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Art Abounds at Kent Barns


The main street in the village of Kent has always bustled with activity because of the many and varied shops and restaurants. That was only enhanced 20 years ago when James Preston had a vision and created Kent Barns.

In 2014 the complex was bought by several Kent residents, including Hiram Williams and Peter Vaughn, and major renovation and landscaping began, including creating access to Fulling Lane, which connected the enclave to Main Street. But Kent Barns is truly a village unto itself.

Recently it has turned into a mecca for art galleries, the perfect haven to wander, sit, bring a lunch and view an eclectic collection of art and artisans.

Craven Contemporary founded by Andrew Craven in 2018 started out in Lakeville and moved to Kent Barns in May. The gallery’s main focus is cutting-edge photography but also features painting and sculpture by some of the best emerging and established contemporary artists. On display now is “Flora,” a group show of contemporary interpretations of all things flora—flowers, plants and trees. The cornerstone of the show is three large scale works by Michael Thornton-Smith “Ethereal Volume I, II, and III.”

“I love being in such good company with the other galleries in Kent Barns,” says Craven. “It’s become quite an art destination and I think the influx of visitor benefits all of us.”

Eckert Fine Art is another recent addition to Kent Barns. Jane Coats Eckert has had a gallery for over 20 years, starting in Kent, moving to Millerton and now re-establishing her presence in Kent. While her roots are in 19th- and early-20th century American art she now features some of the finest from the modern and contemporary genres. At present, the gallery is showing “Realish” curated by artist Eric Forstmann. This survey of art, spanning more than a century, includes works by William Bailey, Alice Dalton Brown, Chuck Close, Ken Davies, Richard Estes, Forstmann, Wolf Kahn, John Mellencamp, and Wayne Thiebaud among others.

James Barron began his foray into the art business in 1987 as a private dealer and consultant. In 2010 he opened his gallery in the Barns. His specialty is modern and contemporary American and European art. Over the years he has sold paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Giacometti and Pollock. One of his specialties is helping novice collectors in their first acquisitions. Recently Barron eliminated regular opening hours and will be available by appointment only.

Kenise Barnes, who has had a gallery in Larchmont, NY for more than 25 years, opened Kenise Barnes Fine Art the same day Craven opened. Her current exhibition focuses on abstraction and features works by Daniel Anselmi, Lorraine Glessner, Jenny Kemp, Stephen Maine, Margaret Neill and Audrey Stone. Work on paper by Moya Aiken hangs in the project space. Barnes will also feature book signings and panel discussions on occasion.

“Not only do we have a gorgeous building to work in,” says Barnes. “But we have such great neighbors. 109 Cheese Market catered a dinner after one of my openings and all of my colleagues and neighbors came as well. I am trying to loop in art-related events as well as exhibitions.”

Ober Gallery is one of only two galleries in the United States specializing in Russian art. Rob Ober, the son of an American diplomat, grew up in the Soviet Union in the 1970s and opened his gallery in 2006. His father instilled in him an interest in art by bringing him to the studios of his Russian artist friends. This upbringing, along with teaching Russian history, inspired Ober’s interest in art and led to his opening a gallery. He currently focuses on Russian non-conformist art from the 1960s to ’80s, Brooklyn artists, and distinctive landscapes.

While not located in the Barns but in close proximity on North Main Street, William “Billy” Morrison has been part of the Kent art scene since he opened his first gallery in 1998. Having begun his own career in the arts as a guitarist for many legendary performers, he saw a need to nurture fine artists. The Morrison Gallery now exhibits the work of emerging regional artists, contemporary luminaries and modern masters. Morrison maintains a high-level of quality and is always on the search for new talent.

R.T. Facts, also located at The Barns, is not a fine art gallery per se, but owners Natalie and Greg Randall have created a mecca for carefully curated antiques as well as a platform for their own original contemporary furniture. All of the pieces are made in Litchfield County by their team of 20-or-so designers and craftsmen. Their new 7,000-square-foot showroom has become the go-to place for interior designers and those seeking the unique and unusual as well as many classic offerings. Visit the galleries and then go and enter the amazing world of R.T. Facts.

Additionally, to further encourage visitors, the galleries owners and merchants have instituted Second Saturdays, often coinciding with openings of new exhibitions. There is live music and wine is served while visitors stroll through the courtyard.

For more information and hours, events, and a full directory, please click on the link below.