Andrew Eastman and Chloe Chafe are a charismatic duo. They grew up together in Riverview and worked together at Bistro 7 1/4. While at the restaurant, they realized they shared the same goals and dreams. “We found love,” Chafe said with a laugh. “We were a really good team. It just kind of made sense.”
The pair decided to collaborate to make their own work of art—Synonym Art Consultation. Synonym specializes in promoting and selling local artists’ works in unconventional spaces. Though neither Eastman nor Chafe has any business training, they are both artists, hence they can relate to their clientele. “We represent young, up-and-coming artists in the city,” said Eastman. “We campaign for them to get their art put up in restaurants, bars, hair salons, different public venues and art galleries. We always launch each event with a big party, music, drinks and food. “We take care of all of the sales and liaise between businesses, the community and the artist.”
The majority of artists Eastman and Chafe work with are people they already know, but they don’t limit themselves to representing friends. “We’re always keeping our eyes and ears open in the community—going to art shows, keeping an eye on social media and what people are creating,” said Eastman.
Synonym has worked with more than 30 artists, handpicking some of them and receiving portfolio submissions from others. “Artists are sort of notoriously bad at promoting their art and valuing their art to the level that is should be,” said Eastman.
One of Synonym’s artists, Anthony Nelson, is also Eastman’s long-time partner. “That was a big part of it for me was seeing the person I love most struggling in the art world to get his stuff out there. I naturally took on that sort of role of representation for him,” said Eastman. “That was another big piece as to why we started—the personal connection between me and my partner and all of our friends and seeing that they could use a hand (doing) what they aren’t the best at.”
Eastman and Chafe draw big audiences to their events by repurposing spaces that already have steady business traffic. They held their first event in April 2013 at The Hive Hair Company and have also hosted events at The Park Theatre and Deseo Bistro. “A lot of our base is people who wouldn’t go to a gallery opening necessarily,” said Chafe. So instead, Synonym throws a big art party. “It’s kind of this cool thing that people are taking pictures at. It’s a big celebration and not just an intellectual art discussion,” said Chafe.
After the art party is finished, the client’s art is displayed and rotated approximately every four months, that way there is a continuous flow of different artwork. “We’re creating these environments that have a lovely experience, where (visitors) can take a piece of art home afterwards and have these great memories attached to it,” said Eastman.
Though their business is still gaining speed, Synonym has had a steady flow of clientele. “A lot of the artists we’ve worked with say that they’ve sold the most art through us,” said Eastman. “One of our favorite things is the day when we bring paycheques to the artist and say ‘You just sold three pieces and here’s $500,’” he said. “So far it’s been a win-win-win situation for everybody involved.”
– Adriana Mingo is a Creative Communications student at Red River College with a passion for all things art and pop culture. You can follow her on Twitter at @eleanorrigby27.