Tacocat Exposed: An inside look at the new studio-slash-gallery in Grandview

By Andy Downing
From the August 15, 2013 edition

Though Junctionview Studios, a Grandview warehouse space that housed more than 60 artists when it closed in April, might be gone, the spirit that fueled the project lives on in Tacocat Co-operative Studios and Gallery, a more intimate studio-slash-gallery set to host its grand opening this Saturday.

The space, housed in the former Kaz Office Systems Specialists building at 937 Burrell Ave. in Grandview, even incorporates materials salvaged from Junctionview, including drywall, light fixtures and the lumber for the gallery’s recently completed, multihued wood floor.

“Anything we could take [from Junctionview] we took,” said Tacocat cofounder Adam Brouillette, 33, who managed Junctionview the last five years of its existence.

Tacocat, unlike its predecessor, exists on a much more manageable scale. In addition to the 1400-square-foot gallery, the building has 11 studios that house a dozen artists, including Stinky Bomb Soap founder Megan Green and her husband Rob, an industrial designer by day whose studio resembles a WWII-era fallout bunker.

“People have asked about the difference between Junctionview and Tacocat, and I’ve been describing it by saying Junctionview was like an apartment building where you’d see your neighbors in the hallway and wave hello,” Brouillette said. “Here it’s like a family, and inescapably so sometimes.”

Construction started at Tacocat shortly after Junctionview shuttered its doors, with Brouillette and his fellow artists handling a majority of the construction and absorbing a bulk of the $10,000 renovation price (a handful of sponsors offset some of the building cost). It’s a D.I.Y. spirit the artist said he developed growing up playing in punk bands like Killed in Action and Ride to Ruin.

“Getting people to understand having an art space doesn’t mean you have to wait for someone else to build it so you can pay your $120 a month in rent and not be invested,” he said. “I think people think of the arts as this thing that’s going to happen for them, and none of us has that mentality. We think of the arts as something that requires active participation. We go and we do it and we make it happen.”

Other former Junctionville tenants have followed his lead, including Briden Schueren, who is currently readying his own Grandville studio/gallery, Brick Box Studios, for its Oct. 12 launch date.

While the opening of two new arts spaces in Grandview is certainly a boon to the tight-knit community, neither Brouillette nor Schueren envision the suburb becoming the next go-to artist destination in the mold of the Short North or much buzzed-over Franklinton. Brouillette, for one, said he remained in Grandview partly out of greed (he lives nearby and enjoys having the freedom to walk to work each day), and because a majority of his Tacocat cohorts were already well established in the ’hood. Schueren, in turn, scoped out spaces everywhere from Franklinton to the Short North to Clintonville before settling on the three-story location at 1523 Chesapeake Ave.

“We feel like there’s unlimited opportunity for artists to branch out … and share their talents all over the city,” Schueren said.

Even so, both Tacocat and Brick Box hope to become vital cogs in their respective neighborhoods. Prior to Pecha Kucha, an arts event that doubled as a soft opening of sorts for the gallery, Brouillette even printed up 50 copies of a welcome letter and walked door-to-door to hand them out to neighbors in the community.

“At Junctionview there were trucks going by all day and it was loud and there were warehouses. Now we’re only a block over, but there’s always people walking their dogs and there’s joggers and there’s no trucks and it’s really quiet,” he said. “Some neighbors actually came out for Pecha Kucha [Aug. 8] and were like, ‘This is really cool.’ So, yeah, our door is always open, and we’d love to see more of the neighborhood.”

Photos by Meghan Ralston