The Short North is home to Columbus’ longest running artist-owned-and-operated gallery, and its success can be attributed, in part, to its uncommon mode of operation.
Studios on High began in 1987 as the separate studio spaces of three individual artists. More than 32 years later, with renovations and a newfound sense of direction, the studio has transformed into the gallery that visitors know today. One of the original artists, Judy Hoberg, has been with the gallery since it opened to the public.
The layout of the gallery is unlike many others in the area. While various other gallery spaces are open and minimalistic in design, Studios on High has incorporated a transformable layout for displaying the works of their member artists. There are sections of wall that usually reside in the center of the room, but can be moved to accommodate the ever-changing needs of the displays.
While the gallery has been successful, it has also had its share of struggles.
“It was more like a craft show at the beginning, and every year we have improved and become more standardized,” Hoberg said about the beginning.
The evolution of the space was largely credited to member artist Teda Theis. Hoberg said that Theis was the one in charge of design that allowed them to generate “a more sophisticated look and presentation.”
Theis had her work cut out for her due to the number of pieces that Studios on High showcases. The volume of art that it displays requires ingenuity of the presentation to avoid overwhelming visitors.
“[Other galleries] have half of the amount of pieces that are on display,” Theis said.
The gallery has also benefited from the artist-operated aspect of its approach. Part of being a member artist at Studios on High is the commitment to the space. Twenty-two member artists rotate staffing and upkeep of the gallery, so they are able to remain open every day of the week, while other galleries might be open only a few days a few days per week.
Artists are also encouraged to create art onsite in addition to staffing the gallery. Hoberg refers to the gallery as a “portable studio” of sorts, harkening back to the days when the building was only studio space.
“We’re demonstrating the creative process, so it becomes a bit of a field trip as well as just looking at completed art,” Hoberg said about the unusual operation.
Studios on High has been around long enough to see the Short North evolve into a thriving arts destination. One aspect that has kept the area on the map is the city’s dedication to upholding a platform for artists. The gallery operators collaborate through monthly meetings. However, it hasn’t always been this way.
“There was a time when there weren’t as many galleries where they saw each other as competition rather than realizing that if the boat goes up and we’re all on board, it’s good for everybody,” Hoberg said. “Because no gallery represents everybody’s taste.”
Studios on High is open from noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 1 to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Its current exhibition, “Going with the Grain” by member artist Deb Davis-Livaich, is available to view until April 4, and the gallery is currently taking submissions for its yearly Hit the Hop event through April 6.