Fri 9/18 @ 7-10PM
After retiring three years ago from his pharmaceutical job, Randy Norfus has been able to concentrate on his love of photography and the arts.
It’s this passion that led him last year to co-found Larchmere Arts, which is full-service photography studio specializing in headshots and portraits. Also, the spaces doubles as an art gallery offering music, spoken word and lectures.
Now Norfus, who for years photographed jazz and R&B bands that came through Cleveland, is excited about the debut Cleveland Photographic Invitational taking place Fri 8/18 at the Larchmere Boulevard venue.
CoolCleveland talked to Norfus about the special venue, the dearth of photography exhibits in the Rock Hall City and the upcoming Cleveland Photographic Invitational.
What is Larchmere Arts?
It’s what I would call a modern-day community center. In addition to the gallery, my partner and I are photographers. We specialize in headshots and portraits. In addition to that, we also do some community-oriented things such as poetry readings, music and lectures. In addition to all that, we have the gallery, which has primarily come into fruition because of the fact that unfortunately, African-American artists traditionally didn’t have places they could count on to show their works.
Can you elaborate?
Well, I have been focusing on what I call emerging artists. These are artists who are very good at what they do, but just didn’t have the forum to display and exhibit their work. I not only show the work of black artists, although there is an emphasis on that, I show the artwork of anybody and everybody that I think has the potential to be of quality. I use that word because I know people will say, what do you consider to be quality? That’s the only word I can think of right now to describe the type of artists I’ve shown over the past year. These artists seem to have “it.” And I’m using my own judgement to determine what “it” is. But I’ve been to enough museums and galleries all over the country to know when I’m seeing quality work.
How long has Larchmere Arts been open?
We just celebrated our first anniversary in May. I’ve had several shows, but I didn’t have any photography exhibits of note. I primarily show painters, and that’s why I’m taking this departure to focus on photography. I’ve asked 25 of my friends, both African-American and white, to participate in this event. This is the first Cleveland Photographic Invitational. It’s a big show in terms of numbers. The other thing is this discussion about photography being art. I’m just saying this based on what my experience has been. I’ve been able to see more photography shows in Akron’s museums than I have seen in the Cleveland Museum of Art, which may have one or two photography shows a year if we’re lucky. I’m just saying that I don’t see in general the museum making an effort to show photography as art, and I’m trying to pick up the baton.
What can visitors to the gallery expect to see in the Cleveland Photographic Invitational?
I can give you the short answer — I don’t have foggiest idea because as this work has been coming in, it’s been covered up. But I think it’s going to span the gamut. You’ll have fine art pieces. Herb Ascherman is a brilliant colleague of mine. He’s considered one of the premiere photographers in Cleveland. I’ve also received work that would be considered abstract and landscape. It’s virtually all over the map. I haven’t given anybody a theme in terms of the photography should be about, and I’m just accepting of the work as it arrives.
Looking back to your early days as a photographer, what would have Larchmere Arts provided you decades ago?
At least I would know there would be a beacon out there that would be open to having photographers of all generations and all backgrounds bring their work in to be shown, displayed and sold. I’m trying to generate a mindset that instead of going to a Walmart or a TJ Maxx to buy your art, you can buy original art at reasonable prices.
Earlier you mentioned having the “it” factor. Is this something you possess?
I think I do, definitely. (laughs) And because the fact I’ve never been able to concentrate on photography full-time, retirement now gives me no excuse. In other words, I’m doing photography on a daily basis whether it’s a client or I’m creating my own fine art. I’m doing what I love, I’m doing what I always wanted to do, and I’m doing it at my pace. I’m doing it my way.