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“The Extreme of Everything…”

Peggy Kriha Dye didn’t just know very little about opera. She didn’t know anyone who knew about opera. While she was an undergraduate student studying elementary education, Peggy Kriha Dye, took a music class and was encouraged by her teacher to pursue the study of opera – a short time later, the Minnesota native was [...]
Laura Dachenbach

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Peggy Kriha Dye didn’t just know very little about opera.

She didn’t know anyone who knew about opera.

While she was an undergraduate student studying elementary education, Peggy Kriha Dye, took a music class and was encouraged by her teacher to pursue the study of opera – a short time later, the Minnesota native was auditioning for the Manhattan School of Music. She sang the only two full-length pieces of classical music in her repertoire, neither of which was in a foreign language. She earned a full scholarship to graduate school, and went on to perform with the Chautauqua Opera Young Artist Program and the Juilliard Opera Center.

BOOM. Opera Singer. It’s an identity that still seems surreal to her.

“I thought, ‘I’ll do this until the ball stops rolling,’ and it never stopped,” she said.

Kriha Dye has performed and continues to perform internationally with the San Francisco Opera and Opera Atelier, a Toronto-based company that specializes in 17th and 18th century opera, drama, and ballet. Much as she redefined herself, Kriha Dye, a soccer mom living just outside Grove City, is now redefining opera in Columbus as the General Manager of Opera Columbus.

Kriha Dye inherited Opera Columbus as a company that had essentially dissolved, existing only to stage productions of other companies on tour. It had a single staff member and the resources of CAPA. It was a situation most arts administrators would have run from. Kriha Dye, however, saw the chance to redesign the company almost entirely – and a bit unconventionally.

Having no desire to repeat other productions in smaller form, Kriha Dye, who sees opera as “the extreme of everything,” has committed to producing new works, casting new and emerging artists along with established artists, and using local designers to create a freshness on stage. Last November, Opera Columbus collaborated with OSU’s Department of Theater and Dance to produce a sellout rendition of Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, its first return to local productions where all but two of the 35-member cast hailed from Columbus.

According to Kriha Dye, the biggest challenge in rebuilding Opera Columbus as a company has been getting the word out.

“I’m so tired of hearing people say, ‘I didn’t know we had an opera company,’” she lamented.
Consequently, Dye has worked to bring opera to the people. Opera on the Edge is another collaborative effort between Opera Columbus and Shadowbox Live, with free performances held at Shadowbox Live’s Backstage Bistro, and now expanding to The Refectory. The Opera on the Edge project cuts a typical “war horse” opera down to an hour in length and performs the work in English, often with a contemporary twist. Audience members have the opportunity to interact with the cast afterwards in a casual setting.

Opera on the Edge is not just a fun way to experience opera, but is also a way to build an audience who will be prepared to enjoy the corresponding full-length productions.
Or, as Kriha Dye explains, “It’s Cliff’s Notes with a beer.”

Kriha Dye also says to watch for upcoming opera flash mobs and “Opera Undercover,” where the company will drop clues as to where their secret location, totally fabulous, opera-themed party will be.

“We’re just trying to include people in the opera family,” said Kriha Dye, who encourages people to set aside their stereotypical horns-and-helmet, fat-lady expectations of opera. “It’s not what you think.”

Continuing with its collaborative efforts, Opera Columbus will open its 2014-2015 season with Twisted, a creative “twisting” of the talents of Opera Columbus, BalletMet, and the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, and a show that will bring the “unexpected” to opera fans and newcomers alike.

“There’s nothing to compare it to,” she said.

The 2014-2015 season will also feature an English-language, updated production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.

Does Kriha Dye worry about angering more traditional opera-goers with updates and innovations? Although she admits she used to, she points to Cleveland and San Diego, where both cities have recently closed major opera companies. “That could be us,” she said. “This has to happen.”
Kriha Dye promises the new future for Opera Columbus will have the highest of musical standards, as well as all the glamour that opera deserves. It’s the audience that will represent the biggest change in the opera experience.

“It’s glamour, but it’s glamour for everybody,” she said.

Twisted will run from September 25 – 28 at the Ohio Theatre. For more, visit www.operacolumbus.com.

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Arts & Culture

How Bazaar: Popup arts fest shines a light on local creatives

Mike Thomas

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While cultivating a newfound sense of personal fulfillment might be as simple as picking up a paint brush or instrument, earning a living through your art is a more complicated prospect. As longtime friends, collaborators, and Columbus art-scene hustlers Dustin Bennett and Zak Biggard will tell you, making it as an artist sometimes comes down to who you know.

Having met years ago as coworkers at a local printmaking shop, Bennett and Biggard have gone on to individual success with their own creative design firms. For Bennett, part of this work entails curating the art displayed at Clintonville’s Global Gallery, a cafe and art space that is committed to promoting fair trade handcrafted products from around the world.

When an exhibition Bennett was planning for the space fell through, he reached out to Biggard to fill the vacancy with his work. The resulting show was a hit, with Biggard selling several pieces in one of Global Gallery’s most successful exhibitions to date.

Biggard and Bennett outside of Global Gallery (Photo: Brian Kaiser)

His reputation with the venue established, Biggard approached Amy Palmer, Global Gallery’s manager, with an idea for a large-scale show. She gave him the thumbs up, and Biggard again partnered with Bennett to help bring his vision to light. The result is a show spanning three weekends in the month of August that the duo have dubbed Bazaar Ritual.

“The idea was a bazaar, this sort of Middle-Eastern marketplace where you walk in and it’s just a feast for the senses,” says Biggard. “All of these different sights, sounds, smells—everything packed together.”

As mutually beneficial as their collaborations had been, the Bennett and Biggard hope to open the doors of opportunity wide to other artists. Through this new exhibition/festival, the two aim to shed a light on creators who may not know how to navigate the sometimes complicated process of getting work into a conventional art show.

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“Most of these people have never been involved in the gallery scene or never been able to show their work off,” Biggard explains. “They are just so excited to be a part of something, and the stuff I’ve been seeing from people, I just can’t wait to have everything together in one place.”

When the exhibitors do come together for the popup-style event on August 3rd, 17th, and 31st, they will bring with them works across a diverse range of media.

“We’ve got people who make jewelry, clothing, glass blowers, painters and performance artists,” says Biggard. “It’s really the diversity of the work that’s the theme.”

As diverse as the work on display in the show will be, the exhibitors themselves hail from various disparate walks of life—everyone from nurses to dog walkers, printmakers to salespeople, as Bennett explains. In addition to the work shown during the recurring weekend events, each artist in Bazaar Ritual will have the opportunity to display one piece in Global Gallery throughout the month of August. Artists will keep 100% of the proceeds sold throughout the month and during the weekend events.

Along with providing a platform, the Bennett and Biggard hope that Bazaar Ritual will serve as a networking hub where creatives can meet and form collaborations of their own. Response from artists interested in taking part has already been building organically, with those involved telling their friends, those friends bringing more friends, and so on.

In addition to the prospect of hanging out with artists and perusing the exhibitions, the organizers of Bazaar Ritual have a number of surprises in store for attendees. Food trucks will be on hand, as well as live local music on Global Gallery’s spacious patio.

Though Bennett and Bigard are working diligently to bring this fledgling event to fruition, the two seem calm in the lead up to the show. Their artist-first approach lends a communal feel to the event, with creatives joining forces to put on an organized yet laid-back experience that shirks the corporate mold of some traditional gallery settings.

“We’re trying to do what art is meant to do and bring people together,” says Bennett. “We’re trying to bring together as many friends and strangers as we can—motleys and misfits alike.”

Global Gallery is located at 3535 N High St, in Clintonville. You can visit Bazaar Ritual there from 1:00 PM to 8:00 PM on the 3rd, the 17th, and the 31st of August. For more information, check out @bazaarritual on Instagram.

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Arts & Culture

Arts Fest Preview: Kate Morgan, 2D mixed media artist

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Kate Morgan began developing her ghostly, layered two-dimensional portraits after going back to school at the Columbus College of Art & Design in 2005. She already had some background in visual arts through her work in fashion and commercial photography, so the transition to drawing and painting was organic.

Morgan’s textured collages are inspired by folklore, mythology and a variety of artistic periods — especially Byzantine art. The 2011 Columbus Arts Festival Emerging Artist alum and 2019 exhibiting artist welcomes a wide array of complex themes into her pieces — including symbolic, cultural, historical and spiritual themes — while utilizing layers of vintage paper and original drawings to create visual depth and a sense of mystery.

Her pieces are purposely vague, leaning toward more minimalistic ideas to allow for wider interpretation by audiences. Largely her art depicts the female form, with as many layers and stories to tell as that of every human being. This is done with an eclectic assortment of materials — including sheet music, German Biblical pages, newspaper and maps — to add detail in both a topical and textural sense.

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And yet, Morgan still continues to look for a challenge. From venturing away from her familiar blue hues to exploring different mediums like ceramics, her work knows no creative limits.

Morgan has exhibited at the Columbus Arts Festival nearly every year since 2011. She has gone on to win two jurors’ choice awards in the 2D category at the Columbus Arts Festival, as well as sell and have work juried at other major festivals across the country. In Columbus, her work can be seen as part of the Columbus Makes Art and Donatos Pizza collaborative mural “Every Piece Is Important” at the John Glenn Columbus International Airport.

Morgan has a BFA from CCAD and currently works out of her Franklinton studio in Columbus. Experience this stunning work first hand when you visit her at booth M572 on the Main Street Bridge during the Columbus Arts Festival from June 7-9 at the downtown riverfront.

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Arts & Culture

Be Square: Changes coming to arts community at 400 W Rich

Mike Thomas

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If you haven’t visited the thriving arts community at 400 West Rich street in awhile, you might be surprised to see how much things have changed. Now, the minds behind the city’s hub for the arts are changing things up to better reflect the area’s evolution.

400 Square is the new collective moniker for the array of concepts that currently occupy the buildings on the 400 block of Rich street in Franklinton. The rebrand seeks to unify the community of artistic innovators who call the area developed by Urban Smart Growth their creative home.

Promo art for 400 Square by Anthony Damico

Spaces encompassed in the rebrand include Strongwater, The Vanderelli Room, and Chromedge Studios, and of course, the studios at 400 W. Rich. While the name may be changing, the group remains committed to providing and sustaining a thriving hub for creatives through education, resources, and entertainment opportunities in the area.

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With the launch of 400 Square, Urban Smart Growth Director of Operations Seth Stout has led his team to develop new offerings for each of the growing spaces. Food and Beverage Director Lauren Conrath and Events Director Molly Blundred have taken the lead with changes to the Strongwater brand, while Community Director Stephanie McGlone and Art Director AJ Vanderelli are facilitating programming for all ages and abilities on the artist side.

Through all of the changes on the way, the staff at 400 Square are committed to bringing the public the same high quality of workshops, events, exhibitions, and more that have always been part of their unique creative community.

Stay tuned for more info—the new 400 Square officially rolls out during the weekend of Columbus Arts Fest 2019, June 7-9.

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