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The Interview: Jason Bradley-Krauss

Graphic Designer / Dad / Ambassador For Love Jason Bradley-Krauss has a love story to share. For twenty-three years he and WBNS Chief Meterologist Chris Bradley shared their lives as partners, then as adoptive parents, then as a married couple. They lived in near-perfect synchronicity until Chris became ill with leukemia, passing away earlier last [...]
Laura Dachenbach

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Graphic Designer / Dad / Ambassador For Love

Jason Bradley-Krauss has a love story to share. For twenty-three years he and WBNS Chief Meterologist Chris Bradley shared their lives as partners, then as adoptive parents, then as a married couple. They lived in near-perfect synchronicity until Chris became ill with leukemia, passing away earlier last month.

But from this partnership, Bradley-Krauss still carries two projects of love. The first is Spencer and Maria Bradley-Krauss, both adopted from Guatemala, who are the fulfillment of their dads’ lifelong desires to be parents. The second is Design with Heart Studio. Bradley-Krauss, a corporate graphic designer who announced his career ambitions in the third grade, was inspired to begin a paper goods company when he was unable to find a suitable announcement for his engagement to Chris. Design with Heart has now expanded to retailers across the country, as well as the UK, Australia, and Canada, announcing to the world that Love is indeed Love.

On falling for Chris Bradley: In 1995 I did the design work for Steppin’ Out AIDS Walk Detroit. And it was a run, rollerblade, walk event. And I chose to rollerblade. I knew who Chris was; I’d seen him on the news and thought he was incredibly handsome, but I turned around in the registration line in my rollerblades and he was standing right behind me. It caught me off guard and I literally slipped and fell. But I fought falling, so it was arms and legs all about me and I landed right on my bum. And he started laughing, and I thought, “That turkey.” But I still kind of thought, “Well, I’d still like to meet him.” And about two weeks later a friend of ours introduced us and we hit it off immediately.

On life together: Chris was very supportive of my career and my goals as I was his, and I really think we were on the same page with just about every life issue. That made parenting together easier. We talked a lot, you know. To know Chris is to know that he was a very chatty person. I remember when we first met, he called me at my office and we talked, and then about thirty minutes later he called me again, and was telling me, “I’m defrosting pork chops for dinner tonight and I’m going to go the the gym.” And he called me like two hours later, and I thought, “What’s happening?” But we remained that way. We talked throughout the day on a constant basis over the past twenty-three years.

On adoption and raising a family in Columbus: When we moved here in 1998, I was uncertain whether we would stay here in Columbus very long. And Chris was also in a business that moves people around quite a bit. But I used the opportunity to launch my design firm and establish creative roots here. Within a very short period of time Columbus felt like home. When Chris and I decided to adopt, we did not know another male couple who had gone through this process…. So in terms of arriving at parenthood, we really has to carve out and learn a lot about the adoption process, the international adoption process and then about raising kids. But we have found Columbus to be a very welcoming community and we feel really blessed to have raised our children here. Moving forward with adoption was God’s greatest gift to us. Those children are our life’s greatest blessing.

“We’ve made choices that not everyone has had the courage to make. But we didn’t make those choices to be cutting-edge. We made those choices because those were the choices that resonated with us.”

On living with integrity: When I look at Chris’ life, I see it in three segments. I see the way he lived his life, the way he fought his disease, and the way he died. And he was very consistent in each of those three categories. He wanted to live an authentic life. He led a spiritual life. He wanted to be a family man. When he was diagnosed with his illness, he wanted to make certain that something good would come out of that illness…. I remember distinctly a conversation that we had where he said, “The world seems so dark right now, but I want to shed light and make certain that something good comes out of this.” And I really think at that moment I could see cracks in the darkness and I could feel the light entering into our cancer journey. In dying, he showed such great faith. He showed such a sense of peace that he belonged to God and that God had a bigger picture for him. He knew where he was going. He was proud of what he had done. We were proud of the choices we had made as individuals and as a couple…. We’ve made choices that not everyone has had the courage to make. But we didn’t make those choices to be cutting-edge. We made those choices because those were the choices that resonated with us.

On grief: What I’m walking through now is what they call anticipatory grief. We knew in September that we had exhausted the treatments that were available. For me, doing everything I could to honor Chris’ wishes which were to come home and […] to be with his family, to spend as much time with his family as possible, and to die peacefully at home. And I was able to help facilitate that, and there’s a certain amount of peace that comes from that.

On Design with Heart: I set out to just design just a few cards I thought might be appropriate for male couples or female couples. And as I did that work, I thought, “I love this.” It taps into my love of typography, my love of graphic design, my love of illustration. But also, it allows me to put forth really positive messaging. And so I intended for the line to be simply based around marriage equality and LGBTQ lives. But then the message that came back to me is that love permeates all that’s good and hopeful. Love is present in all of life’s greatest celebratory moments: a new baby, new home, birthday, even thank you and thinking of you. And so I just had a little bit of time that opened up with my client work and I decided I would just give myself a week and see what I came up with. And at the end of the week I had forty-five designs done, and I had forty-five more that I wanted to get done. I just thought, “There’s something here.” I launched Design with Heart in May 2015 at the National Stationery Show in New York and it was a mad scramble to put together an entire product line, website, catalog, inventory, shipping procedures, but it was a passion project, and I derive great joy from it.… Immediately we took orders from museum stores and high-end boutiques around the country…. I think for me as a creative person the greatest thrill has been having the line picked up by the high-end museum stores because what else as a creative person was I ever going to design that would end up in a museum, right?

“But then the message that came back to me is that love permeates all that’s good and hopeful. Love is present in all of life’s greatest celebratory moments: a new baby, new home, birthday, even thank you and thinking of you.”

On the written word and love: It’s fun to know that the work that we’re doing is actually a touchpoint between people. We try to have our greeting cards start a conversation, as opposed to trying to be the conversation, so it is a connection point between two people…. It’s been really amazing also in Chris’ illness to see just how many people still take the time to understand that there is power in the written word. There is power in the connection of reaching out to someone with a written note. I hope we don’t lose that as a people. No one is ever going to take an email and print it out and save it, but I can tell you there are handwritten notes that were sent to Chris and to our family during this time that I will forever treasure.

Find out where you can buy Design with Heart stationery at designwithheart.com.

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Scream Team: Behind-the-scenes look at local haunting industry

Mike Thomas

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Like many a fiend of silver screen fame, the origins of Kelly Collins’ career in terror involve some teens, a campground, and a fateful ride into the deep, dark woods.

Thirty-eight years ago, Collins was general manager at a campground. Every Saturday at noon, he’d hook up a wagon to a tractor and treat the young campers to a hayride through the woods. The route Collins followed circled around an old oak tree, before turning around and coming back to the start. One Saturday, some mischievous teens sprang out from behind the tree, giving quite a scare to the unsuspecting wagoneers. All of the children screamed in surprise—then they laughed.

Kelly Collins (Photo: Brian Kaiser)

This gave Collins an idea. To spice up his little hayride, he would arrange for the teens to act out the same routine the next Saturday— but this time, he’d up the ante by giving them rubber masks to wear. His plan was set in motion, and this time, the startled youngsters on the wagon cried all the way back to the campground.

“That was a bad idea, but it got me thinking...Why don’t we have a hayride at night and call it the ‘Spooky Hayride?’ ” Collins recalls. By fine-tuning the balance between fear and fun, Collins’ new enterprise was a success, and would set him on the path to a lifelong career in the haunted house business, or “haunting” as it’s known to its practitioners.

Early in his career, Collins became a key figure in the Central Ohio scream scene. After his haunted hayride, he spent a couple of seasons overseeing the Hallowscream event at the now- defunct Wyandot Lake. It was there that he was approached by Ken Schnacke, General Manager and President of the Columbus Clippers baseball team, who tapped Collins to create and lead the “Terror Park” event that was held at Cooper Stadium for a decade.

When the Clippers made the move to Huntington Park, the Terror Park event was shelved. Collins set out again on his own, founding the Scareatorium: a haunted house attraction occupying a 40,000-square-foot space in a northeast Columbus strip mall.

Over the next decade, the Scareatorium would serve as a hub for haunters, attracting and nurturing some of the city’s top talents in the field. From actors, makeup artists, set designers and people who just appreciate a good scare, the group that grew from Collins’ enterprise came together over buckets of blood and latex viscera, but now enjoy the valuable connection of a genuine community.

A longtime compatriot of Collins, Keith Newsome was one of the creative minds behind Terror Park and the Scareatorium. Though he specializes in visual effects design and fabrication, Newsome’s talents in haunting are wide-ranging. Since retiring from 13th Floor, Newsome has remained a vital member of the community, teaching classes on topics ranging from makeup application to mask making and performance.

Keith Newsome (Photo: Brian Kaiser)

This season, he’s lending his skills to an attraction in Lancaster, Ohio titled “A True American Haunt: Birth of a Nightmare.” The house is set up in the Miller Building, a “poor house” originally built in 1828, which event promoters suggest may in fact be haunted. According to Newsome, the building is classified as one of the top-10 haunted houses in the United States, and was recently filmed for an upcoming episode of The Travel Channel show Destination Fear.

“It’s actually a haunted place. I don’t believe in that crap...I do now,” says Newsome. “There’s something in that place. I don’t go on the third or fourth floor anymore.”

Keith Newsome (Photo: Brian Kaiser)

Whether patrons can expect to encounter bona fide spirits along with latex-clad actors in this haunt remains to be seen, but whatever the case, the event serves an important purpose. All proceeds from this haunt will benefit Habitat for Humanity’s plan to revitalize the historic Miller Building, and to help build housing for local veterans.

The charitable angle for this event comes as no surprise in an industry that at times seems like an extended family. People attracted to haunting come from every imaginable background, but are united by a common passion.

“I’ve had people who are financial managers of huge companies, down to people who are almost homeless,” says Newsome. “The cool part about it is that we treat everybody equally. When you walk in, you’re automatically family.”

One member of Newsome’s haunt family is Bobbi Jo Gonzalez, an artist who has turned a passion for body art and makeup into a year-round career.

Bobbi Jo Gonzalez (Photo: Brian Kaiser)

Gonzalez’s first foray into the industry came while volunteering with her eldest daughters at a home haunt. Stepping up to fill the need for a makeup artist, Gonzalez gleaned what she could from YouTube videos. Her tool kit at that time consisted of, as she calls it, “that really crappy makeup you get at Kroger around Halloween.”

After encouragement from her peers at smaller attractions, Gonzalez eventually made her way to the Scareatorium, where she met Newsome. Newsome introduced her to higher-quality, water-based makeup, and she went on to mentor under the more experienced effects artist for two years.

Photo: Brian Kaiser

Today, Gonzalez is the owner of Aftershock Art, a thriving face painting and body art company that operates year-round. She’s also found a healthy sideline doing moulage—the art of creating realistic, simulated injuries on actors during training exercises for the military and first responders.

Like her mentor, Gonzalez sees the past support and encouragement from members of the haunt community as a foundation of the success she now enjoys.

“It’s something that we’re all passionate about, so once you find your niche in that community, it doesn’t matter what your background is, what your religion is, what your sexual orientation is—you have that weird background, and you have a family for life,” Gonzalez explains.

While basking in the warm embrace of your fellow ghoul is reason enough to keep some hooked on this line of work, there’s another essential element that unifies all haunters: the love of the scare.

“I fell in love. I didn’t know you could have so much fun scaring people,” says Ashley Shilling, another former employee of Collins from the Sacreatorium days who today serves as general manager of the 13th Floor Haunt.

Ashley Shilling (Photo: Brian Kaiser)

“Being an actor is a huge stress relief,” Shilling explains. “Getting to scare people kicks in your endorphins, especially if you can make a big man that looks very intimidating scream like a little girl—that’s a lot of fun. At the end of the night, you’re just relaxed.”

Whether drawn to a sense of community that can sometimes be hard to find in the world at large, or simply in it for the thrill of scaring people, the haunting industry has an undeniable pull for those that find their way into its spooky ranks. Even retired industry veteran Collins is unable to fully step away from the work, and is gearing up for his first season as manager of a Spirit Halloween supply store in Newark, Ohio.

“When you scare people, and they scream and run away from you, it’s a great way to let out pent-up frustration,” Collins says. “You could have the worst day in the world, and within a few minutes of working at the haunted house, you feel so much better. It’s a great tension reliever.”

In professional haunting, one person’s fear is another’s bliss.

For more information on the 13th Floor Haunt and other haunted houses happening in October, click here.

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Photo Gallery: HighBall Halloween

614now Staff

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HighBall Halloween is the nation’s most elaborate costume party. Staged in the Art & Soul of Columbus, the annual event bridges runway style with the culture of the Short North Arts District.

Much like in years past, the city turned out in full force and full costume to celebrate fashion, fall, and fun with host Nina West.

Here's a look at some of the best looks of HighBall 2019:

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I Love My Job: CBJ national anthem singer Leo Welsh

Regina Fox

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Every day, people all around Columbus drive/ride/walk to their jobs, eager to contribute their passion and talent to the city. This series aims to highlight those people and give them a platform to spread their love for their careers. Welcome to I Love My Job.

You may not know his face (depending on your seats), but you definitely know his name: LEO! Longtime Columbus Blue Jackets national anthem singer Leo Welsh has been stealing the hearts of hockey-goers at Nationwide Arena with his impressive pipes and passion for the game since 2003.

Here is why he loves his job so much:

614: What do you love most about your job? 

LW: The thing I love most about my position with the CBJ is being such a fan and being part of the game experience. It is a total thrill every single time. 

614: What parts of your job do you find most challenging?

LW: The most challenging part would have to be maintaining my health during the winter. Hard to sing well when you aren’t feeling your best. 

614: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

LW: The most rewarding aspect is when I am singing and I can see young people singing along to our National Anthem.

614: What’s the best story you have from your time with the Columbus Blue Jackets?

LW: So many great stories and interactions with fans and our military honorees. Most recently the playoffs from last year strand out. The CBJ had a World War II veteran on the ice with me every night. These men were all special and excited the crowd and made it very easy for me to be focused on honoring our country. Several were arm in arm with me and singing along to our National Anthem, very special moments. 

614: Who has been the most influential mentor in your career so far?

LW: I have had many great teachers and mentors. Maestro William Boggs stands out. He is one of the reasons I moved to Columbus following graduation from Ohio University. He offered me a job with Opera Columbus. He was critical when he needed to be, demanded preparation from his singers and was supportive by offering examples and best practices at all times. Truly a great mentor.

Leo will be leading players and fans in the national anthem this Friday as the Blue Jackets open their season against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Nationwide Arena. Puck drops at 7pm.

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