Stephen Rosenberger and friends Tyler and Alyssa Bream lived in the city for a year refining their idea for a nonprofit gallery that combined art, altruism and outreach.
"The longer we lived here, the more we became aware of suffering and hardships," says Tyler. "We wanted to be conduits of beauty."
Last October, the trio opened Agape (Greek for "love that comes from God") on Literary Avenue. Their approach is built on the principle that viewing and reacting to art helps people deal with their own problems and prompts them to change their lives.
Tyler tells the story of an acquaintance struggling with homelessness who came into the gallery one night and was moved by a painting of two hands holding a chain. "He saw the piece and he said, 'I really like that,' " recalls Tyler. "He stopped, and it was like something came over him."
The illustration, photography and other art on display is chosen for its ability to generate these reactions. Agape also aims to spur creativity by supporting local artists, such as photojournalist Brittany Schenk's recent exhibit depicting life in the Peruvian Amazon region.
Each month the gallery unveils a show to correspond with Tremont's Art Walk. This month, the gallery is featuring Cleveland native Giovanni Bocchieri's work, including his colorful "leaf alchemy" art (made by putting a metal overlay on top of real leaves).
Agape also helps foster global philanthropy. Proceeds from a show by artist Julie Cook supported Help Save The Kids, which aids needy children along the Thailand/Burma border.
"Long term, we want this to be more than simply a passive place where you come in, see art and walk out," says Tyler. "We want to be an inspiration for people to do good."