Evelina Swartzman, a Kansas City area obstetrician/gynecologist and an immigrant to Kansas City from the Soviet Union, has turned her beautiful Scottish Tudor into a domestic art gallery of sorts.
While she purchased many of the pieces that grace her walls from well known art scenes like Miami’s Art Basel and Santa Fe, N.M., she’s expanded her collection to include treasures produced by Kansas City based artists, craftsmen and artisans, including James Lane, Oliver Bertucci, Carolynn Fischel, Barb Wishnow Jacobs, furniture craftsman Dave Polivka and woodsmith Brian Holland.
How does one begin to build a collection like yours?
I don’t think of ourselves as collectors, per se. I like my art philosophy: just buy what you love. One of the first pieces my husband and I bought together (a 1958 oil painting depicting a Russian cabbage crop) made me very happy. We knew we wanted to put art on our walls.
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It was not a valuable piece, but I just loved it, and also half of the proceeds went to supporting a Russian shelter. To me, buying things to hang on your wall merely because it matches the furniture is not acceptable. Art doesn’t have to cost a ton of money, but it should make you happy.
How do you find pieces you love?
We are very much involved with the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, and we go to the galleries all the time. Once I finally got myself to the Kansas City Art Institute’s end-of-semester art show, I found a sculpture by Oliver Bertucci that now hangs above the stairs.
Is it easier to find local pieces than it has been in the past?
The local art community is growing, and we have a lot of talent. It’s important to support them, that we don’t overlook what’s available in our community. You can find things of every price range. The Crossroads District is an excellent place to look, but word-of-mouth sells pieces, too. For instance, James Lane was working for our contractor.
I didn’t even know he was an artist until we were at a friend’s house and my husband saw one of his paintings, and said, “This is fantastic, who did that?” It was Jim! He was working for us all this time and never told us he was an artist. His work is shown at the Telephonebooth Gallery, here in Kansas City.
Swartzman’s husband then purchased a large abstract painting by Lane, which hangs in the front room.
What is your advice to homeowners looking to purchase meaningful pieces?
Buy what you love and what you want to look at, and if it’s valuable and if it’s well-received, then great. If it’s not, be sure you don’t mind looking at it on a daily basis.