All but one of the 10 artists who work out of a leaky, cold 2,500-square-foot garage in Merion Village were classmates at CCAD, graduating in 2011 and 2012. All were good friends and contemporary artists. All wanted to stay in Columbus for at least their first year following graduation. All felt their options for studio space were limited.
Studio spaces they toured were expensive and felt stuffy, the group agreed. They wanted a place where they felt no gimmicks and no expectations. They wanted a place where they all could be together.
They started looking for a space they could convert into a large studio for all 10 of them. First came a former Dollar Tree in a strip mall on East Hamilton Road. There was a sign outside that said “Know Place.” Neighbors included a dentist, a Taco Bell and a Rent-A-Center. That location fell through, though, and the group was back on its search.
Then, mid-summer, they found the garage in Merion Village. At $525 per month and a short drive from Olde Towne East (where many of the group live together), it seemed perfect. Spearheaded by fine artist Erin McKenna, the group formed an LLC and signed up for renter’s insurance. No Place Studios (a play on that former strip mall space’s forgotten sign) was born.
“This is somewhere between a frat house and a faux residency,” said Stefan Hoza.
The group put up walls to block off individual but open studios for each artist — McKenna, Hoza, Samantha Rehark, James McDevitt-Stredney, Spencer Peterson, Shawn McBride, Taylor Hawkins, Elijah Funk, Nathan Moser and Emily Jimmerson.
Inside No Place feels like a complicated but energetic art piece itself, a physical representation of a 10-person-deep bench of talented artists. Cigarette packs, coffee cups and pieces of former projects litter the studios, funny when out-of-context, like the sawed-in-half hot tub in the back, part of an installation project McKenna and Rehark are working on for an upcoming show in Chicago’s art district.
“[No Place is] cheap and kind of crappy in an endearing way,” Funk said.
The group’s friendship is obvious. A mini skate park chills in the back (that is thanks to McDevitt-Stredney). The bathroom is a panoply of items left by outsider friends who have come to party at No Place (there’s a “bar in the back” of the studio, i.e., Speedway).
Having a space like this is not without its cons — flooding, cold, having their cars broken into — but the camaraderie working beside each other has been invaluable to their personal development as artists. The group is outspoken in its desire to bring more contemporary art to Columbus, sick of the popularity of “business art” at things like Short North’s Gallery Hop, or “Zombie Festival,” as one artist called it. If that sounds like sour grapes, consider that most of these artists have shown at a Gallery Hop.
No Place is a safe place for the artists who belong to it to create contemporary art and rebellion.
“We’re legitimized brats,” Funk said.
And proud of it.