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New Riffe Gallery exhibit celebrates century of art in Columbus

Celebrating Columbus’ Legacy,' scheduled to open Jan. 26 at the Riffe Gallery.

When people think of Columbus, they might think Ohio State, the Clippers, COSI or the Crew, but the Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Gallery is hoping to change that.

Starting Thursday, the exhibition “100 Years of Art: Celebrating Columbus’ Legacy,” will open to the public.

The exhibition features more than 50 artists and will serve to show the public how the art scene has changed over time. The artists were “influenced by local and national artistic developments as they helped to set the creative backdrop that still exists in Columbus today,” according to the Ohio Arts Council’s website.

Mary Gray, the director of the Riffe Gallery, said the event was inspired by the city’s bicentennial celebration this year. Gray points out that although the exhibition is called “100 Years of Art,” it features work from an even longer time span.

“We are displaying all historic works,” Gray said. “We go back to the mid-1800s all the way to 1970.”

Melissa Wolfe, the curator of American art at the Columbus Museum of Art, helped with the show.

“When we were looking to put the show together, we wanted to select somebody who had a great reputation and knows American art and specifically Columbus work, so we turned to our friend Melissa Wolfe at the Columbus Museum of Art,” Gray said. “This is our first collaboration with Melissa Wolfe and she has really turned out to be an expert, a whiz, on this genre.”

Wolfe, who was excited to help play a role in the exhibition, said she had fun helping to put the event together.

“We thought what we could do was look at legacy that the contemporary art world has grown out of and the kind of history of the art world in Columbus,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe said there have been different art communities in Columbus over the years, thriving especially during the 1930s through 1950s. This learning aspect was what made this a very enjoyable experience, she said.

“It’s fun to kind of uncover this community and this sort of history and the ways that artists created a really dynamic community,” Wolfe said.

Jim Keny, co-owner of Keny Galleries in German Village, said getting to know the historical culture of Columbus is important.

“It’s fascinating for people to know the heritage of this city. You will be able to see a wide range of style by a very diverse group of artists,” he said.

Wolfe encourages people to come to the show so they can experience the “same surprise” she received.

She wants people to be able to “realize how strong the history of art is and art-making, and how dynamic the art community in the city has been — that it really has a long and really strong history,” Wolfe said.

The gallery is open Tuesday through Sunday with free admission every day. Wolfe will lead a special public tour of the exhibit from noon to 1 p.m. Friday.

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