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Feature Act: Nickey Winkelman

Whether they be headliners in their own right, or just those setting new comedy standards in Columbus—from improv to stand-up to everything in between—(614) is covering the people handling the city with humor. This month: Nickey Winkelman, Shadowbox Bistro showrunner, who keeps reinventing what live comedy can mean to a hungry Columbus audience. Case in [...]
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Whether they be headliners in their own right, or just those setting new comedy standards in Columbus—from improv to stand-up to everything in between—(614) is covering the people handling the city with humor.

This month: Nickey Winkelman, Shadowbox Bistro showrunner, who keeps reinventing what live comedy can mean to a hungry Columbus audience. Case in point: this month, the mom to be will put herself and her unborn child on the hot seat, letting local audiences and comics take aim with a roast—which far as we can tell is the first time a fetus has gotten top billing at a local show. How could we not wanna know more?

What was little Nickey Winkelman like? How would you stereotype your middle school self? I’d characterize myself as an awkward middle schooler, but who wasn’t awkward in middle school? I certainly wasn’t in the popular clique. I wasn’t a cheerleader or an athlete or a brainy kid. I did art and theatre. I wasn’t pretty, and my family didn’t have enough money for me to wear all the trendy clothes, so I’d get picked on for being weird or poor. I had a nickname that some mean kids gave me: “Mustache Girl.” I think the nickname just about sums it up. But all of that continued to motivate me to try to make people laugh. I thought, if I can make people laugh, people will like me, and I’ll have friends.

Do you see your material changing as your child gets older? Yes and no. I’m sure the kid will end up providing me with material. I’m a comedian who draws inspiration mostly from my own life, and this is the biggest life change I’ve had. There’s no way I’m not going to write about it. However, I don’t think I’ll censor myself on stage just because I’m becoming a parent. My material has gotten less crass as I’ve gotten older, but that’s a choice I made for myself as I grew and changed as a performer, not a choice I made because I don’t want my kid to hear it one day. My mom has heard every joke I’ve ever told, and someday my kid will too (when he’s old enough).

Who needs to laugh more? Extremists. The extreme right and the extreme left. Relax. You’re not always correct, and that’s okay. Learn to laugh at yourself when you’re wrong.

Dating a comedian—do or don’t? This is going to sound like I’m avoiding the question, but it depends on the comedian. Comedians are usually complicated and emotional people. Some of us know how to handle being that way and some of us don’t. I think when choosing to a person to date (regardless of what they do in life) it’s about finding someone who has a good relationship with themselves and their own mental health. Personally, I’d much rather date someone who is emotional and complicated but knows how to handle it, than date someone who seems to have it all together but doesn’t know what to do when they feel sad. On the other hand, there are some comedians who use the stage as therapy and that’s dangerous. Get actual therapy. Ultimately, you’re up there for the audience, not for yourself. The stage is a great place to talk about hardships in life in order to reach people who can relate to the problems you’ve been through, but it’s not a place to try and work through your problems in real time. That gets messy.

Tell me about your first time on stage. Well, I’ve done theatre as long as I can remember, so I’m not sure what was my first time on stage. The first time I did stand-up on stage was in 2005 in Santa Barbara, California. I was attending UCSB and participated in an “open stage night.” An open mic night is usually all comedians, but this was all kinds of acts: poetry readings, singer-songwriters, monologues… I think there was a juggler.  I was the only comedian on the show, so people loved me. I thought I was God’s gift to comedy, but really the audience just needed a break from sad love songs played poorly on acoustic guitars, so they were willing to laugh at anything. I got a healthy dose of reality the first time I did a real open mic night at a comedy club.

What’s your favorite show you’ve ever put on at The Backstage Bistro? Time Machine. It’s a comedy show meets history show, and it is my passion project. I created and produce the show, but I collaborate with other comedians and performers who help write and add to it. Each show is themed around one year in history, and all of the performances (be it stand-up, sketch comedy, dance, songs, etc) are based on events or pop culture from that year. For example, in the 1999 show we had sketches spoofing The Matrix and Fight Club, and in the 1984 show, we re-enacted the 1984 WWF match between The Iron Sheik and Hulk Hogan. I got to play The Iron Sheik. That was a dream come true.

Who are your favorite Columbus acts? Hmm, it seems unfair to name fellow comedians without sounding like I’m just picking out my friends, so I’ll pick out some of my favorites who are great performers in other artistic fields: Jamz Dean is one of my favorite drag performers, Cherie Blondell is one of my favorite burlesque dancers, Erik Tait is one of my favorite magicians, and Gabriel Guyer is hands down my favorite singer and bass player. Okay, to be fair, I still just named a bunch of my friends and my baby’s father, but the endorsements are honest nonetheless.

What’s the best local comedy show you’ve ever been to, that wasn’t your own? “Hot Dog! A Comedy Show Slash Hot Dog Eating Contest.” This is a show produced by Dustin Meadows of Whiskey Bear Comedy, and it’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen (in a good way). I can’t really describe it—you just have to see it for yourself—but it is always a riot, and the best part is that it’s funny whether the comedian does well or not. It’s one of those shows that the first time I saw it I thought, damn, why didn’t I think of that. It’s a brilliant idea.

Do you have any recurring dreams? Lately, all my dreams are about peeing. Then I wake up and have to pee… about fifteen times a night. Thanks, pregnancy.

Who is one person you know that would be great at comedy? My unborn kid. Obviously.

The Roast of Baby Winks is scheduled for January 23 in the Shadowbox Bistro. For more, visit shadowboxlive.org.

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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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