The Biscayne Times

Aug 23rd
A Commissioner Collection PDF Print E-mail
Written by Stuart Sheldon, BT Contributor   
December 2018

An offering of easy-to-own art at gentle price points

“IPix_FamilyMatters_12-18t is often a fine command of language to say nothing.”

That anonymous quote beneath an empty speech bubble hung in a frame in my modest childhood home. To this day, it reminds me to think twice before opening my big mouth.

My cheeky single-mother of two continued her subliminal brilliance when she painted a lyric from a 1950s Dinah Shore hit on the underside of our toilet seat. It read: “It’s so nice to have a man around the house” each time I raised the seat. I didn’t realize it at the time, but these were my first indelible interactions with art. Thanks, Mom!

I’m no big-bucks collector, but the local artworks that grace our house add visual and intellectual texture, and stimulate conversations with our friends and kids. So I’m excited about an innovative platform called Commissioner that lets Miamians collect local artists for just $300/quarter ($900/year if paid upfront). For this crazy reasonable price, subscribers receive four “original, limited-edition works” and get treated like VIPs at events with local galleries, institutions, and with the artists of those works.

Commissioner founder Dejha Carrington grew up in a small Montreal apartment. When she was seven, her parents built a space for her to make art in a cupboard they had gutted for that exact purpose. “Soon after, I graduated from working in my ‘studio’ to drawing on the walls, which my parents encouraged,” she says. “By the time I was 16, I had a full-scale mural in my room.”

Now an executive with the National YoungArts Foundation, Carrington leads a team offering programs, mentorship, and financial awards to promising artists. She brings to the table the perspectives of a child, a maker, patron, and a collector. And her “everybody wins” concept is so solid that Commissioner was named a 2017 Knight Arts Challenge winner.

“While art collecting has many times been positioned as an elitist commodity that only a few get to own, that storyline benefits a specific demographic, which does not, as it happens, include me and the majority of this country,” she says. “While Commissioner aims to connect emerging collectors to artists, at its core -- when you distill the language -- we’re really focused on connecting people to people. I’m in it for the stories, for the relationships, for the curiosity and the culture.”

Carrington’s partner on Commissioner, Rebekah Monson, is the technical brain and co-founder of the online sites WhereBy.Us and The New Tropic. Born in small-town Alabama, Monson says she joined Commissioner because she knew nothing about collecting art. “Dejha has this deep and broad expertise in the arts, and I’ve learned a lot about building digital communities, engagement, and systems.... It made sense to me that we could join forces and help other people who might be struggling with how to dig deeper into supporting arts and artists.”

Adds Carrington: “Art is about so much more than objects and openings. Art is about our humanity -- our stories, our values, our dreams, our struggles, our triumphs, our connections. And we believe that the key to helping the arts thrive in Miami is to build deeper human connections between the locals who live here and the artists creating in this community.”

Commissioner commissions 40 pieces of art from each artist, each unique and “part of a cohesive body of work” across mediums that include collage, photography, and sculpture. This number provides an interesting challenge to each artist without overburdening. The number of subscribers is also limited to 40. The slots for this year are currently filled, though the website offers a wait list. Forty new slots will open next year (although memberships are also renewable).

Forty guests sat at a long table in a room decorated by Commissioner’s first featured artist, Typoe, whose works were to be distributed to each guest that evening. Everything from the funky warehouse walls to the cake icing was bathed in Typoe’s signature rainbow palette, an immersive, playful backdrop for the crowd of minglers. At last, each received his or her much-anticipated work, bright collages of Typoe’s enigmatic iconography. I saw the smiles and fire in the eyes as each studied their new treasures.

Typoe gave a brief insightful talk about the underlying narrative, and I could tell that each newbie collector felt connected to the experience and the object. “By the end of the art season, we want our collectors to feel like they are a valuable part of the arts ecosystem, instead of on the outside looking in,” says Carrington.

Art makes a house more a home. From my perspective as an artist and father, that is the foundation on which it should be appreciated and purchased. Learn more at


Stuart Sheldon is an artist, author, and Miami native. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram @stuart_sheldon, and his blog at

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