Artists explore the forces that drive them to create in ‘Divinely Aligned’

The exhibit, curated by Art Aligned founder Emily Evans, will remain on display at All People Arts on the South Side through the end of October

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
Emily Evans at All People Arts

Growing up doing ballet, Emily Evans said she always felt a deep connection to art, and as she progressed in her marketing career she started to look for ways she could employ her particular skill set in the service of creation.

After months of mulling possibilities, the flashbulb moment hit Evans in the middle of the night in late February of 2020. “I tweeted at 1:30 [a.m.] and I said, ‘I can’t sleep because I just had an epiphany for the career I’m going to create for myself,” Evans said during a recent interview at All People Arts, where she curated “Divinely Aligned,” a seven-artist exhibition that will remain on view at the South Side gallery through the end of October. 

More:New gallery All People Arts opens on the South Side

For Evans, this meant taking the skills she had learned in communications and applying them to the arts, helping to link artists with clients, which led to the June 2020 creation of Art Aligned. With Art Aligned, Evans connects corporate clients (hotels, apartment complexes, “anywhere where there’s eyeballs”) in search of art to display with independent local artists, filling these spaces with pieces for purchase, and thus helping to get money into the pockets of local creatives. 

“I wanted to be that bridge between corporate, commercial spaces … and the artists,” said Evans, who, when the pandemic hit, was laid off from her job doing marketing and operations for a commercial real estate company. “It was scary [making this leap], but it’s an adventure. The nice thing is there’s no blueprint for this, there’s no roadmap. I can take it as big as I want to.”

For “Divinely Aligned,” however, Evans embraced the freedom of working independent of corporate clients, who could have specifications covering everything from the content in the works (the pieces generally have to maintain a PG rating, for instance) to the color schemes, which often have to complement the space as designed. But for this exhibit, Evans only offered the artists a loose directive to create a piece that “channeled what they felt in the moment they felt the closest to their purpose,” mirroring the sensation that Evans felt when inspiration struck her like a bolt that late night in February. “That’s why I call it ‘a visual study on purpose,’” she said.

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The displayed works mirror this freedom, incorporating abstract paintings, photographs and even a mobile-like installation, a first for the relatively newborn gallery.

“I was able to do what fit for me and to speak from the heart,” said photographer Wyze, whose work is displayed alongside fellow artists Smith Reid, Samuel Darling, Gabriella Torres, Cee and Aimee Wissman and Kamisha Thomas, who collaborated on a pair of sculptural wooden chairs. “So, for me, I had to sit back and reevaluate where I was as an artist, how I viewed my own work and what I wanted to share with people.”

Wyze shot most of the images on display within the last year, embracing this show as a chance to refresh her portfolio, creating works that revealed a new vulnerability, both within the subject and the photographer.

To capture the more naked moments on display at All People Arts, Wyze would sometimes sit with a subject for lengths before beginning a shoot, building a bond that allowed the walls some of us carry through our days to gradually erode. “Then maybe they’re completely comfortable sharing whatever side of themselves, or sharing something they need to let out,” Wyze said. “And then I’m just there to experience it and capture it.”

Unexpectedly, the more intimate connections on display in these photographs developed during a pandemic year defined by concepts such as social distancing.

“The pandemic forced me to dig a little deeper,” said Wyze, who maintained a studio practice but expanded to shooting more outdoors during the early months of stay-at-home orders. “It forced me to look in more and figure out who I wanted to capture and what I wanted to turn my lens on. … And that [exploration] showed me that I wanted to stay open and I want to shoot authentic individuals, as well, who are comfortable sharing themselves. And being in the pandemic helped me realize that, and being a part of this show allowed me to showcase that. What people have been sharing with me, I’m now able to share with others with this exhibit.”