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Gallery spotlight: Urban Arts Space links student art and community

Art tells a story in a way words cannot. It embodies culture, it is transformative, it links the community to its own people and history. This is the mission of the Urban Arts Space, an Ohio State gallery located in the historic Lazarus building in downtown Columbus.

Spearheaded by the Arts Initiative, an umbrella organization that facilitates an array of on and off-campus opportunities for students, faculty and the community, the gallery is designed to serve as a “mechanism” for sharing art projects and research, said director of communications Erik Pepple.

The Urban Arts Space brings together art and the Ohio State and Columbus communities. Credit: Sydney Riddle | Lantern Reporter

“This art space is devoted to showcasing work, whether it’s Ohio State student-related, faculty work or nationally touring shows,” he said. “We serve as a connector, not just for the downtown to the university, but also providing a space for students, faculty and artists to share their work with the larger Columbus community.”

Once a year, the space has an open submission process that welcomes the Columbus community to submit proposals that are reviewed by a panel of experts, Pepple said.

The Urban Arts Space is currently showing a selection of pieces from the Frank W. Hale Jr. Black Cultural Center collection, an accumulation of 30 years’ worth of local art initiated by the former associate dean of Ohio State’s graduate school and civil-rights activist.

“This is an exhibit about African-American art and culture,” student tour assistant Emory Butcheck said. “Where it has been, where it is right now and where it’s going to be.”

All of the artists are connected to Ohio State or Columbus in one way or another, Butcheck said.

More than 240 pieces of the 600 piece collection selected for the Urban Arts Space gallery include Columbus art legends such as Aminah Robinson and Kojo Kamau, as well as Ohio State graduates, including Sharon Farmer and Queen Brooks, Pepple said.  

It’s a look into the past and current African-American art scene in Columbus, as well as a glimpse into art history, Columbus history and Ohio State history from the civil-rights movement to now, Butcheck said.

“A lot of the work has not been exhibited publicly,” Pepple said. “This is a great chance for folks who are not just interested in art history, but Columbus history, to see these works by these extraordinary talents in a gallery setting for the first time.”

The Urban Arts Space also illustrates the talent Ohio State manufactures, Pepple said.

“You’re going to get an amazing sense of the kind of work being done by students and faculty,” Pepple said. “A good look at what Ohio State is producing and creating a conversation about it.”

The gallery also offers public programs such as “Crafternoons” for children and art explorations, an interactive art education series that allows the community to create art in a community setting, Pepple said.  

Community engagement is what it’s all about, Butcheck said.

“We’re glad to be a part of the Ohio State and Columbus community,” Pepple said. “Hopefully people will hop on the [COTA’s No. 2 Bus] from campus and check out what we have to offer.”

The Ohio State Urban Arts Space is free of admission and open year-round to the Columbus community.

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