Connect with us

Arts & Culture

Art For All

My first visit to Art Outside the Lines was sensory overload—a beautiful mess. In every nook and cranny of the Livingston Ave. storefront, there were canvases and paints, tools and hardware, mammoth sculptures of yarn and wood, a drum set, and artists at every station creating with intentional vigor. Pretty much everything on a wall [...]
Kevin J. Elliott

Published

on

My first visit to Art Outside the Lines was sensory overload—a beautiful mess.

In every nook and cranny of the Livingston Ave. storefront, there were canvases and paints, tools and hardware, mammoth sculptures of yarn and wood, a drum set, and artists at every station creating with intentional vigor. Pretty much everything on a wall or a shelf was for sale, and I instantly fell in love with a piece that was simply a 2×4 painted robin-egg blue, on a centered cardboard rectangle that read, “I’m going to get a tattoo for Christmas.”

I can happily say that I became the proud owner of a Kelsey Hafer original for the cash in my pocket.

As I write this a year later, it’s days before Hafer’s eagerly anticipated first gallery show at Art Outside the Lines. She’s easily one of my favorite artists in Columbus…and she’s also an adult with a disability.

While Art Outside the Lines welcomes all ages and skill levels through their doors to receive drawing lessons, take yoga classes, or attend concerts and gallery openings, the entire operation is managed and operated by adults with disabilities. It’s the only art studio in America of its kind, and though Mehri Davis is the founder and facilitator, she’s all but handed over the reins to her incredibly talented staff.

How Mehri Davis came to be at the helm of Art Outside the Lines was by pure accident. At 14, Davis blindly applied to volunteer at a summer camp in Colorado. It wasn’t until the night before that Davis bothered to read the paperwork, only to find out that the camp served kids with disabilities.

“I freaked out,” says Davis. “I had helped with Special Olympics that past year, but had no idea how to work with this population. I arrived. I remember walking down the hill toward the cabins and seeing kids everywhere, some doing the things I was used to seeing kids do, and some doing very strange, much more interesting, things. I looked around and remember saying to myself, ‘I want to hang out with these people forever.’ And I did.”

What at first was a shock became revelation and eventual passion for Davis. At 16, her dissolution with the art world, the egos, the hustle, inspired her to make a career in art that wasn’t about herself. It was going to be her dream to realize and exhibit the talent of a forgotten population, and through her self-designed major at Ohio University, she acquired the know-how to work with adults with disabilities and aligned that with her love of art. It took a lot of patience and bureaucracy, but in 2016 Art Outside the Lines opened their doors.

I recently spoke with Davis about her mission at Art Outside the Lines, and the misconceptions people have about adults with disabilities, especially in the stuffy world of art.

I want to prove to the world that adults with disabilities are more than drooling wastes of space that cannot do anything for themselves. Does that sound harsh? You would be surprised how many people think this. I want to prove to the world of art that there is a level of creativity and imagination that artists with disabilities have that NO ONE with typical needs will ever reach. I want to make my artists famous. The work created by some of my artists should be in the Smithsonian, the Wexner Center, the Met.

Are you at all worried about your artists being exposed to the same disillusionment that you felt?

I think there is a chance. But the reason I prefer to work with these guys is because most of the time, these guys really don’t care about things like that. The other thing is that while I think the art world is a little ridiculous, [it] becomes less ridiculous when you’re “in.” So, to me, getting their work into big places would actually put them on the top. They would be the heavy hitters of the art world, and it wouldn’t be like it is now because the people at the top, my crew, wouldn’t be like that.

What are your thoughts on the term “outsider art?” Are you at all worried about exploitation, or are you the buffer between your artists and that happening?

I certainly take it upon myself to be the wall between my artists and a lot of things, this being one. People who work with vulnerable populations learn to be very weary and afraid of the world and how it will react to the people they serve. I am no exception. I educate myself to take away the fear, and I make sure I always sound more eloquent, informed, and intelligent than anyone who I do business with that could be a potential threat to these guys. I think the term ‘outsider’ is far more interesting and attractive than ‘insider.’ As someone who thinks typical people living typical lives are quite boring, the term actually draws me in. That said, I think it is pretty ridiculous that we haven’t come up with something more respectful, as the term “outsider” comes with a lot of negative connotation. It feels to me as if that is coming. Fifteen years ago the word “retarded” was still used to describe people with disabilities in textbooks and official documents.

Lastly, where do you want this to go? Do you have plans for the future?

I want these guys to be famous. I want to be able to provide a space where people can be and never feel judged, torn down, or not welcome. A place where people leave happier than when they came. I want Art Outside the Lines to be an art destination in Columbus.

 

Art Outside the Lines is one of four PALS (Physical and Activity and Life Skills) programs run by Chrysalis Health. Their next big event is a solo show by artist Ernie Strickland (11.11). For more, visit artoutsidethelines.com.

Continue Reading

Arts & Culture

Arts Fest Preview: See BalletMet live outdoors!

614now

Published

on

SPONSORED

BalletMet’s Friday night’s headline performance at 8:30 p.m. at the Arts Festival is sure to be a highlight of weekend. One of the nation’s top 20 largest professional companies, BalletMet consists of dancers hailing from across the nation and the world and boasts a premiere academy for aspiring professional dancers, one that’s been recognized as an institution of local and national stature.

Since 1978, BalletMet has brought incredible dance to theaters in Central Ohio and beyond and their commitment to bringing dance to the Columbus community, especially in underserved areas, is unparalleled.

Art of War Photo by Jen Zmuda

From in-school programs to theater field trips, scholarships and free performances, the company is dedicated to making dance accessible to all. More than 10,000 children attend the company’s Morning at the Ballet field trip performances each year. And thanks to a grant from PNC Arts Alive, BalletMet’s second company, BalletMet 2, has performed at free events at the King Arts Complex, Franklin Park Conservatory and more, throughout the 2018-19 season.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY

In addition to the free performance at the Arts Festival BalletMet will perform at Dance on Dakota on Friday, May 10, from 5 to 8 p.m. in Franklinton. This performance is also free.

Dance on Dakota, co-hosted by Franklinton Arts District, is part of a weekend-long block party in Franklinton and features free food and drink and a collaborative performance with TRANSIT ARTS. The event will take place at Dakota Ave. and Town St.

Dancers Grace Anne Powers and William Newton Photo by Jen Zmuda

BalletMet’s Columbus Arts Festival performance will include a mixed repertoire of shorter pieces from its past productions and will be preceded by music from DJ Donnie M. of Damn Girl.

And if these performances capture your interest, the company recently announced its 2019-20 season, which includes ALICE, based on the later stories of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll, Twisted 3, a collaboration with the Columbus Symphony and Opera Columbus, and, of course, The Nutcracker.

More info at www.balletmet.org. For all your Arts Festival details visit www.colubmusartsfestival.org

Continue Reading

Arts & Culture

Arts Fest Preview: You wood hate to miss local crafter

614now

Published

on

SPONSORED

Woodworker and Art Makes Columbus featured artist Devon Palmer has been working with his hands since his upbringing in northeast Indiana. His mother a wood carver and his father a carpenter and cabinet maker, Palmer took a more mechanical route by obtaining his pilot’s license and attending Purdue University to pursue a career as an airplane mechanic.

But as his career transitioned from maintenance to the tech field, he yearned to work with his hands again. Originally he considered pottery, before a class he planned to attend got canceled. But a trip home the weekend before Thanksgiving led to his father introducing him to woodturning.

That was more than 15 years ago. And though he is largely self-taught, Palmer also credits local woodturners from the Central Ohio Woodturners (a chapter of the American Association of Woodturners) for taking him under their wing. In 2005, he opened his first studio just north of Downtown, and in 2007 he began teaching woodturning at Woodcraft Columbus.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY

Today, Palmer does a bit of mentoring of his own. He teaches classes in blade and bowl turning, resin cast pen turning and more advanced projects like hollow vessel turning in his studio at the Idea Foundry. He is also adding a series of LGBTQ date night pen turning classes to his growing schedule of classes, shows and demonstrations.

Palmer says his work represents “family and connectedness” with work ranging from salad bowls and laser engraved pens to funerary urns and ornaments. The details in his hand-crafted tableware and home goods manage to invoke a warm sense of community, fellowship, and hospitality.

Devon Palmer works in internet technology and is also a pianist and ordained minister.

Make your own wood turned pen with Devon Palmer at the Columbus Arts Festival, June 7-9, at the Big Local Art Village located at the Festival’s Franklinton entrance. Learn more about Devon at www.columbusmakesart.com/stories/devon-palmer and get all your Arts Festival details at www.columbusartsfestival.org

Continue Reading

Arts & Culture

Arts Festival Preview: Dr. E uses voice to overcome adversity

614now

Published

on

SPONSORED POST

Dr. E, singer-songwriter and author Cleveland-born singer-songwriter Dr. Elaine Richardson — known by her stage name Dr. E — has used her voice to detail the incredible circumstances she encountered while overcoming great adversity. Born to a musician father and Jamaican immigrant mother, Dr. E begun tapping into her talent while singing in church, her school’s choir, and in girl groups.

Dr. E continued to sing despite the difficult path she faced. As a teen, she became a sex trafficking victim and fell into addiction. In her recovery, she pursued higher education at Cleveland State University and Michigan State University. During this time Dr. E also began performing as the frontwoman for a number of cover bands and placing her original music on various TV shows. She recorded her first album, “Elevated,” in 2010.

Dr. E’s introspective song lyrics reflect the often difficult process of healing while defending those who share her experiences or face exploitation and discrimination in other ways.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY

On her sophomore album, 2017’s “Songs for the Struggle,” she gives a soulful retelling of her journey from sex trafficking survivor to university professor, Ph.D., author and advocate. Blending elements of soul, rock, funk, rhythm and blues, and jazz, Dr. E sings with an astonishing amount of hope and positivity; Though the album details the trauma and exploitation experienced by Dr. E during her teen years, her power message ultimately expresses affirmations of self-love and acceptance employed with an equally powerful and joyous voice.

Dr. E is currently a professor of literacy studies in the College of Education at The Ohio State University. She has written a number of books on African American literature as well as a memoir, “PHD to Ph.D.: How Education Saved My Life.”

See Dr. E. perform at the Columbus Arts Festival, Saturday, June 8 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on the Big Local Stage on Rich St.

For hours, artist listing and all Festival information go to www.columbusartsfestival.org

Continue Reading
X