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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.

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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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Arts & Creatives

Serenity now! 614 interviews Jason Alexander ahead of Cbus performance

Mike Thomas

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If you’re expecting a stand-up comedy routine from a frumpily-dressed Jason Alexander full of jokes about soup and shrinkage and Festivus, move on.

Alexander’s still getting laughs. But, they’re a different kind as he returns to his roots as a Broadway show performer, taking his singing, dancing, piano-playing, storytelling routine across the country with a pops-style show that will arrive in Columbus this month. Alexander will join the Columbus Symphony Orchestra to tell the story of his life on the screen and stage.

(614) recently had the delightful opportunity to speak with the Tony Award-winning actor about the show, his love of poker, and the influence of George Costanza on our culture in 2019.  

(614): “An Evening With Jason Alexander” comes to the Ohio Theatre on April 27. What can our readers expect from
the performance?

JA: (Chuckling.) I’m only laughing because I’ve been doing this for about three years, and that’s always the first question! So “An Evening With” is a pop show that I’ve been doing for about three years all around the country. I know most people may not immediately think of me as a singer if they know me from my roles on television, but it is a more-or-less autobiographical journey through my love affair with music from the Broadway stage.

Some of it is things that I’ve performed on Broadway, some of it is not. A lot of it is very funny. A lot of it is just great music. It’s a slightly different show in that, although there’s a symphony orchestra up there, it does feel like an intimate evening. There’s lots of storytelling, and at one point in the show I bring about seven people up on the stage—and they are truly not plants, I pick them at random—and they wind up performing a number with me.

How does preparing for a role like this where you’re appearing as yourself differ from a performance where you’re appearing in character?

The preparation is all emotional. I went into performing because I was a really shy kid, so I was able to hide in plain sight. I could be with people, be out in front of people, and I was always more or less hiding behind some character. I’ve always said the five worst words for me in the English language are, “Ladies and gentlemen—Jason Alexander.” That usually scares the hell out of me! That means I have to go out there and be myself. 

The beautiful thing about this show is the preparation was all in creating the show. If you’re going to go in front of people and take their time and present yourself as an entertainer, what story or stories do you want to share, and how do you want to play with an audience so they have a
very full and very rewarding time? That was all the hard part. In the actually getting up and doing it, I’ve been pretty lucky that I’ve been playing with some of the best orchestras in the country, so when I’m up there I’m generally having a pretty good time. If I’m not, something’s gone terribly wrong. 

You’ve made a name for yourself in the competitive poker world, even appearing in the main event at the World Series of Poker. How did your interest in poker begin?

Almost everybody in my business bumps into poker at some point, because if you do theater and movies, there’s a lot of down time. More often than not, somebody will say, “Hey, let’s play some poker.” But it was around the time that the celebrity poker shows started in the early 2000’s that I remember being invited to be a player on a televised poker thing, and my publicist represented [professional Poker player] Phil Hellmuth at the time, and he said “Hey, I represent this professional poker player, would you like a lesson?” And I said, “What the hell. The guy calls himself a professional poker player. Let me go see who he is.” After about ten minutes my head was spinning. I realized there was so much about this game I did not understand, never knew, would never understand. But I became fascinated with it. 

It is such a rich game in that there are so many ways you can play it. You can play it as a mathematical player, you can play it as an instinctual player. It is an actor’s game because you are always making impressions about yourself at the table, always trying to understand the impression other players are making. I’m so fascinated by the game, but my fascination does not, unfortunately, mean that I am good at it. I am entertaining at the table, I generally know right from wrong, but sometimes right doesn’t work, and even knowing wrong I have proceeded to do the wrong thing time and time again. It’s kind of like life, you never stop being surprised and learning more about it. 

I also meet amazing people at the poker table, fascinating people that I would never otherwise meet. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for 30 years and I work in the entertainment business, so I don’t often meet guys who are driving buses in Cleveland, Ohio, or work in accounting firms in Wyoming, but at the poker table you meet people from every walk of life.

For nine seasons in the 90s, you played the iconic role of George Costanza on the classic sitcom Seinfeld. What lessons can George teach us in 2019, or where in our modern culture do you see the character’s influence?

Well, if I am to believe social media, the president is making a lot of George-isms. The one that keeps being tweeted at me is, people believe the president may be subscribing to the Costanza philosophy of “it’s not a lie if you believe it.” I am afraid, unfortunately if you want to be serious, that the sort of selfishness and short-sightedness and narcissism that George Costanza was certainly guilty of may have infected a lot of our modern culture right now, and to nobody’s good, I’m afraid.

Jason Alexander will perform at the Ohio Theater on April 27th at 8 p.m. For tickets information, visit columbussymphony.com/events.

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