Barbra Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: For those who may be unfamiliar, what is the Columbus Cultural Arts Center, and what kinds of programs, classes, and other opportunities does it offer to the community?
Geoffrey Martin: To explain briefly, The Cultural Arts Center is part of the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department. We are located in Columbus, Ohio. We offer fine arts classes and workshops that are open to adults age 18 and up. Any adult in the community can come and take part in these programs. For a small fee, artists can work in one of 9 different studios here at the center. Classes range from standards like painting and sculpture, all the way to weaving, jewelry, and enameling. Our workshop series brings in an even wider range of experiences such as felting, blacksmithing, creative writing, and patternmaking. We provide hands-on instruction to hobbyists, designers, makers, artists, and art lovers.
We also have two exhibition spaces where we showcase works by Columbus-based artists, as well as the occasional regional and national artists. We are located inside the historic Ohio Armory building (built 1861).
BD: How did you become involved with the Center, and what can you tell us about the talented group of individuals with whom you work and your shared contributions?
GM: I have worked for our Recreation and Parks Department for 10 years now. I love it! It has afforded me so many wonderful opportunities, and I’ve met so many amazing people. I’ve been with the Cultural Arts Center for almost 6 years now. I‘m lucky in that working for the Recreation and Parks combined two of my favorite things: Art and Community.
I have an amazing team of administrators, staff, and instructors that keep this place buzzing all year long. This building is absolutely brimming with creativity. It always exciting to see what our staff will come up with. My administrative team makes our wonderful special events possible. But, it’s our art instructors who share their amazing talents with the public every day. They are the ones who keep people coming back every week.
BD: Throughout the past month, the Center has been showcasing “The Hero Within: Imagination and Identity” in its main art gallery. How would you describe this installation, and what was the inspiration for the project?
GM: I mentioned our exhibition spaces earlier . . . We have two spaces. Our smaller Loft Gallery host works by many of our students, some of whom have never exhibited their work before. Then, on our first floor we have our Main Hall Gallery. This is a large and highly coveted exhibition space. Typically, we take proposal from artists, and our team decides what shows would best fit in the space each year; however, once a year we reserve the gallery for a show that our team puts together. Often, we have a topic or a theme that we’re interested in exploring, and we do so using the gallery to create public conversations.
Several years ago, we began talking internally about how to make the CAC more accessible to the larger public. We’d like our center to be open and accessible to EVERYONE in our community. We started meeting with different organizations in our community, and that’s when we connected with ARC Industries. They provide sheltered employment for adults with disabilities. They have a whole section of artists in their employ. Over time, we realized that we could showcase the work of the ARC Artists in our gallery.
Today, if you walked into the gallery, you’d see a stunning installation of colorful flowers, trees, and an entire, shimmering sea. All of these pieces come together to create a life-sized game board.
BD: What can you tell us about the creative process for bringing “The Hero Within” to life, and how do you feel that the process impacted the project participants?
GM: This was a significant collaboration between the CAC, ARC, and one of their partners, Sunapple Studios. The project evolved over the better part of 18 months. We took the lead from what the artists were working on and what interested them. Every time an idea came up, we tried to say “Yes!” They had interest in turning their artwork into a game board. That evolved into needing superheroes to inhabit the game board, which in turn led us to the evil that those heroes were fighting against. Eventually, we had “Superland” (imagine Candyland that you could walk though). The installation was made entirely out of recycled materials. This was key because the artists saw “waste” as the enemy of their superhero alter egos.
On opening night of the show, we saw first-hand what impact the process had on the participants. We had 40 Artist/Superheroes that rolled up to the Center in a stretched limo, and then walked the red carpet into their big gala opening reception. They were superstars. The energy and excitement was palpable. It was so much fun.
BD: What do you hope that attendees will take away from the exhibit?
GM: Plain and simple . . . we wanted to showcase the works of these amazingly creative artists who deal with various disabilities. We hope that by doing so, visitors to the center will see these people as artists, first and foremost. If we were able to open up some eyes and minds to allow people to see the immense creative potential of these artists, that would be great.
BD: How long with the exhibit be available to the public at the Columbus Cultural Arts Center?
GM: The exhibit runs through November 14th. You can also check out the video that WOSU Columbus produced about the exhibit.
BD: Are there any other special events or activities that you are currently working on that you would like to share with our readers?
GM: Since you asked . . . I’m super excited to announce that next fall, we will be producing a major exhibit entitled “Dare to be Heard.” This exhibition will explore the challenges that have shaped the creative lives of 20 female visual artists. 10 will be Columbus-based artists and another ten will be from cities all around the country. I’d love to tell you more about how this idea came about, but that would probably take an entirely separate interview (which I’m happy to do next September).
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell readers who want to learn more about “The Hero Within” and the Columbus Cultural Arts Center?
GM: When you are in Columbus, stop by and see us! We’re open 6 days a week, all year long. It’s always free to explore. If you are not in Columbus, visit us online at CulturalArtsCenterOnline.org.
If you have a volunteer opportunity or an important cause that could use the assistance of a few geeks, please email the details to barbra (at) fanboycomics.net.