The Refrigecurator

curated fridgeYorgos Efthymiadis (center, blue shirt) and guests take in the latest Curated Fridge exhibit. Photo by Adrianne Mathiowetz.

You won’t find Somerville’s coolest photography show in a gallery—it’s happening in an Inman Square Kitchen.

Yorgos Efthymiadis’s kitchen isn’t particularly conspicuous.

It’s adorable, to be sure. Pots and pans hang on a piece of pegboard. Rustic, red shelves are stocked with jars full of spices, and there’s a tiny table flanked by two wooden chairs—the perfect nook for sipping espresso. While a realtor walking you through the space would point out the hardwood floors and exposed brick, they’d probably tell you more about the apartment’s convenient location just outside of Inman Square.

curated fridge

The July/August edition of the Curated Fridge. Photo by Yorgos Efthymiadis.

But every other month, this kitchen comes to life thanks to the Curated Fridge, a celebration of fine art photography that Efthymiadis has been hosting since last summer.

Efthymiadis developed the idea for the Curated Fridge after participating in a portfolio review in Portland, Oregon. After making connections with other fine art photographers there, he returned to Somerville with several small prints and promotional cards featuring their work. “I always like to see art,” he says, “so I just put everything up on the fridge.”

He posted a picture of his newly decorated refrigerator to Facebook, where it generated a surprising and overwhelming response. Praise flooded in from friends and fans who loved the simple elegance of a fridge filled with photographs, and one common suggestion emerged: Why not make a show of this? In August of last year, he hosted the first-ever Curated Fridge show.

The exhibit was something of an experiment at the time. Boston-based visual and performance artist Caleb Cole curated the inaugural show, and they only received about 30 submissions.

But the concept caught on quickly. While 20 people showed up for the first fridge show, 50 people came out to the next one. “Here I am, buying baby carrots and hummus, cheap wine,” Efthymiadis laughs. “Everything comes out of my pocket, but it’s fine—who cares?” He’s realized just how much he likes connecting photographers with other artists whose work he thinks they’d enjoy. And the casual, cozy kitchen setting is conducive to fostering these new relationships. “It’s fun,” he says. “That was very fulfilling for me.”

curated fridge

Since then, local support for Efthymiadis’s idea has grown. Earlier this year, he hosted “Off the Fridge” at the Photographic Resource Center in Brookline, and Frances Jakubek and Paula Tognarelli from the Griffin Museum of Photography have each curated shows in the kitchen. Karen Haas, the Lane Curator of Photographs at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, curated this year’s March/April fridge show. In fact, while Efthymiadis’s fridge normally displays each bimonthly exhibit until the next fridge show is ready to launch, it’s bare on the mid-August afternoon when we meet, as the July/August 2016 collection is on display at the Open Aperture Art Gallery in Newport, RI.

The Curated Fridge is catching on beyond Greater Boston. The fridge show will take its furthest trip to date at the end of September, when it goes to Photoville in Brooklyn for the first non-local opening.

curated fridge

“The best thing is happening now, it’s crazy,” Efthymiadis says. “I never thought that would happen.”

The fridge was even one of 10 finalists for this year’s Crusade for Art Engagement grant, which seeks to introduce new audiences to photography. That’s a key cause for Efthymiadis, who believes that whether it’s in a kitchen or in a gallery, art should be accessible to everyone. It’s a philosophy that’s resonated with viewers—while the Curated Fridge ultimately wasn’t selected for the grant, it did win the popular vote.

Efthymiadis’s next idea is similarly aimed at encouraging people to connect with art: He plans to begin sharing submissions from artists and others who curate their own fridges and submit photographs through his website. These fridges wouldn’t have to be filled with photography, but could instead be decorated with children’s drawings, or something that’s been cut out of a magazine—perhaps even this magazine—simply because the viewer likes it.

curated fridge

“Most of us put bills or whatever on there,” Efthymiadis says. “You don’t want to see that in your face every day. You want to see something beautiful.”

Friends and fans have joked that he should consider welcoming a sponsor—General Electric, maybe, or Frigidaire—to underwrite future fridge shows. But that idea isn’t at all tempting to Efthymiadis, who wants to keep the project simple, independent and local.

“People like it because it is the way it is,” he explains. “This is a nice way to teach people that art doesn’t have to be in a gallery.”

You can find more info on the Curated Fridge, including future calls for entrée, at thecuratedfridge.com.

This story originally appeared in our September/October print edition, which is available for free at more than 150 drop spots throughout Somerville (and just beyond its borders) or by subscription

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