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Gallery Hops Keep Boppin'
June 2000

I am not a dispassionate observer; I was there from the beginning and had much to do with the inception of the Gallery Hops. However, neither I nor anyone else can take sole credit for creating this phenomenal ongoing event. So, let's start at the beginning, at least as far as my coming on the scene goes.

It is 1980. There was a non-profit gallery called ArtReach, staffed by CETA workers, and an artist studio and gallery run by Linda Apple (when she had produced enough work for a show). Impressions of Third Edition wasn't open yet, but would be soon, or so we thought. Reynold Truitt predated Riley Hawk with his glass gallery Glass Galaxy. And our shop, pm gallery, showing mostly our own work, paintings, candles, and the work of friends. We thought we were on the verge of something amazing - a gallery district in the middle of a perceived war zone, a renaissance in a watercolor cowtown.

Flash forward exactly four years to January of 1984. ArtReach still exists, now run by volunteers. pm gallery is still kicking, with an expanded exhibition space, having finally pulled down the curtain inside and opened the back half of the shop. On the first Saturday of the month, we join forces with ArtReach and have our artists' receptions on the same night. My husband, Michael, by bad planning, is curating at ArtReach, which is doing a Participatory Art Show. Canvas is stretched on the walls for painters and doodlers, sculpture supplies and other media are spread about for playing with. pm gallery is showing raku by Pat and Russell Chick and pit-fired baskets by Else deJong in a show called "Hot Pots for Cold Nights." And it is cold, and the cross traffic between the two galleries two blocks apart is negligible. Oh, well, it was a great idea. Maybe some other time.

ArtReach, one of the pioneering galleries in the Short North.

A smaller flash forward to September of 1984. ArtReach has moved to East Lincoln Street, just around the corner from pm. Hmmmm – dare we try again? There have been new players added to the mix. Ritchey's at 714 (a coin, jewelry, what-the-heck-is-that-and-how-much-is-it store), Michael Allen Gallery (showing works by same, and others), Handmotions, a hand- painted teeshirt shop, and UNICEF, also dislocated like ArtReach, when Functional Furnishings expanded.

October of 1984 marks the first successful Gallery Hop, although that name is almost a year away. With our mailing list efforts merged and our new proximity, we reach a kind of critical mass and safety of numbers. Historically, one of the biggest minuses to the area was the perception of danger, especially after dark. Yet, suddenly there are people, lots of people, walking the streets, who aren't streetwalkers, having fun, getting culture, schmoozing, cheap dating, wearing furs, safety pins and polo shirts (not necessarily at once). We go from an expected 30 people for an artist's reception to 300 in one month. Yowza, is this cool or what?!

Another flash forward to the summer of 1985. A lot has happened in the neighborhood. Sandy Wood, who developed the Runyan Building where ArtReach, Ritchey's, et al. are located, has crossed Lincoln Street to rehab the east side of the High Street block down to Brickel Alley. We lose Christie's Market, but gain the Spangler Cummings Gallery, Rigsby's Cuisine Volatile, Studios On High, Matreoshka's, a Russian Tea Room, and Put'n on the Dog. Spangler, however is the one we should notice. She, you see, had done this before. She wanted to know if there was any particular night when the galleries scheduled their artists' receptions.
Why yes, says I, we are trying to get the first Saturday of every month to work.


Spangler Cummings

Sandy Wood

Doug Ritchey

We figured that the first Saturday would be easy to remember, and it would start the month off with a bang. Spangler knew publicity and had a huge (by our standards) mailing list. Maureen Whalen was doing publicity for the Short North Business Association and was working with Spangler on getting the word out. Suddenly I was getting calls about the "Gallery Hop." We were still calling the Hops "Cooperative Openings." Catchy, huh? What the heck was a Gallery Hop? I am pretty sure it was Spangler who coined the phrase, and it is used in other cities, along with Gallery Walk or Crawl. I prefer Hop. But the important thing is, the event got named, the name stuck, and we went from 300 to 3000 Hoppers (not co-oppers).

Speaking for ourselves, we didn't know what hit us. Our business more than doubled in one year. We went from a write-off against my husband's "real" job to having to pay taxes. I still don't know how we survived that period. My memories are of a fast blur of activity. We were busy! We were in business!

The Hop is an entity with a life of its own. It ebbs and flows, each month different, depending on people mix, weather, time of year, activities, competi-tion from other venues. It is also always the same: lively, cheap, expensive, visual, audial, tactile, tasty, smelly, stinky, love it, hate it, come early, stay late, feet hurt, where'd we park, an "oh no we're towed" good time. It attracts blue hairs, both pastel and neon, want to be old, want to be young, bad clothes, great jewelry, prom queens, drag queens, queens for a day, day trippers, families, solos, out of towners, locals, suburbers, slummers, snackers, sneakers.

You might find art or trash, music or noise, feast or famine, and then you cross the street. And it happens every month, year round, for over fifteen years. (I got Birkies that old.) Will the Hop die? Can it? Maybe, but as long as the Hop continues to fill a need in the community, I am sure it will endure. It has evolved through the years, rooted in the artist's reception and the gallery experience. It is now an institution, more and less. Victims of success, the galleries are no longer clustered, but spread out again. The question for the future is, can the Hop help fill the spaces in between. Time will surely tell, so stay tuned.

Now for the disclaimer. This history is from one perspective, mine. Every person involved with the Short North will have a different set of stories. My memory has been known to be faulty, and I wish I could remember all the artists that have shown here and all the galleries that have left their mark on the neighborhood and all the businesses that added 'art" to whatever else it was they were doing. Hair salon/art gallery, chiropractor/art gallery, law office/ art gallery. Bless them all.

When we first started working on the space that would become pm gallery we discovered that someone, probably the owners of Crown Cleaners, the previous occupant, had attached snow fencing to the plaster walls, way up high, so art reproductions could be hung. A laundry mat/art gallery. We were in good company. We'd come to the right place.

© 2006 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.