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Dreams of the Big Screen

Meshach Malley adjusted the knot of his friend’s tie as the rest of the group inspected each other for oversights in their outfits. No detail was too small for his personal attention. Their parents huddled together, clutching their cameras, carrying the anxiety of the evening on their faces. This close clique of teenagers was all [...]
J.R. McMillan

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Meshach Malley adjusted the knot of his friend’s tie as the rest of the group inspected each other for oversights in their outfits. No detail was too small for his personal attention.

Their parents huddled together, clutching their cameras, carrying the anxiety of the evening on their faces. This close clique of teenagers was all grown up, and all dressed up—mostly in a mix of modest suits, with one ruffled tuxedo that favored nostalgia over convention. The fear was pervasive, but no one was brave enough to say it aloud.

After all this fuss, would they be stood up?

But this wasn’t some school dance these students had been strong-armed into attending, worried their dates might never arrive. It was a movie premiere—their movie premiere. All that was missing was the audience.

Imagine the bookish charm of a boyish Benedict Cumberbatch and you have Meshach Malley—right down to the slim blue suit and narrow necktie. An uncommon name isn’t the only thing Malley shares with the BBC sleuth turned Star Trek villain. His passion and personality are equally magnetic—so much so, he managed to write, direct, and star in his first feature film before most of his peers were old enough for a driver’s license.

“I started making movies when I was nine-years-old. My parents were pretty strict about what movies and TV shows I could watch, so I decided to make my own,” explained Malley, whose early stop-motion efforts with LEGOs and clay characters quickly evolved to live action projects.

Malley’s film, The Red Crystal, was inspired in part by another group of fearless filmmakers his age. Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation was a shot-for-shot remake made entirely by teenagers, over several years in the early 80s. It was an underground legend that eventually earned the attention and admiration of Spielberg himself before making the rounds at art houses and film festivals.

“There was a screening at the Wexner Center, and several friends and I met the filmmakers afterward,” noted Malley. “We decided if they could do it, so could we.”

But Meshach (16) has always been a bit of a storyteller. His parents, Michael and Ali, recalled how early he could recite entire nursery rhymes from memory. The Red Crystal was a story before it was a film, one that he’d revisited and revised over several years. Meshach is homeschooled, where creative writing and practical problem solving are priorities. His parents were both elementary school teachers since before he was born, so immersive education has been a constant for the entire family.

“My parents were very committed to me finishing the film and they even made it part of my curriculum,” he explained. “I think having more time to think and work creatively was definitely a big reason why we decided to make it. The home-school schedule was the only way I could have finished the project.”

Filmmaking is predicated on the suspension of disbelief, and The Red Crystal is no exception. The thematic influences are as apparent as the technical aspirations are ambitious. Beneath the archetype of a boy learning his otherworldly origin story are the intrigue, espionage, and Saturday matinee swashbuckling of classic American cinema.

The result is an ensemble of amateurs with a bootstrap budget who somehow produced a family friendly film with techniques ranging from hand-drawn illustration to digital animation. Sure, there were shortcomings on sound, which is actually quite common with many independent films.

But The Red Crystal is far less derivative than George Lucas’ science fiction remake of Seven Samurai, and far more accessible than the self-indulgent THX 1138. Better yet, Malley is surprisingly self-aware and committed to improving his craft.

“We had trouble with on-set sound at times. If I had it to do all over again, I would try to improve the sound quality,” Malley admitted. “I love coming up with stories, and I think it is something that comes naturally to me. The challenge is to translate that to the screen.”

In stark contrast to several of Speilberg’s films, The Red Crystal isn’t a story about reckless youth and absentee parents. It’s about finding purpose with the guidance of elders. Though most of the actors and actresses are still too young to buy a ticket to an R-rated movie, Malley marshaled a supporting cast of grown-ups on- and off-screen as well.

This isn’t Malley’s first foray directing a cast of characters, balancing a budget, and honing interest into enterprise. His parents revealed Meshach had thrice—at ages 10, 12, and 14—turned their home into a pizza restaurant, with their consent.

Not some overgrown lemonade stand either. He and his friends planned the menu, contacted distributors, grew ingredients, connected with local farmers, created advertising, learned safe kitchen practices, prepared the food, even cleaned the dishes. The third time out they had more than a hundred customers and earned in excess of $1500. Not a blockbuster weekend by film standards, but a lot of dough for a bunch of kids making pizza.

That’s exactly the kind of infectious force of will it takes to make it in the movie business. And yet, Meshach Malley seems to have tempered the arrogance of adolescence and audacity of art into something novel in an industry and generation that both value sameness over substance.

By the way, that audience everyone wasn’t sure was going to arrive? They did, even exceeding the expectations of the Gateway Film Center, and perhaps the kids and parents who wondered whether the The Red Crystal would ever see the big screen after years in the making.

If Malley had any doubts, it didn’t show. He was as cool and calm as his slim blue suit—another skill that will serve him well should he decide filmmaking is in his future.

“If it is economically feasible for me to be making movies or online video content when I’m 26, I would really like to be doing that,” he admitted. “Entertainment and story creation are things I’m very passionate about. If that can be the way I make a living, that would be fantastic.”

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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.

“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.

https://www.instagram.com/p/By0yi8xhuPE/

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

614now

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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.

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.

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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