From the days of early man to the present, art has been a way to express emotion and bring beauty to surroundings.

And in these days when the coronavirus pandemic has us spending a lot more time at home, many people are taking the opportunity to spruce up.

Whether you have the budget to purchase the work of a well-known artist or lean toward a funky armchair, art can make a huge difference in how you feel about your space.

But how do you start collecting?

That's a question people ask a lot of Ann Connelly, who owns her own gallery, Ann Connelly Fine Art, and is a consultant for many private collectors and businesses around the country. 

"I always encourage people to look, to be curious," said Connelly, who suggests scrolling the internet, checking out blogs and magazines as well as galleries and museums to learn about art. 

"Exposure helps people establish styles, things they are drawn to," she said. "It helps you form an intuitive viewpoint."

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Connelly encourages new collectors to visit galleries like the Alfred C. Glassell Jr. Exhibition Gallery at the Shaw Center for the Arts in downtown Baton Rouge. It's the LSU School of Art's ultracontemporary exhibition space, where you can see pieces by young LSU artists.

"There are crazy talented kids coming out of LSU every year," said Connelly, who suggested starting a collection with the works of one artist whose style really appeals to you.

She urges parents to instill curiosity in their children by exposing them to experiences and influences, including many that can be found in south Louisiana.

"People are attracted to cultural things," she said. "Culture is what makes you happy." 

When it comes to framing, Connelly said she likes to keep it simple.

"We want the frame to be about the art," she added.

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When you're ready to hang a piece on the wall, Connelly recommended following the general rule of museums: Aim for eye level, about 59 to 60 inches from the floor.

The same holds true for groupings, with the centerpiece of several pieces placed at eye level.

"You may say this is low, but we want to have a sense of grounding in a room," she said.

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And how did Connelly, a Lafayette native, get interested in art? 

After she graduated from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette with a degree in arts and humanities, she took a job as an assistant to an architect.

"My friends in the creative industry went to Europe all the time, and they enticed me to go along," she said. "I got interested in antiques and art."

When she moved to Baton Rouge, she worked for architect Karl Harvey, who assigned her to work with artist Adalie Brent, founding director of the Louisiana Arts & Science Center, now the Louisiana Art & Science Museum.

"Adalie took me under her wing," said Connelly, who opened her gallery, now in its fourth location, in 1989. "She encouraged me with her fearless spirit. That's the key to everything to an entrepreneur."