Downtown art spaces team up for 'fall back' event

UPDATE: Due to a family emergency, Robert Buck will not be in Columbus until Sunday, Nov. 4. As a result, the Buck exhibit will now open at Angela Meleca Gallery during the Art Sunday event rather than Saturday as originally planned.

“A gallery owner and a curator are riding in a car” is not the start of a joke, but rather a new art event that seeks to connect Downtown art spaces both to each other and the community but also connect the community to Downtown in general via art.

Downtown Art Sunday tethers eight Downtown art spaces for one day, Sunday, Nov. 4.

Six years ago, Downtown gallery owner Angela Meleca created a mock-up of a walking route that would take visitors through a half-dozen or so art spaces in the center city. She said discussions around creating an event that temporally linked these already geographically connected spaces have been ongoing and intermittent.

“Everyone we've ever talked with about it thought it was a good idea. The issue was figuring out how to make it happen when people and organizations and institutions have other things they have to do,” Meleca said in an interview inside her East State Street gallery. “We would agree we wanted to do it, then ask how to make it happen, and that would be it. It's kind of hard to believe it's actually here.”

This past spring, Meleca was given a captive audience to again pitch the idea when she and new CCAD Beeler Gallery Director of Exhibitions Jo-ey Tang shared a car ride to an exhibition opening at the Southern Ohio Museum in Portsmouth. Tang, new to the post in 2017, had already sensed an energy Downtown and was on board right away.

“The spaces just needed to concretize the event,” Tang said. “To take it from an idea to, ‘Let's start by doing something.'”

The end of Daylight Savings Time in 2018 seemed as good a reason as any to select a date. The extra hour isn't as important, Meleca said, as making sure the event title featured the word “Downtown.” Other logistics included whether or not the event would be an exhibition opening across the participants, something that was ruled out due to the relatively short turnaround time (many spaces program at least a year out), and the hours, as some of the participating spaces aren't typically open on Sunday. In the end, those difficulties were ultimately worked out in the interest of collaboration.

“We're not typically open on Sunday, but you have to be mindful of the opportunity to create a special moment and make something happen,” said Merijn van der Heijden, director of Urban Arts Space. “People can visit several galleries in one trip. Downtown is very walkable but, unless you work Downtown, you might not know it.”

“Maybe someone has been thinking about checking out one of these spaces, and having all these spaces open and a coordinated effort to offer some added value brings them out to some of the other spaces, as well,” said Geoffrey Martin, arts administrator for the Cultural Arts Center Arts.

Certain locations are offering event-specific programming in addition to their current exhibitions, some of which are nearing their close (this marks the last weekend to see “Design Is…” at Urban Arts Space) while others are new (Robert Buck's “Formations” will open Saturday evening at Angela Meleca Gallery). Beeler Gallery will continue its fall exhibition of works by members of art collective fierce pussy while also launching a new book acquisition initiative with partner institution the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp in Belgium. The gallery will also host a poetry reading.

“What people will see is a convergence of a few different projects to hopefully give [visitors] an idea of how we operate,” Tang said.

Meleca is just trying to keep from looking beyond this hopefully first-of-many event.

“There's already some talk about doing it again in the spring,” she said. “And it's a dream of mine that it would involve the performing arts, as well.”