When Aurelia Ford-Martin and Steve Martin moved Sparrow Art Gallery into Medina Public Square just over a year ago, they were met with enthusiasm from day one. Since they opened in their original Lodi location three years ago, they have built up a unique collection of art from both local and international artists.
“We are on a mission to promote fair trade art,” says Aurelia Ford-Martin. “We go on mission trips to Haiti each year, plus we’ve been to Costa Rica, Mexico, and the Navajo Reservation out West. We love to help and promote artisans in impoverished countries, and we love using art to bring people together.”
When she graduated from Western New Mexico University, Ford-Martin knew that she wanted to begin to raise awareness of Mata Ortiz pottery in her home state of Ohio. In the Southwestern United States, many people are aware of the unique pottery, but few people outside of that region are aware of the Mata Ortiz style.
“About a hundred miles south of the New Mexico border is the small village of Mata Ortiz, where people settled around the turn of the century in the hopes that they would find work with the railroads. When the railroad did not take off, many people began farming. They found shards of pottery from the Paquimé people scattered about. They wanted to recreate the pottery, and over a course of decades they figured it out. The pottery is made of pigments that come directly from the ground, and they make a pinch coil pot with clay. It’s all hand-built and fired in the ground. This pottery is so unique and beautiful, and the detail is amazing. They use fine brushes made of human hair.”
For many years, Americans were able to travel to Mexico to purchase the beautiful Mata Ortiz pottery. However, many artisans began to lose business in the early 2000’s when drug cartels made travel in Mexico particularly unsafe.
“We promote art, and we love what we do,” says Steve Martin. “There is a lot packed into our little gallery. A lot of stories, a lot of creativity, and a lot of artwork that is tied to us in a very personal way, like the pottery that inspired Aurelia in her time in New Mexico. We have relationships with Haitian artists, and they look forward to us visiting every year.”
While the gallery features a gorgeous array of Haitian jewelry, pictures, and metal decorations, it also features an impressive amount of local art. From chromatic photography by Bill Beuther, whose work is featured in Brunswick library, to Jane Effinger-Corbus’ wind-powered whirligigs, the art represented in Sparrow Art Gallery is truly unusual and captivating.
Inspired by the passion for art that exists in Northeast Ohio, Ford-Martin now offers Painting Parties out of Sparrow Art Gallery.
“I do Painting Parties and private painting lessons. For our parties, we try to make it a custom paint project. We start with a minimum of four people, but groups can grow in size from there. We have done everything from baby showers to retirement parties, and it is a personalized, private event with your friends. We also do Paint your Pet promotional events to benefit the SPCA, where I draw pictures of attendees’ pets on canvases and help them as they paint. I love using art to help bring our community together.”
Over the last three years, the Martins have learned that each artist has an individual style that makes their work unique and beautiful. They have also learned to expect a variety of mediums, as their studio is full of blown glass, metal, repurposed materials, and even butterfly wing jewelry made of aviary-raised butterflies that died of natural causes. Art is a medium that communicates ideas regardless of language, culture, or borders, and Sparrow Art Gallery brings a wide variety together to tell an awe-inspiring story of human culture.