Annual festival features two days of local music and art to benefit nonprofit 934 Gallery

Lisa Steward had never been to 934 Gallery when she showed up to volunteer for the first 934 Fest two years ago.

Gallery co-director Abigail Hartung said she recalls meeting and introducing herself to Steward, a conversation that ended with Hartung showing complete trust in a complete stranger via the words, “And also, here's a cash box.”

While the exchange may not have been quite that flippant, Steward immediately felt connected to a community that was passionate about the Columbus art scene and its artists. “I was there for six or seven hours, and at the end of the day I said to myself, ‘I need to be a part of this space,'” Steward said.

934 Gallery was a fledgling volunteer-run, nonprofit arts space when, in the summer of 2016, Milo Arts resident Daniel Sebastian Loper hatched the idea of a grassroots event with art, musicians and beer as a way to raise funds for the space's continued operation. “He brought incredible energy during the origins of 934 Fest,” Hartung said with a hint of sadness about her friend, who died by suicide last year.

The festival has been a success on a number of fronts. The event not only raises funds for the gallery, but also its profile. “It works in a larger sense by just getting people out to and into the space,” Hartung said.

Steward, who is one of a four-person leadership group for the gallery, said that raising money for the gallery's operational funds provides 934 the ability to program throughout the year differently than it might otherwise, and in a way that's consistent with the team's goals.

“It means an opportunity to give artists the freedom to create installations, to paint on the walls, to take chances and experiment with the environment,” Steward said. “It's an underserved community in the art scene, that noncommercial artist. We serve that style of artist.”

“We had an artist create a work that included bringing in sand and putting it on the floor of the gallery. You can't really sell that, but we're not as concerned about that,” Hartung added.

The success of the festival has also led to an expanded time frame and footprint for this year's third annual event. The festival is now a two-day affair and will feature a host of local music, including EYE, which headlined the first 934 Fest. Mural painting will be on walls at the gallery and also on some of the buildings at the adjacent Milo Arts. Dana Lynn Harper has created a mural on 934 Gallery's exterior wall and will have her exhibition, “Between Everything,” featured at the gallery during the fest.