On Feb. 4, Laura Stigen, Gigi’s Cafe front-of-house manager and art curator, is welcoming neighbors into the space for a community-based art gala. “There is an importance of lifting up art during the pandemic, and giving people a place to share their artwork when there are so many places that are closed,” Stigen said. “It’s an opportunity to celebrate arts.” 

The walls at Gigi’s are filled with brightly colored pieces ranging from life-sized portraits to illustrations of 90s ephemeral. Stigen meets most of the artists when they come into the cafe as customers so the art is collected on a very personal level.

The winter gala will include music from acoustic guitarist, cellist, and vocalist Sophia Spiegel. New dinner menu items and desserts will be available to sample. Drinks will be available for purchase. The cost of entry is $5 cash. This is Stigen’s second art gala at Gigi’s Cafe after a successful event on Set. 30 last year. 

Something that stands out about Stigen, and Gigi’s Cafe overall, is their deep connection to the neighborhood and the people who visit. One of the artists currently featured at Gigi’s is Habib Salama, a customer and neighbor. When Stigen asked Salama about his art, he referred to it as sketching. “I called it [a] masterpiece,” Stigen said. Although Salama won’t be able to attend the gala, his work will be on display. 

The process for displaying art at Gigi’s is simple. Artists are either discovered by Stigen, as they work at the cafe’s large tables, or they ask Stigen if they can display their work. There is no online form, no judge’s table, and no cost to the artist. 

Alex Ferreira is another discovered artist. He had never shown his art to anyone, let alone sold his work. At Stigen’s encouragement, Ferreira hung up his work right before the fall art gala and now has an Etsy account to sell his work.

Portrait by Alex Ferreira

“I nudge the new artists,” Stigen said. “They just need a little encouragement.” New artists include children, as well. “People look at the kids’ art as much as any of the adult stuff,” Stigen said. This cafe and gala is an extra special place for youth art right now.  “Schools that are in online learning, they don’t get to share their art work as much as they would if they were in in-person school,” Stigen said.  

Gala attendees will be able to buy art directly from the artists at the event.