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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

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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.

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Arts & Culture

SoHud Collective provides fresh, stylish open-air experience

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The fear of ever going back inside of a building that’s not your home has become a general widespread worry. Open-air markets and garage sales are going to be a hot commodity this summer, and one new company has already taken a proactive and stylish approach to fill that need for consumers.

SoHud Collective is one of the first Columbus-based companies to corner this emerging market. The boutique pop-up shop, founded on the principle of friendships formed around fashion, art, and plants, hosted their first event on Saturday, May 23. 

And oh yeah, free lemonade.

An assortment of deep vintage finds at an incredibly reasonable price will leave you walking away with at least one purchase. The first installment took place on the corner of Hudson and Summit, across the street from Evolved Body Art.

The idea of a pop-up shop at this corner may be a new idea, but the format has been around for ages. Why SoHud Collective is important right now boils down to the consumers’ desire for an out-of-house experience and the employees’ obvious shared compassion for each other and thrifting.

“Fashion has been the glue to our friendship,” said the SoHud Collective, made up of Taylor, Connor, and Hayden. “We thrift together, we borrow each other’s clothing, and we send each other pictures of our outfits before we leave the house.”

A company formed on friendships in the SoHud region, the group behind this passion project has a specific goal in mind when passing down their used goods: keep the SoHud community stylin’. 

“Some of us have lost our jobs due to Covid-19, and this was a great way to keep our spirits up and redirect our attention to something that truly fulfills us,” the SoHud Collective said.

The items featured in the monthly pop-ups are passed down from an assortment of thrifting havens. Closets. Basements. Other thrift stores. Grandmas.

From shoes to shirts, Atari systems to board games, SoHud Collective is elevating the thrifting experience in the time of coronavirus.

“Currently, our focus is on elevating our display and merchandising technique to really give the people an experience and a fierce outfit and home decor to create that perfect photo for Instagram, the SoHud Collective said.”

SoHud Collective would like to thank Evolved for letting it use its parking lot for May’s edition of the pop-up. With a goal to have an installment of SoHud Collective once a month, the pop-up shop will return to the same location on June 27 (11 a.m. until 7 p.m.) and 28 (11 a.m. until 4 p.m.). 

A charity table where all proceeds will go to clothing the homeless LGBTQ youth in Columbus will be present as well. 

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Loop Daddy invades Columbus with first-ever drive-in tour

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The return of live music is going to be one of the trickiest industries to transition back into business as usual, if that will ever be the case. We’ve seen people getting creative, building concert stages within their own homes via live streaming. Some have participated in virtual festivals, probably the sector of live music to take the biggest hit.

But when an industry made up of innovative creatives always trying to come up with the next big idea is faced with incredible hardships, they respond with quick-witted imaginative solutions.

One of the first trends that popped up in the revolution of bringing back live music was the implementation of drive-in lots. Luckily for Columbus, the darling of the internet DJ scene Marc Rebillet aka Loop Daddy will be taking his first-ever drive-in tour through the Buckeye state in mid-June.

Captivating audiences with his participatory DJ scratching and immature antics, extremely goofy sex appeal, and sleazy porno stache, Rebillet was an act poised for a breakout summer before the pandemic shut music concert venues down. If you have access to a car, though, you’ll still have a chance to catch the wild virtual sensation.

On June 14, Rebillet will be pulling up to the South Drive-In for the third stop of his Drive-In Concert Tour. Rebillet will also be showcasing short films as part of his drive-in experience.

As far as sound is going for these events, a lot of drive-ins are opting to go the radio transmission route to encourage people to stay inside of their vehicles.

A very few grouping of tickets remain, which include three-person and four-person car passes. Tickets are running $40 per head (plus additional fees), which seems to be the average across the new wave of drive-in concerts. Two-people/one-car tickets have already sold out.

If you don’t want to miss out on this unique opportunity, act right now. Tickets can be purchased at:

https://nightout.com/events/marc-rebillet-drive-in-tour-columbus-ohio-south-drive-in-presented-by-hotbox/tickets.

Social distancing guidelines are outlined at the point of purchase.

The South Drive-In is located at 3050 S. High St. Doors open at 8 p.m. with the show beginning at 9 p.m. Attendees need to arrive before 8:45 p.m. A portion of ticket sales will be donated to the Coronavirus Relief Fund.

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Live music allowed again in restaurants and bars: how will these establishments respond?

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A major step forward in the return of live music in Ohio took place over the weekend. The Ohio coronavirus guidelines were updated to reflect the new COVID-19 Dine Safe Ohio Order.

The order outlining the guidelines on live music in restaurant and bars is as follows:

Musicians and bands may perform in restaurants and bars as long as the individuals who are performing maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from all other people including, but not limited to, fellow performers and restaurant and bar patrons and staff.

DJ's are included along with musicians and bands in the order.

Something that was on the mind of a lot of musicians with the reopening of restaurants and the indefinite closing of large venues was how restaurants and bars were going to respond to the immediate venue demand. Places like Woodlands Tavern that already have an infrastructure for live music will have no problem complying with the updated order, but will restaurants and bars that depended on jukeboxes before pivot to a live music model?

With a lot more space available in restaurants due to capacity cuts, does this leave more room for a live music set up? Or will restaurants have to get rid of even more tables if they want to make room for a performer?

The thought of live music in a venue setting is alone enough to get excited about. How these places that now have the ability to host live music execute freeing up space for a band to set up or a DJ to bring his rig in while practicing social distancing is what makes this situation a tricky one.

Not being able to get down in a MojoFlo Soul Train line will be pretty tough, but it’s a tradeoff we’ll have to accept for the return of live music.

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