Kim Webb, the recently named director of the Ohio Art League, plans to reinvigorate the 105-year-old non-profit organization dedicated to supporting Ohio artists by bridging the organization's impactful history with a future rife with possibility.

Kim Webb, the recently named director of the Ohio Art League, plans to reinvigorate the 105-year-old non-profit organization dedicated to supporting Ohio artists by bridging the organization's impactful history with a future rife with possibility.

"The history is a big, important part for me," Webb said, patting books containing Columbus Art League news articles and memorabilia dating back the early 20th Century she's been combing over to prepare for her new role in the organization. "Being the oldest non-profit still operating comes with so much potential and should be celebrated and understood. How we progress, what OAL has done for [its member] artists, what it's doing now, and what those artists need, all have this understanding of adding to the history. Celebrating those past artists, as well as the present ones, will also bring in new artists."

OAL has left an impression on both Columbus - beginning in 1910 when 40 recent graduates of Columbus Art School (now CCAD) formed the Columbus Art League - and the Ohio arts community. For decades, OAL has been a significant champion of the arts through organizing annual juried exhibitions that are recognized as respected, professional avenues to showcase work and include renowned luminaries (Alice Schille, Roy Lichtenstein, Emerson Burkhart and George Bellows) among their ranks.

Over the last few years, OAL has been going through a transitional period, closing its gallery in the Short North in 2009 before relocating to a space in the South Campus Gateway, which also closed in 2014. Webb knows a gallery is imperative to serve as a base of operations as well as showcase the talent of the 600-plus member organization, and discussions are in the works for a new location.

"We're still figuring out the details of a [specific] space, but having the gallery and holding exhibitions is definitely top priority. I want to have really important exhibitions about important things that are happening right now. Maybe that means restructuring the format of how the exhibitions have been," said Webb, who'd previously been the manager of Fresh A.I.R. Gallery for eight years. "For a while, [exhibitions] are going to be satellite exhibitions. Securing a really strong space to lay down some deep roots is a really important component. I hope that's soon … there are some things that are still being worked out."

While the process of acquiring a new gallery is underway, Webb said OAL has secured spaces to hold upcoming "satellite" exhibitions. OAL's upcoming Fall Juried Exhibition (Sept. 8-Oct. 15) will be at the Fort Hayes Shot Tower Gallery, its Spring Juried Exhibition at OSU Urban Arts Space, and the 2016 Fall version is slated to take place at the Cultural Arts Center.

Along with a dedicated gallery, Webb has other components she'd like to implement for OAL that she feels are similarly vital and will bring together artists from all across Ohio with Columbus serving as the hub.

"To bring OAL back up to what it should be and go beyond that, I first want to build it up statewide and have it [be] more interdisciplinary with all artists. I think [different art forms] feed each other, so it's important … to have music, writing and performance as well as visual art. I really just want to bring everyone together and work statewide to build partnerships. I'm not interested in competition. I'm interested in collaboration and building community and support," Webb said.

"I also think it's important that we have a home base in Ohio, but that it doesn't get too absorbed into just Columbus," she added. "We will have a gallery in Columbus, but we're also going to connect with other galleries statewide. I want to bring a lot of artists from across the state to Columbus, and vice versa. Hopefully, after that we can go regional and eventually connect with galleries across the nation, maybe the world."

Webb also plans to implement new OAL events - talks, meetups, critiques and more - that will coincide with existing programs, and she hopes to eventually create a "resource center" featuring skill trade, library/bookstore, and work spaces that could potentially be housed with the gallery.

Founding a new gallery, engaging all of the Ohio art community - from established institutions to grassroots DIY collectives - and generating new programming are in development. But Webb is open to any ideas from the entire art community, regardless of discipline, because that's where the most potential resides.

"I want to talk to artists and people interested in supporting OAL, because it's a member-based organization. I want the members to really have an ownership, create teambuilding and a community. It's really the member's organization so I want it to grow how they want it to grow," Webb said. "I also want to hear what people want; those creative ideas and for everyone to [feel like they will be heard]. That's a big part of what OAL should be - a go-to and safe place for people to experiment and connect, and have a voice. When you have a member-based organization like this, it's an incredible think tank."