Longtime gallerist opens new space in Short North for ‘controversial, political work’

Caren Petersen wanted to do something. A serious health scare and the presidential election of Donald Trump left the longtime owner/operator of Muse Gallery in Columbus feeling like it was time for … something, though she wasn't sure what.

“Two years ago I had open heart surgery for a birth defect that I never knew I had. They told me the next time I passed out I would have died,” said Petersen, whose release from the hospital coincided with Trump's election — a political moment that reverberated with personal implications for the artist, whose youngest child had also recently come out as transgendered. “I was trying to figure out what I'm going to do. I called abortion clinics; I called immigration lawyers [looking to volunteer]. But what I realized is that I do art.”

So Petersen, who described herself as “kind of an old hippie,” set about finding a place where she could exhibit art that would comment on issues important to her. She found it in the Short North, in the former Joseph Editions space, and created a place where some of her Muse artists — including Columbus artists Juliellen Byrne and Sue Cavanaugh — could stir the pot.

“I'm providing the opportunity for the artists to show their more controversial, political work,” Petersen said. “When I told them what I wanted to do, it was like they'd been unleashed.”

The gallery opens Saturday, Sept. 1, for Short North Gallery Hop.