Columbus, Ohio USA
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Goodale Garage Enhances Parking Experience With Art
David Cooke's painting celebrates city's urban parks
By Tracy Zollinger Turner
January/February 2016 Issue

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© Detail of David Cooke's painting
placed in the Goodale Street Garage.

David Cooke spends most of his days responding to the needs of corporate clients as a designer and plenty of his evenings responding to the rapidly changing demands of his neighborhood as a fourth-term appointee to the Italian Village Commission. Having a visual sensibility that was grounded in a fine arts background, he’s cultivated a second career as a visual artist, which has led to major commissions, including his large-scale “Airborne Orange and Swimming Pool Spaghetti II,” which resides in the Hilton Columbus Downtown restaurant. He is now one of eight Central Ohio artists commissioned to create work for a major installation in the Goodale Street Garage.

It took time for Cooke to come around to the passion that began for him in college. Several years ago, after telling a peer how much he wanted to return to the canvas in a fine arts capacity, Cooke was challenged to really do it. During a brief period in which he lived in northern Ohio, he took classes at the Cleveland Museum of Art, where he was told by his instructor “you don’t need classes, you need a studio.”

His Italian Village home of the past 17 years served as a makeshift studio for a long time – his kitchen in the cold months, his garage in the summertime. But his recent success prompted him to procure his own studio space, where he happily experiments with different techniques, like putting his paintbrush in his non-dominant hand.

“From nine to five, no one is going to pay me to draw a crooked line,” says Cooke. “I’m right-handed, so it’s amazingly freeing when I paint left-handed… Many times the gestures are serendipitous. They lead you to a discovery, get you to leave the work behind and be in playtime, creative time.”

“Most of my work is color-based first. Exploration of color is very important to me,” he says, noting its basic parallel to the work he does in his day job, where he is charged with coming up with a color palette for places like senior living communities. But during his studio time, he often reaches back to imagery from his childhood, like a box of tin cut stencils he remembers using.

“Right now I’m exploring aerial landscapes in abstraction,” he says, which he is playing with by creating textures with painted bubble wrap and other unconventional materials. “I remember as a small child seeing from an airplane how much the world looks like a massive quilt.”

The ten-foot painting he created for the Goodale garage explores the structure of trees, which has interested him since college. As he went through the proposal process, Cooke moved outside of his usual work in acrylic paint, with graphite pencils and oil crayons adding color intensity, as well as textual elements that celebrate Columbus’ urban parks. A fitting homage as the garage is anchored on Goodale Street, home to the city’s oldest park.

“Parks in the city are very, very important,” says Cooke, who recounts the history of the Goodale Park zoo, and the fact that it used to have a much larger, boat rental-worthy body of water “until it started leaking into the basements of the beautiful homes.”

“So this piece is celebrating something about Columbus that can start conversation and discussion,” he says. “Plus, you probably wouldn’t expect to see trees in a parking garage.”

The painting actually appears in the garage at three times its size, having been digitally photographed and transferred onto rectangular tile. The original work will hang inside the Greater Columbus Convention Center itself.

“I applaud the county and the city for building art as a theme for our city and making us an art destination… For adding public art to spaces like a parking garage that can be pretty utilitarian, pretty brutal, and introducing the city to visitors that way.”

The Goodale garage is part of a much larger commitment to Central Ohio artwork on the part of the board of Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority, which owns and operates the Greater Columbus Convention Center. The FCCFA also owns the Hilton Columbus Downtown at 401 N. High St. and backed its substantial collection of work by local artists.

Reese Brothers Productions, a pair of consultants who assisted the county with the Hilton’s collection, are now assisting with the art curation for the Greater Columbus Convention Center. The scope of the project includes the eight original works being created for the Goodale garage, the Hyatt’s garage, and installations in the Vine Street garage that are facilitated by local arts organizations that engage the creative contributions of children and young adults. Several other pieces will live in the exterior and interior of the convention center, totaling over 100 works by as many artists. Each will have a QR code that allows visitors to learn more about the artist and the production of his or her work.

The Goodale garage project has come together quickly through a proposal process that began last spring and is expected to be complete by this one. Short North resident Michael Reese (one half of the Reese Brothers) was instrumental in designing the proposal process, pulling together a committee to review the proposals and helping to work with the selected artists.

“When you’re creating something, you don’t fully know what you’re going to get,” says Reese. “The thing about artists is that they have a design that they want to come across, and sometimes you say ‘I feel like I see this in this,’ and they can decide whether they want to develop it further.”

Discussion and a stipend to support his time was part of the reason Cooke’s painting moved from trees into a piece that incorporates the names of city parks. But not all of the installation that will live in the garage – which may open with all of the installed work as early as the end of February – were produced in the same way with digitized tiles or such a direct relationship to the city, although one includes iconic signs of Columbus. There are others with hand-painted or glass tiles, a graffiti piece and mosaic.

In addition to the loftier goals of promoting central Ohio artists and keeping the city’s image in a level reflection of its existing artistic energy, there’s also a practical aspect to the work in the Goodale garage.

“It’s a great way of remembering where you parked,” says Reese. “More than the orange level or something that’s easy to forget – it’s ‘the one with all of the fish.’”

© 2016 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.

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