Columbus, Ohio USA
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275th Gallery Hop
by Maria Galloway

July 2008 Issue

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We first discovered the soon-to-be-called Short North back in 1979 when we were checking out cheap retail space for our gallery – pm gallery. At that time it was still called the Near Northside and was a place to avoid. Rundown buildings, bars and strip clubs were the norm. The small bit of viability was junk stops (wonderful junk stops – but junk stops nonetheless), dead or alive TV stores, and greasy spoon restaurants.

And yet, there was a glimmer of something more. ArtReach, a non-profit avant garde gallery was set up in the Yukon Building, as was UNICEF, Glass Galaxy – a leaded and blown glass gallery run by Reynold Truitt, the Victorian Village General Store – a nice little grocery that was one of the few places at that time that had Breyer’s ice cream, and Functional Furnishings – the largest tenant in the building. Impressions of Third Edition was also there, although they never did quite get their doors open. Linda Apple Studios was a few buildings to the north. And the neighborhoods – Victorian Village to the west and Italian Village to the east – were buzzing with activity. The sound of hammers and power tools filled the air as wonderful but derelict old houses were brought back from the brink and once again turned into the showpieces and livable homes that their original owners intended.

This was a place with potential. Here were people working hard towards their own dreams and visions. And there was a business association on N. High Street that was beginning to awaken to the challenges. And traffic. North High is a busy street no matter what. My own first glimpse of the neighborhood was coming through on the bus from north of campus to my job in German Village. And I liked what I saw.

We opened in 1980 and set to work, having openings, expanding inventory, finding new artists. We hoped that the area would continue on its path as an arts district. Artists like cheap rent, and a little grime (and even danger) will not dissuade them from a promising neighborhood. The wait was a bit longer than we had hoped, though.

In January of 1984 we were pretty involved with ArtReach, volunteering and serving on the board. We decided to try a tandem opening. In retrospect, January was not a good month for this, but it did test the waters. ArtReach was doing a participation show and we were doing Hot Pots For Cold Nights – and it was cold. That and the two block separation meant that we did not get the cross traffic that we had hoped for. Alas, the idea was back burnered.

Fast forward to September of 1984. ArtReach and UNICEF have been evicted from the Yukon Building as Functional Furnishings is expanding to fill the entire first floor. Sandy Wood has been renovating the Lincoln-High corner, and both ArtReach and UNICEF end up finding new homes on E. Lincoln. They are joined by HandMotions, a custom hand-painted t-shirt shop. Meanwhile on the High Street frontage, the Ohio National Coin Exchange has transformed and relocated a couple of doors south to become Ritchey’s at 714, a coin, precious metals, jewelry and curio shop with a bit of an Indiana Jones flair. Michael Allen Gallery joins the mix on High. This is looking like critical mass!

Our first cooperative opening is in October of 1984 and is immediately successful! Attendance goes from 30 to 300 and we are ecstatic.
Flash forward again to summer of 1985. The big news is that Spangler Cummings Galleries is opening in a large space on High, south of Lincoln next door to Rigsby’s Cuisine Volatile (now Rigsby’s Kitchen). She inquires of me if there is one night when all the galleries have our opening reception. Yes, says I, the first Saturday of the month. Great, says she.

The next thing we know, something called the Gallery Hop is being promoted by Spangler and Maureen Whalen of the Short North Business Association. That August, Spangler opens her space and our crowds go from 300 to 3000. Most importantly, the Hop has finally crossed the street and is no longer confined to one small corner!

Naming the Gallery Hop allowed us to focus energy and promote it properly. That is the anniversary we are celebrating this month – the 275th named Gallery Hop. An event that is still evolving, often copied and still welcomed in this city of ours. It is still a cheap date – that can get expensive in a hurry. It is still the best place to window shop, people watch, experience street theater, listen to music, buy art, educate yourself and open your eyes to the possibilities of our own small, big city.

So come and enjoy the Hop for the first time, the 275th time or even the 285th time if you were one of the lucky ones who made it to the first Cooperative Opening. We are still here, still going strong, still always the first Saturday, still year round. As John Angelo, the executive director of the SNBA, says, “The Gallery Hop has become our signature. People come from all over the country to experience it. Ohio Magazine even dubbed it the best art event in the state. How many events are heralded as such after 275 times around the block? It’s remarkable. Kudos to the Short North.”

For more information on the July Gallery Hop celebration, visit the Short North Business Association’s Web site

© 2008 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.

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