Moving on: One year after closing, local artists look back at influential collective Junctionview

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From the July 31, 2014 edition

“Sometimes you need your boat rocked to remember that you’re a survivor, and to be resourceful.” —Kat Marie Moya, local tattoo and fine artist

It’s been a little over a year since Junctionview Studios shut its doors for good and was eventually razed. It marked a considerable shift in the Columbus arts community, as the Grandview-warehouse-turned-studio-and-event-space served as a beacon for underground and independent art the previous 10 years. Anyone who had attended Agora, any of Junctionview’s events or just been there when it was simmering with artist activity, knows how electrifying the 22,000-square-feet space was.

While the closing of Junctionview was a regretful consequence borne of commercial development — that sent a group of more than 60 artists, including some of Columbus’ most talented individuals, in search of new studio homes — some interesting transitions have taken place since. Junctionview long stood as Columbus’ bastion for local art, and one year later a number of collectives are looking to fill that void, not so much individually but collectively.

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Junctionview Studios opened in 2002 under the management of painter and illustrator Adam Brouillette and soon became a coveted setting. The 44 studios (some shared) housed anywhere from 65 to 75 artists, along with spaces being used by local bands and for yoga, dance and martial arts instruction. Every inch of Junctionview was in high-demand by a diverse body of creative talent, thanks in part to low rent, but more so for the community it fostered.

“The cost and the community are both part of it. Nobody ever left. Turnover at Junctionview was so slow. People wanted to stay,” Brouillette said during a July interview at Tacocat Cooperative, the Grandview studio with a 1,200-square-feet gallery he currently manages.

“You knew when you came to Junctionview you had people to work around and bounce ideas off. And the ability to get more shows because if those artists have a show at a gallery, [they could] name to the gallery other artists who make good work. It was a good networking opportunity as well.”

Another attractive quality to Junctionview were the opportunities presented by its signature events and art shows (Agora, Por Vida and C-Note), highly anticipated affairs that have since vanished.

“It’s been interesting,” said Chris Sherman, project manager at Franklinton’s 400 West Rich studios, during a phone interview. “I feel like a lot of really great art shows are currently not being facilitated. I would love to try to coordinate with some of those organizers and get some of that stuff going again. That’s what’s really disappointing about losing a space like that; not only was it a home for the artists, but we’ve also lost these great events. Maybe they’re not lost, just sort of wandering.”

Junctionview’s events had a tangible value, in that they were consistently occurring and well-attended, offering exposure and potential sales. But there was another, less-quantifiable element.

“We did a lot of shows there that helped those who had no experience. It really helped pull me into the mainstream,” said woodworker Devon Palmer, a former Junctionview resident now at the Columbus Idea Foundry. “That’s a direct result of the experience at Junctionview and the skills I garnered there. It really helped move a lot of people forward.”

Tattoo and fine artist Kat Marie Moya, owner of Spiritus in Clintonville, originally began inking out of a Junctionview space while creating her mixed-media fine art at a home studio. She initially kept her art from the public eye, but working out of Junctionview opened her up, leading her to display her work in the tattoo studio and even organize the venerated Day of the Dead-themed event Por Vida.

“Honestly, Junctionview really helped build my confidence. I’d never really connected with the art community. I was always a very private person and sort of kept myself at a distance,” Moya said during an interview at Spiritus. “The fine art community was forthright and generous in embracing me. I felt like my work was really appreciated and purposely viewed. It really just helped me to loosen up, be more confident and open my eyes wider.”

The impact Junctionview had on Columbus’ art scene was paramount, and its closing was momentous, leaving the community in a state of flux that it still hasn’t fully recovered from. However, there are positive aspects to losing a place that served as an outright nucleus for the arts.

One of the biggest examples, developing from a diaspora of former Junctionview residents finding new workspaces, is a greater connectivity among the community as a whole. Some moved to established sites 400 West Rich or the Columbus Idea Foundry, or to new spaces like Brick Box in Grandview (started and managed by former Junctionview resident Briden Schueren) or Wood.Metal.Art and Ethical Arts Collective in Franklinton, while others receded to home or individual studios. As artists have spread out, a cohesive network was maintained, even strengthened.

“Absolutely [it’s stronger]. It was nice to have Junctionview and I wish we still did, but all of these collectives spreading out are building interpersonal relationships better than before. That’s one thing I’ve found about the Columbus community, and heard reference to from other places that don’t have [it]; we’re actually willing to help each other,” said Walter Herrmann, a sculptor residing at 400 West Rich.

Herrmann knows a thing or two about connecting the art community. In February of 2013 — around the time Junctionview announced it would close — Herrmann started the Facebook group The Art and Artists Of. It’s a closed group, requiring an administrator to approve access, but approval happens within minutes. The concept Herrmann sought was bringing together all aspects of the art community virtually.

Beginning with artists in the 614 area code, The Art and Artists now has six chapters in Ohio and more than 6,000 total members with 4,000-plus belonging to the 614 faction. In the 18 months since inception, The Art and the Artists Of has expanded to include all but one area code in Ohio. The plan is for global participation.

“When I started it, the idea was to have one site for us here and everybody in the world could join. [Those] who consider themselves to be art-affiliated in some way — student, teacher, full-time artists, hobbyist, a buyer, gallery owner, you name it. If it’s art-related we want everybody on the page,” Herrmann said during an interview at his studio. “Our first goal was to organize Ohio and move on from there. Once we have one state locked in, we’d have enough collective interest to expand beyond that.”

The group posts calls for artists, exhibit openings and any art-related event or listing, along with members posting images of their work for feedback. The main goal is to create positive interaction among artists and the community, regardless of expertise or status.

“We want this to be an uplifting place for everybody. Maybe you are a hobbyist and don’t think you’re an artist. We’ve had people watch as voyeurs for a couple months and then … post something. All of a sudden they get 30 or 40 likes. That’s a boost of confidence — it’s amazing what a ‘like’ can do. It’s a powerful thing. I’ve had people tell me it’s changed their lives,” Herrmann said.

As The Art and Artists Of has become a virtual epicenter, Franklinton has just as quickly become a concrete, physical axis. Sherman said 400 West Rich collected “at least a third” of Junctionview’s former residents. The Columbus Idea Foundry recently moved to a state-of-the-art facility in the area. Wood.Metal.Art and Ethical Arts — both opening in the last year — provide studio, gallery and retail space to artists, crafters, furniture-makers, designers and more.

“We had been looking for a space for a while since [our business interests were so similar], and when we saw the one here, we knew it perfectly serves our needs, as well as others. We’ve created some really wonderful interest ... we’re focused on presenting a number of different elements here,” said LeAnne Johnson Absalom, co-founder of Ethical Arts Collective and creative director of Peace Love Bling, a local, handcrafted jewelry line operating in the space.

Ethical Arts co-founder Connie De Jong, creative director of World Peaces, a fair trade company specializing in furniture, home décor and jewelry, is excited about the collective and even more excited about Franklinton. De Jong is currently working with organizers from other collectives and organizations to create Franklinton Fridays — conceptualized as a cross between the Moonlight Market on Gay Street, the Short North’s Gallery Hop and the open studio event Junctionview once held — bringing together all the art happenings in the district.

“We want to have artist demos and [other events and attractions]. It’s not just an art walk from warehouse to warehouse, but having things to see and experience, like outdoor vendors and live music. We’re helping them make the connection of what’s happening behind the garage doors and warehouse walls,” De Jong said.

The benefits of an art community progressing and building better connections are apparent, but, on a smaller scale, Junctionview’s closing generated an unforeseen artistic growth for Moya. The last year was a tumultuous one for her. Besides moving out of Junctionview and opening her own shop, she changed residences four times while dealing with hurdles in her personal life.

This left Moya with little time — and space — to continue work on her mixed-media pieces for the “Hell is Real” series. Needing a creative outlet, she flourished with a new approach that fit within the circumstances.

“I started these stream-of-consciousness drawings in whatever format I could reasonably and practically get it out. Those have been embraced by people who feel connected to the pieces and want to get them tattooed. So they’ve greatly improved my tattoo compositions, and I feel like after 18 years of tattooing, I’ve finally realized the marriage between fine art and tattooing,” Moya said.

Moya regularly posts the intricate stream-of-consciousness drawings on Instagram and immediately receives multiple emails and messages requesting tattoos of them. She chooses only one for each, giving the recipient a one-of-a-kind badge of honor.

While it’s easy to point to the positive outcomes that grew (some organically, others by design) out of Junctionview’s closing, integral pieces are still missing, more than the events Junctionview had become so celebrated for.

“I think one thing that’s sadly missing from the community [is] people to lead. There needs to be leadership or someone to teach [and] get those leaders of the different spaces together to talk about what works and what doesn’t. Talk about what all these spaces do and get all those people together,” Brouillette said.

Brouilette and others also cited a lack of exhibition space in Columbus, and especially Franklinton, as an issue that needs to be addressed immediately. And he’s surprised there is this need because it would be a profitable commodity.

“To my amazement, where are the galleries? There are so many people making artwork here and nowhere for artists to sell. Junctionview was great because we could show 400 artists at a time. At some point, one of the gallery owners is going to move to Franklinton and open a big space [and] people are going to realize there’s a lot of art being made that people want to buy.”

It’s not to say these improvements aren’t possible. It may seem like a long time since Junctionview’s closing one year ago, but organizing an arts community that encompasses hundreds of artists — and the thousands of invested parties on The Art and Artists Of — doesn’t happen overnight.

“It seems like everyone is still getting their bearings. This past year [has] been a very transitional time for everyone. You can’t pull it together as quickly as you’d like, but people are finding their place and figuring it out,” Moya said.

Photos by Meghan Ralston