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Foul language, beer, broken windows, and the resurrection of Nowhere Fest

Kevin J. Elliott

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Speaking with Michael Ravage is likely always going to feel as if you’ve stepped into a time machine. His ruminations on life in the Columbus music scene circa 1978 beckon to a simpler time—bars with live music had striking names like the Sugar Shack (where Ravage saw the Ramones), Positively 4th Street, and the Travel Agency. Public access television and college radio allowed anyone to broadcast their art, and starting a festival came with just securing a venue and printing up some flyers. 

But Ravage, who at the time was a self-proclaimed “punk” when the budding genre had yet to infiltrate the Midwest, had trouble getting his band, Screaming Urge, any gigs outside of the DIY enclave known as the Egg House. It was a new frontier, and while Ravage would peddle his group’s “little” demo tape from club to club with the earnest of any upstart, no one wanted to book them. When it was apparent the local scene was only catering to the Southern rock of McGuffey Lane and the biker metal of Soft Leather Touch, Ravage pretty much had to invent the first Nowhere Fest, as there was literally “nowhere” for Screaming Urge, or their friends to play. 

The very first Nowhere Fest took place in what used to be the United Methodist Campus Center near 16th and High. It cost one dollar. It featured Vorpal Gallery, Twisted Shouts (Ron House’s first band), and Ravage’s Screaming Urge. Of course, he needed some divine intervention in order to make it happen. 

“I had to meet with the [clergyman] to book the room,” says Ravage. “He was wearing the whole preacher’s outfit and informed me that they were Methodists and they didn’t want any beer or shenanigans. I still have the contract. I told him upfront that these were punk bands and there would be some language. Turns out there was a lot of language, a lot of beer, and a lot of broken windows by the end of the night. The atmosphere was very intense.” 

In many ways, that first Nowhere was successful for Ravage, as Screaming Urge went onto a storied career in the recesses of punk, playing all over the country at famed clubs like CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City, getting “stiffed by Stiff Records,” and continuing the festival uninterrupted for the next 18 years. 

By the early ‘80s, punk was en vogue, with Crazy Mama’s and the Agora (now the Newport) hosting all-day events curated by Ravage. The scene in Columbus was progressing and growing to the point where he couldn’t keep count of the number of punk and noise bands populating the clubs. Nowhere Fest lasted until 1996, with most of the ‘90s fests taking place at Stache’s and Apollo’s. When bands like Howlin’ Maggie—a decidedly
un-punk spectacle—were shoehorned into the line-up, the original spirit was gone. 

“I wanted to kill Nowhere Fest when it was a teenager,” remembers Ravage. “Because Comfest, they never killed that, and it just got out of hand. When there were bands choosing to play frat houses for more money, and showing up late because of that, I knew it had to die.”

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Fast forward to 2019 and Nowhere Fest has been resurrected in a very full-circle regiment. In January, Tim Anstaett released the long-gestating Book of Books, a two-volume collection of his legendary ‘80s ‘zine, The Offense. During the heyday of Ravage’s Urge, The True Believers, Razor Penguins, and The Blunt Stitches, the ‘zine was the literal epicenter of Columbus’ punk movement.

At one of the book’s readings, Anstaett connected with local punk’s current ambassador, Ian Graham—a member of Ouija Boys, Terrestrials, and Thee Thees, among others—who took up the mantle to organize a purely inspired and fresh version of the Nowhere ethos. Of course, it would be impossible to replicate Ravage’s “one-bill” logistics and the broken windows of rebellion, but the line-up culls from young and old, further establishing the thread that has always survived through Columbus’ “punk” scene. 

Graham has asked the Cheater Slicks to headline, as they serve as a bridge between then and now, and in many ways, their sound has defined the underbelly of Columbus guitar rock since the original Nowhere dissolved. The rest of the two-stage affair includes a number of bands from the Heel Turn Records roster, including newbies Burning Itch and noise stalwarts DANA, as well as Tommy Jay and Nudge Squidfish of the True Believers. 

As for Ravage and his role? Screaming Urge is no more, but he’ll take the stage with his wife Baby Lindy and new band the Drug Mothers. But stapling posters up and down High Street or pressing the flesh? 

“He’s only the inspiration now,” says Lindy with a smile. “But he’s still
an instigator.”

Nowhere Fest 2019 will be held Friday, March 15th at The Summit and Cafe Bourbon St. A pre-party will take place on Thursday, March 14th at Dirty Dungarees with the Unholy 2 and Drunks with Guns. 

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Arts & Creatives

What’s up with these mini murals painted on downtown buildings?

Mike Thomas

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If you're one of the many Columbus drivers whose commute takes you through downtown via 4th street, you may have noticed the strange artwork adorning several buildings in the vicinity of 4th and Broad:

More intricate than your average street art, these perplexing works are rendered in acrylic paint that is applied directly to the face of the structures, depicting various scenic views from throughout the city.

So what gives? Is Columbus home to a brazen, landscape-obsessed Banksy wannabe? Upon closer inspection, each piece on display is accompanied by a gallery-style placard, complete with a scannable QR code. From here, the not-so-mysterious mystery of the downtown paintings is revealed.

A scan of the code on a smartphone directs you to columbuspublicart.com, where the project is revealed as a commissioned public work by Central Ohio Plein Air—an informal group of artists who enjoy painting outdoors.

As the site explains, members of the group created 20 discrete paintings on buildings downtown "en plein air," a style of painting in which the artist paints a subject on location.

For this project, an element of the unexpected was intentional. Focusing on unlikely urban locations, the artists tucked works away in alleys and crevices throughout the downtown core to be stumbled upon spontaneously by unsuspecting pedestrians.

The next time you're rushing your way through downtown, remember to take a peak down those dark alleyways. What you find may surprise you!

For more on this and other public art projects throughout Columbus, and for a full list of artists and works on display, visit http://columbuspublicart.com/.

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Arts & Creatives

Maker’s Space: Brother, sister team spreading unique prints around Columbus

Laura Dachenbach

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From moveable type to Xerox to 3-D, printing has always been a game-changer.

Several years ago, Columbus graphic designer Nigel Ewan saw a zine with an “impossible” hot pink color that he knew he couldn’t replicate with an inkjet or laser printer. The printmaking game changed for him as well.

Photos: Brian Kaiser

“I was curious enough to investigate the print method— it turned out it was riso, and that pink color was possible because risograph printing uses specifically-chosen inks as opposed to mixing toner or CMYK inks together to produce a spectrum,” said Ewan.

Nigel teamed up with his sister Dempsey, and the two began the onomatopoetically- named Clatter Press, exploring the possibilities of risograph printing to create unique items in small numbers. Risograph printing is not completely unlike mimeograph or silk screen printing, in that the risograph uses a stencil and ink color that is applied one layer at a time, resulting in an often imperfect, but exciting and authentic image. Clatter Press now features the Fluorescent Pink (along with five other colors available for designers) that originally caught Nigel and Dempsey’s attention. (You may have seen a pink photo of Meryl Streep that has made its way around Columbus.)

(614) recently spoke with Nigel and Dempsey to learn more about this unusual printmaking technique and what it can be used to do.

(614): Can you explain the technology and the process behind the risograph?

NE: In risograph printing, a stencil is created in a thin paper which then is wrapped around a cylindrical ink drum. When the drum rotates, ink is pushed through the stencil onto paper to produce an image. This whole process happens inside a large machine made by a Japanese company named RISO, hence “risograph.” Riso printing is extremely environmentally friendly. Stencils are made from rice paper and ink is soy-based. No solvents or heat are used in the printmaking process and all consumables are recyclable.

Is this your primary gig, side gig, or hobby? How did it come to be?

NE: We are a brother-sister team and Clatter Press is a side gig for both us. I am a full-time graphic designer and Dempsey is finishing up her graphic design BFA at [Columbus College of Art and Design]. It’s also definitely a hobby for us; neither of us had ever done any riso printing before we purchased our machine. We wanted to use this technology ourselves to push the limits of our own creative practices. The entire shop is set up in my Clintonville basement—it took four of my friends several hours to get the machine down my narrow basement stairs—so it’s very much a cottage industry. But we love where we are and are excited to continue growing our business.

What sort of projects are ideal for this medium?

NE: Although the RISO company markets its printers as office equipment, the technology is much better suited to creative applications. Artists and designers are drawn to riso because the ink is real ink—wet, oily, gooey—that gets applied to paper in a style more like fine art printmaking than office printing. Misprints such as smearing, roller marks, and mis-registration (different colors not perfectly lined up) are common. This is all part of the appeal. Another appeal is that riso is cost-effective: once a stencil is created, the per-print cost is very inexpensive.

The riso does really well at replicating all sort of mark-making. It can be used to produce sharp digital graphics, smooth gradients, organic marks such as charcoal and graphite, halftones, and even photography.

What ingredients come together to make Columbus fertile ground for makers, designers, and creatives?

DE: Columbus doesn’t always feel like it has the street-cred of older, cooler cities like New York or Chicago, but the upside of this is that everything here feels on the brink of something exciting and new. There is a lot of energy and opportunity in Columbus which seems to be emanating from all of the amazing people who have made Columbus their home and livelihood. We have so enjoyed the people Clatter has introduced and connected us to. Being able to watch so many people we call our friends pursuing fulfilling creative work is really encouraging—and makes us want to always be creating as well. Columbus seems to have boundless energy and this makes it the perfect fertile ground for creators.

What’s your six-word creative story?

DE: Inspiration. Curiosity. Family. Creation. Community. Clatter.

To learn more, order, or see samples of risograph printing, visit clatterpress.com.

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Arts & Creatives

Hidden Gems: Exhibition highlights one of Columbus’ “biggest artists”

Mike Thomas

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Situated atop a library on the campus of Capital University in Bexley is a hidden gem among the local arts community: The Schumacher Gallery.

In spite of its location, any perception that this space is intended solely for the enjoyment of the student body at Capital must be laid to rest. With works from such heavyweights as Picasso, Rodin, and Gauguin on display as part of the gallery's permanent collection, Schumacher is a must-visit destination for art lovers throughout the city.

For its latest exhibition, The Schumacher gallery has chosen to highlight an important figure in the history of the arts in Columbus on the occasion of her 150th birthday.

"Alice Schille was a woman who painted and traveled internationally before women had a right to vote. That's fairly unheard of for that time, and she was very prolific and internationally known," gallery director David Gentilini says of the artist whose small watercolor works are on display for this exhibition, titled Gems of Brevity.

Schille was born in Columbus on August 21, 1869, and is known for her complex and versatile style of watercolor painting, which she developed during travels throughout North and South America, Europe, and Africa.

This exhibition of her work was curated by Keny galleries in German village—considered the premiere Schille authorities in Columbus— in conjunction with Columbus Museum of Art, which has its own exhibition of the artist's larger works on display through mid-September.

With pieces dating from 1914-1935, Gems of Brevity features miniature watercolors produced by Schille in a variety of locations such as France, England, North Africa, Guatemala and Santa Fe, New Mexico. These small-scale works range in style from Impressionism to Post Impressionism to Cubism.

"She was a Columbus artist who lived on Bryden Road, between Capital and the Columbus Museum of Art. You can drive right by her house coming from one institution to another," says Gentilini. "For Columbus to have this happening, everyone playing in the same sandbox celebrating one of our biggest artists—I think it's a pretty cool thing."

Alice Schille’s Miniature Watercolors (1914-1935): Gems of Brevity runs September 3 to November 20, with an opening reception Thursday, September 5, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. The exhibition and opening reception are free and open to the public. For more information, visit https://www.capital.edu/schumacher/

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