ROY G BIV recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, staying alive through a period of time which saw the Short North go from child prostitution central to "used to be cool five years ago" affluence. ROY saw it all and showed everyone in the process. It remains exciting and incredibly valuable to Columbus due to its actual openness to showing actually new artists. The next season's lineup - top secret of course - piqued my interest. Surprises abound. And Cassie has a show there in February with Daniel Hoffman. Here is what my show there looked like in July.
Interview MP3 with Daniel Work, a founding member of ROY and former director, here.
Interview MP3 with Justin Luna, the current director of ROY here.
I wrote the story below for The Lantern (Lantern version here. Somehow gentrification becomes "Arts District" - just like the real world!) It's after "the jump."
Daniel Work recently exhibited his artwork at the ROY G BIV gallery in the Short North. It was a homecoming 20 years in the making.
In 1989, Work, then a recent graduate of Columbus College of Art and Design, was among a small group that decided to start a new art gallery in Columbus named ROY G BIV.
“My friend John Chamberlain was the original art director of the gallery and he had a group of investors together and they were going to make this gallery happen, “ Work said.
After opening the gallery in October of that year, a tragedy befell the gallery. Chamberlain died in a fire with his brother.
“I came back from the holiday after hearing the tragic news and talked to the investors and we decided to continue the gallery, to keep it going,” Work said.
At the time, the Short North was just starting the process of gentrification.
“The Short North was definitely not what it is now. There were small pockets of galleries that were up and coming but for the most part it was pretty shitty and undeveloped. It was a lot sketchier in that area,” Work said.
ROY G BIV’s first location was a former automotive body shop on Lincoln Ave. It moved to the building currently occupied by Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams soon after opening. It did not move to its current location at 997 N.High St. until 2000. This is around the time Work resigned as gallery director and moved to Portland, Oregon.
Work attributes ROY’s ability to stay open through 20 years to its non-profit status.
“The gallery originally wasn’t set up as a non-profit gallery but I came in and told them it should be because it probably wasn’t going to make it as a for-profit business that showed emerging artists,” Work said.
Work helped set up a business model that relied on membership dues, private donations, and grants. A board oversees the gallery to make sure it is fulfilling its mission statement while remaining financially solvent.
The current director of the gallery, Justin Luna, says that being non-profit allows ROY to show work that is experimental and indicative of what is happening in the wider art world.
For ROY’s current show, artist Matthew Friday drew a chart on a wall. It is accompanied by cups of water samples. The installation illustrates how abandoned coalmines affect Ohio’s water supply.
“It’s work that is not easily commodifiable,” said Luna. “He’s not looking to sell, he is looking to raise awareness.”
Friday’s work would be hard to show at commercial galleries since it cannot be easily sold.
ROY’s ability to show work of all types is reflected in its name.
“It’s the first letter for every color of the spectrum in the rainbow. It can be misleading; we’re not necessarily a gay gallery. It’s the element of which art is made – color. And it’s all the colors, all the possible colors, implying that we accept those and everything in between. And that our programming is as varied as the spectrum,” Luna said.
Each year ROY has an open call for artists to exhibit their work. The call is juried by three prominent voices in the Ohio art field. For the 2010 season the jurors included the Wexner Center’s Senior Curator for Exhibitions, Catharina Manchanda, OSU ceramics Professor Mary Jo Boles and art historian Jennifer Bedford.
ROY’s next show is the annual members’ small work exhibition. It opens Dec. 5.
“All the artwork will be less than a foot in each dimension. It’s a fun, eclectic exhibition that shows all types of work. It’s a visual portrait of what our members are making nowadays,” said Luna.