Bringing the city home: fine arts gallery opens in Cranford

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CRANFORD, NJ — Filo Sofi Arts gallery owner Gabrielle Aruta says she wants to inspire everyone who visits her gallery. Aruta, who has traveled the world, has taught philosophy in eight countries; she is originally from Clark and attended Mount Saint Mary Academy. After living in Philadelphia for most of her adult life and moving to New York City, where she opened a gallery in 2017, Aruta thought it was important to be in Cranford and near her family. She found a new home in Cranford and, wanting to give back to Union County, opened an art gallery in Cranford on May 7.

“I founded Filo Sofi in 2017 and opened the gallery on the Lower East Side, and I was able to sublet a space there and was there for a year and a half,” Aruta said on Friday, July 2. “I then moved to Chelsea, the really prominent part of the art gallery scene in New York City. From there the pandemic hit and I ran the gallery from my bedroom using Artsy and had a virtual gallery on Artsy for all the shows and started a webinar series called ‘Disclosures.’ We were launching exhibitions that were just virtual and doing this webinar component.”

Aruta said that when she came back to Union County, she felt it was essential that she be in Cranford. Her brother started his first business in Cranford when she was 12 years old, and her father owns a building in Cranford.

“Even though I’m from Clark, Clark doesn’t have a downtown,” she said. “So being in Cranford was always where I would go. I wanted to come back and enhance the community. This is a result of the pandemic, and I would not have thought to do this if it wasn’t for the situation of wanting to be closer to my parents.

“I would think that other people, whether they’re in my industry or something else, returned home to be near their families in the midst of everything that’s been going on,” she continued. “I’m curious as to what that means and how downtowns can be improved by people coming home and contributing what they’ve learned from being out in the world and bringing it to small downtowns.”

Aruta said her inspiration behind the Filo Sofi Arts Gallery, a 3,000 square-foot art gallery and two-room exhibition space, is a marriage between philosophy and art.
“I became interested in art through the grip that philosophy had on me when I was in college,” Aruta said. “My first philosophy class in college changed my life, because it gave me these great coping mechanisms and resiliency. I found a lot of consolation in philosophy.

“The relationship between philosophy and art, I think, is really significant and enhances people’s lives and also has the power to instill a form of secular ethics in people that has the result of making people more ethical and making the world a better place,” she continued. “So, you can go and look at a painting without any knowledge and, of course, be moved by it because there are intrinsic qualities of beauty that exist within these works, and people may not have the intellectual skill set behind it to understand why it’s such a good painting, but it will make them gasp. There’s something instinctual that happens for people when they look at great art that has the power to impact their lives meaningfully.”

Aruta said her passion for philosophy and art made her realize that “Art is not a luxury. Art is for everyone.”

“I want philosophy to help my artists and to help my collectors,” Aruta said. “I lived in Norway for years in my 20s, teaching philosophy to children and studying philosophical practice there.… Philosophy in general is the study of the love of wisdom. The point is to formally bring philosophy to the contemporary art world, to use philosophy to analyze art and to make meaning out of creative expression.

“While there’s a lot of really expensive stuff that we sell here, there are still affordable pieces, and we want to be able to help collectors at any level of the market and teach people how to buy and also teach people how to sell,” she added.

The 10 artists Aruta is currently showing in the gallery have pieces in museums around the world, and Aruta said she feels as though her gallery is a shrine of beauty, where she can give artists a voice. Fittingly, the first show, which ran from May 7 to June 20, was called “A Shrine to Beauty.” The second show, which opened July 1 and runs through Sunday, Aug. 15, is called “Waiting.”

Aruta said she hires philosophers to interview artists and write about them. She is also a fine art appraiser and provides insurance and estate appraisals. In addition, Aruta has philosophy workshops in the gallery, to teach people to bring philosophy outside of academia.

“This is a New York art gallery in Cranford, so I feel really proud to have this,” Aruta said. “I have this ability to contribute to this community that gave so much to me as a kid. The art world is so global and democratized in a way, because of Instagram and other online platforms. I’ve sold a bunch of art this week. I’ve sold to people in Italy, the Netherlands, two pieces to two different collectors in Canada. Someone from Korea contacted me to buy a piece. To people who are buying art sight unseen, it’s just like giving them high-resolution photos. Being on FaceTime with collectors around the world, it’s really amazing, and it’s also exciting for me to do that.

“It’s really exciting to get to make this contribution to (Cranford),” she continued. “I’m an applied ethicist, and, because of the branch of philosophy, I focus on being ethical. It’s all about being ethical and being objective, which is a big part of my appraisal career. Being ethical and being objective is what I want to see happen with the world. I want to bring beauty to people, bring art into people’s lives, but I also really want to bring philosophy and ethics to people.”

Muralist Indie 184, one of the artists who has exhibited internationally and was invited to be a part of “A Shrine to Beauty,” is from the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City and grew up heavily influenced by graffiti and street art. She has been making art for more than 20 years. Indie 184 will have a solo show in September at Filo Sofi Arts.

“I’m honored to have my art displayed at the Filo Sofi Arts gallery, because this is the first time I did a group exhibition with non–street art and graffiti artists,” Indie 184 said on Friday, July 2. “This artist feature is just so different from what I’d normally be a part of. These are more experienced, contemporary fine artists and I’m a street art and graffiti artist, so I feel honored, and I’m excited to be included.”

Iris Scott, who is from Maple Valley in Washington state, is currently featured in a solo exhibit at Filo Sofi Arts; she has four pieces in the gallery. With a bachelor’s degree in painting, Scott lived in Taiwan, where she excelled at painting and grew her audience, while realizing the growing demand for her work. Scott was approached by Aruta in 2017 asking to represent her. She said it’s been a dream to work with Aruta.

“I knew Gabrielle would challenge me, and her vision for a gallery was big. She is all about the long game — she has been for a while — and she’s just in her mid-30s, so it’s clear to me that she’ll have an extensive and powerful career as a gallery owner and influencer,” Scott said on Saturday, July 3. “She is driven, and her dreams for Filo Sofi align perfectly with where I want to go. Her (recent) exhibition, ‘Shrine to Beauty,’ featured a diverse, moving roster of artists, and I’m very proud to have my work alongside theirs. With Filo Sofi, Gabrielle brings a global-art-world presence to her hometown. It’s very special.

“Filo Sofi is at the helm of a movement,” she continued. “This is what the first artists must have felt like when partnering with giants like Gagosian. This gallery transcends norm. Gabrielle Aruta is a tenacious force and she dreams big. Most importantly, she knows how to pick art. It’s truly an honor to be associated with the gallery.”

For more information about the gallery, visit www.filosofiarts.com.

Photos Courtesy of Gabrielle Aruta

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