Many art galleries dot the Short North, but Studios on High Gallery gives guests a first-hand look at the artistic process.
The gallery, established by four artists in 1987, began as a simple studio space in what the artists considered a rough part of town, Deb Johnson, artist and co-manager of the gallery, said. Now acting as a work and retail space for 22 Ohio artists, Johnson said it stands as the oldest artist-owned-and-operated gallery in Columbus, Ohio.
Each artist contributes to the gallery’s monthly expenses, such as rent, utilities and staffing the gallery, Beth Himsworth, glass mosaic artist, said. Johnson said that in addition to being an artist and co-manager, she uses her background in journalism to act as a communication liaison for the gallery.
Open seven days a week, the gallery has a minimum of two artists always on site. Himsworth said visitors can expect to see artists hard at work in the open studio and can speak to them about their artistic processes while enjoying the finished products that adorn the gallery’s walls. Himsworth said visitors can better understand the value of the work by seeing how it was made.
“We are all local artists and we’re all just excited about art, so we love when people come in and interact with us,” Himsworth said.
She added that artists benefit from visitor reactions, helping the artists keep up with the flowing trends of the art world, such as popular color schemes or styles. Still, they create what they are moved to create, she said, even after taking current fads into account.
Johnson said artists appreciate the open studio workspace because they can receive feedback about their work not only from visitors, but also from other artists at the gallery, who can jump in to help produce the best work possible and create a sense of community in the studio.
Studios on High Gallery makes a point of featuring exclusively Ohio artists — something Johnson said sets it apart from Columbus’ other galleries.
Although this limits the pool of artists the studio can draw from, Johnson said the team has not had any problem filling the space with impressive works.
Rather than focusing on a specific style of artwork, Studios on High Gallery houses a range of mediums, including glassworks, print-making, mixed media, ceramics, painting, wood and jewelry.
Artists often work on custom-made pieces in addition to selling completed works, Johnson said.
Each artist who works with Studios on High Gallery is subject to an interview process that inspects not only the quality of the artists’ works, but the artists’ personalities, Johnson said.
“They’ve got to be really good with the public because essentially we’re putting them into a sales role,” she said.
Johnson said interviewees stand before a small jury that includes at least one gallery artist specializing in the medium being presented. Prospective artists are then given an opportunity to explain their work and the process behind it. Selected artists are contracted on a year-by-year basis following their acceptance.
Placing a large amount of importance on education, Himsworth said the gallery is often a field trip destination for local schools. Artists at Studios on High Gallery love to talk about the process behind their works, she said.
Artists also offer classes on their craft, allowing visitors to get their feet wet with mediums such as watercolor painting, realistic drawing and ornament making. Details can be found on the gallery’s website.