Columbus, Ohio USA
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Marcia Evans Gallery celebrates ten years
Contemporary art space an eye-to-heart experience
By Karen Edwards
© Photo by Larry Hamill
Marcia Evans may not have seen herself running an art gallery when she was young, but there was no question she was destined for a creative path.
“My family was made up of artists,” she says. Growing up in northwest Ohio, amid a large family of parents and siblings who played the piano and violin, taught school, made art, and worked on environmental concerns (among other things), Evans couldn’t help pursuing those interests herself while in school.
“The nuns who taught at my school were into handwriting and art as well, so I was encouraged in that direction from a young age,” she says.
By the time Evans reached high school, she was vice president of the art club – a responsibility she balanced with the more physical activities of cheerleading and with school work. After high school, she attended Toledo University for a couple of years. “As art students, we had an incredible advantage because we had the Toledo Museum of Art. We would hear a lecture on a painting or an artist, then go upstairs to see the real thing,” Evans recalls. She spent her last two college years at Ohio University where she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Her son, Thane, by the way, also graduated from Ohio University, creating his own major in Sustainable City Planning. “He decided, after 12 years of piano lessons to play keyboard in the popular local band Sassafraz,” Evans says.
Then, it was on to a job at what was then Lazarus department store. “I started out in visual display, then worked there as a graphic designer,” she says. As the store’s only graphic designer, Evans was not only designing silk screen sale graphics but also departmental logos. In addition, she coordinated advertising with graphics for all 17 Lazarus stores that existed in the store’s heyday. As if that wasn’t enough, Evans also freelanced as a photo stylist. “I loved it all,” she says now. She especially enjoyed viewing her designs all over town on the store’s Christmas shopping bags. “I got a kick out of seeing all these people carrying bags with designs I had created.”
A new adventure
Evans was with Lazarus for 10 years, and it was through a Lazarus connection that she was led to her next job – with Brenda Kroos who owned what Evans describes as the coolest gallery in the ‘80s. It was located in Olde Towne East on Parsons Avenue at the corner of Oak Street. When Kroos invited her to work with her at the gallery, Evans didn’t hesitate. “I loved my job at Lazarus,” Evans says, “but I knew this was something I was meant to do. Here was an opportunity to learn from the best.”
From her first week on the job, Evans was swept into the world of artists and art lovers, gallery owners and art supporters.
“Brenda took me to New York and introduced me to gallery owners there,” she recalls. A world of connections began to unfold for Evans.
She stayed with the Kroos gallery for a few years, but left to become manager at an Indianapolis art gallery. Over time, Evans would go on to work for six art galleries in all. In the meantime, she was also building a business as a respected art consultant – a natural off-shoot to her gallery work.
By 2006, Evans was back in Columbus and shopping for space where she could open a gallery of her own. She looked everywhere. “I looked at places in Granville and Grandview, German Village, Bexley, all over. Then I thought, ‘What am I doing?’ I knew I wanted my gallery to be in the heart of Columbus’s art district, and that was the Short North.”
The greatest risk brings the greatest reward
Of course, in 2006 opening a brick-and-mortar establishment of any kind was a risk. The Internet was exploding – changing the way the world did business. Goods of all kind could appear before your eyes with the click of a mouse. And when has opening an art gallery not been considered a risky venture? Was she a dreamer?
Maybe. “I read something on a sign, once, though, and it has become my guiding philosophy,” Evans says. The sign read: “The greatest risk is not taking one.”
Besides, Evans wasn’t walking into this adventure as a neophyte. She had worked at six art galleries. She had a successful art consulting business. She knew the art world, she knew artists, and she knew what it takes to make a gallery succeed.
Initially, she relied on art from her own wide circle of artist friends, but as the gallery’s reputation grew, more and more artists contacted her about showing their work. The gallery was a success.
The selection process, Evans explains, is a complicated one. “There’s no quick answer to how I select an artist to feature,” she says. “I’ve developed my own formula over time.
“Her only niche is she doesn’t have one,” says Java Kitrick, president and director of Puffin Foundation West, Ltd in describing Evans. “She has an eye that is not jaded or constrained to a specific genre. She’s also not afraid to highlight different artists who have a commonality in tone or texture, and she’ll show their work together.”
Whether there is profit to be made from an artist or not, Evans makes her gallery walls available. “She has represented activist artists, including Eva Andry, a California artist who put faces to the names of the first 350 fallen American troops in Iraq,” Kitrick continues. More recently, Evans featured Andry’s “Cell Phone Zombies” exhibit, which highlights the disconnection that occurs when people are too connected to their devices.
Annette Poitau has shown her work frequently at the Marcia Evans gallery and has an upcoming show that will run at the gallery through April and May. Her new pieces will include those with the rich color she likes to work in, “but I’m also excited to show a new series of paintings whose palette is primarily black, white and blue,” she says. For Poitau, the Marcia Evans gallery has a great location, but she says the biggest reason for her ongoing association with the gallery is Marcia Evans herself. “She is incredibly dedicated to her gallery work, and the artists she represents,” Poitau says. “She combines passion and honesty. Since the beginning, we have shared a feeling of mutual trust and belief in one another’s capacities. She has become a friend.”
Walking the walk
Indeed, Evans doesn’t just talk the talk – she walks the walk. She is vice president of the Columbus Museum of Arts’ Beaux Arts committee; is a committee member for the Percent for the Art program of the Ohio Arts Council, which selects art for federal buildings; and she is a frequent university and corporate lecturer on art. Evans also advocates for artists through her consulting business and of course through her gallery. And by collecting art herself.
“I try to buy something from all the artists whose work I show,” says Evans. She collects paintings, glass, prints and sculpture from other artists as well. Evans says one of the most prized pieces of her collection is a work by Louise Nevelson, whose wood reliefs are in the collection of art museums all over the world.
“Art is so personal,” says Evans. “It’s unique to everyone’s taste. If you buy art, you have to love it.” And how do you know you love it until you actually see it in person? You owe the artist the opportunity to at least meet his or her art in person, view it eye-to-eye, or maybe eye-to-heart. Never online. “Buying art online is a huge disadvantage,” says Evans. It’s like listening to a taped version of a rock concert. Without experiencing a painting in person, you can’t see the subtle shading, the fine detail, the painting’s texture. You can’t experience its heart. And there is no soul.
10th Year Celebration
Evans’s 10th-anniversary show this month will feature works of contemporary realism and surrealism by artists Erik Horvath and Kate Morgan. “Erik walked into the gallery one day and showed me his work,” says Evans. “I was blown away, and I knew his work would show well with Kate’s work. She is a painter and mixed-media artist.” Both are local artists, by the way, and with today’s trend of seeking out and buying local, that means something.
“This year, I’m trying to think out of the box,” says Evans. Galleries, after all, are like any other business. If they want to stay viable, they need to re-invent themselves over time.
“I’m showing artists I haven’t shown before, and I’m exploring different forms of art as well,” she says. For example, Evans just featured the work of Will Shively, whose photographs of the Columbus Metropolitan Ballet dancers are full of grace, drama and beauty. “I’ve never featured Will’s work before,” says Evans, though photography is a standby in her gallery, as she’s shown the photographs of several local artists.“I currently represent about 30 artists, more or less – most are local but some are national,” she says. Still, this year, Evans says: “I’m looking for unique differences I can feature this year, as well as ways to combine works of art with a common thread, as with the March show.”
How do you get started buying art? “Start with a Gallery Hop, and visit the galleries,” Evans suggests. That’s what the new “Start with Art” program is all about. It’s a reminder that the monthly Gallery Hop is just that. A chance to stop by the Short North’s dozen art galleries to see the new artists, and to check out, if you will, a gallery’s soul. “The Gallery Hops are invitations to learn about art, to learn your tastes, what you like and don’t like in art,” says Evans. Gallery owners are always happy to answer questions and to provide you with exposure to a wide variety of artists and art styles.
Stroll into any Short North art gallery and you’ll see an artist’s heart – on canvas, in glass or sculpture – a riot of color, or tints as soft as whispers. Forms may be recognizable, traditional, or abstract and otherwordly – but whatever shape the art may take, you hear the artist talk, you read the artist’s thoughts, you see exactly what it is the artists sees. No artist can hide his or her heart when working on their art.
Visit the Marcia Evans Gallery at 8 East Lincoln St. this month to view works by Erik Horvath and Kate Morgan. In April and May, Annette Poitau's new works will remain on view, with an opening reception Friday, April 1 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Regular hours for the gallery are Tuesday through Saturday 11-5, occasional Sundays. Visit www.marciaevansgallery.com for more.
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