymore or depressed. I’m inspired to write poetry and talking to my friends about art.” He started coming around more, read poetry at a few of our events, and it was cool to see that kind of connection. That’s only one example of why I want to keep doing this, to see how it inspires people. It even got you, [referring to the writers, Madison and Parker] involved in the Downtown Redlands Art Walk and that’s huge to me and makes it worth it. This gallery really isn’t about money, we just pay the bills. The investments in people’s lives is what makes it worthwhile.
Q: What motivated you to become an artist?
A: My father was an artist. He passed away when I was about three years old. Like just about any son does to connect with their father, they follow after their father’s passions. What I found out is my father was an artist and musician. My mom had what I called her “grieving closet” where she would put all my father’s things and kind of hide it away. I would sneak into the closet, find the key, and slowly take out one of his paintings or photographs at a time. After a while all my stuff was in my closet, too. I went through a lot of my father’s poems, photographs, songs, T-shirts and artwork, etc. Then I had my first art class in high school and I was naturally a kind of drawer already because my family would tell me how good of an artist my dad was. I started to take pictures of my father and I and cut them up, then I would rearrange them spontaneously. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was starting to collage by doing that with me and my father’s stuff. Then, I would paint on top of it. I did that for some inner healing, which turned me into an artist. I started doing some logos, then some school yearbook stuff, skateboard shops, rock bands, but then I stopped doing art for a while.
I had this encounter with God that helped me want to become an artist again. Seeing God as my father rejuvenated my passion to create again. The whole “drawing for a dead father” thing really burned me out, which made me not want to create anymore at that time. That spurred my journey, and I still use the collage and painting medium. I think art heals people as it was therapeutic for me for my grieving process, which is why I still do it today. Sometimes people will stand in front of my paintings crying–quite a few, actually. They feel a deep or spiritual connection, and that is a really moving thing to me. It makes it worth everything that you put all these ridiculous amount of hours into. I have a collection on my phone of the stories of people who have been impacted emotionally, spiritually, mentally and soulfully by all my art. It’s so exciting to see those things happen, which is why I do art.
Q: Who has inspired you to be the person you are today?
A: I think it’s not really just one person, I think it’s more of just people. Like, my next door neighbors as a kid that believed in me and took me to church. I was an only child and had a dead father and a grieving mother so it was huge that someone took time to take me to church and just gave me a family. And then, I’d say very influential or supportive teachers, friends and family. Regarding inspiration from other artists, there’s a guy named Scott Ericson who lives in Portland, Oregon. He basically story-tells with his artwork, which inspired me to tell stories with my artwork. It kind of provokes you to be like, “What does this mean?” which I really love about art. If someone asks me that, we end up having a long conversation about it. All my artwork has meaning. I create artwork out of the seasons of my life, and when life feels one way or another I respond to it with a drawing or a painting.
Q: Is there any advice that you would give to beginner artists?
A: Create every day. Every single day. Even when it’s hard and you don’t feel like it, trick yourself if you have to. Tell yourself you’re only going to draw for five minutes and you’ll be there for an hour. You have to trick yourself, though. I create paintings every day. That’s the thing about creativity, it’s like if you spark a little bit of fire you’ll set it ablaze, but you have to spark the fire to let the blaze burn in you. If you never spark a little flame, you’ll never get a full fire. So, those little things like tricking yourself are really important. Artists are all emotional, and feel like they can’t create something if they aren’t inspired. Most young artists need to know that they can create even if they aren’t inspired, they need to make a habit in the practice of it. Otherwise, they won’t create anything and make excused like, “I don’t have enough time,” when that’s baloney. Most of us all have time, we just don’t make the time. I had three kids, worked five jobs, and was a Youth Pastor when I started my art career. If anybody had no time, it was me. At 9 o’clock at night, after I put my kids to sleep and got done working, I would go pick up a paintbrush and tell myself, “Just 15 minutes of painting.” And then I’d be there until two in the morning, exhausted. But I made time, and that’s how my art career started, and I started showing up at festivals, coffee shops. You just make time.
The Threshold’s next featured artist reception is at Feb. 10 from 6 to 9 p.m. featuring Christine White. There will be art, poetry readings, live music and refreshments. The address is 18 E. Vine St., Redlands, CA 92373. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Find out more about the Threshold on their instagram @thethresholdart or on their Threshold Art Gallery Facebook page. Find Aeron Brown’s artwork at @aeronrownart and his music at @aeronbrownmusic on Instagram.