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Doug Fordyce, Amandda Tirey, and Joseph Holliman III
Synergy is a term that has gained a lot of currency in the arena of business mergers and consolidations, and it’s also a word that applies to the dynamic movement in the Short North these days.
With the recent expansion of the district with the Cap over Interstate Highway 670 and the further gentrification of High Street north of 3rd Avenue, the Short North is beginning to look and feel different. There’s no doubt that the more upscale nature of the district in recent years has driven out some smaller vendors whose specialties were on the fringes. Yet new businesses continue to crop up and old ones are finding ways to stay vital and increase their market viability.
Short North synergy is changing the way in which several businesses – Studio 16, Curio-A-Go-Go, and Alpha State – are moving into the future. As they reorganize and revitalize, their synergy will affect businesses around them and the entire Short North area.
When artist and gallery owner Doug Fordyce accidentally bumped into Dan Snouffer and Michael Wharton at the Arena Grand Theater one weekend afternoon in November, things started to bubble. Snouffer and Wharton, who have just moved their shop, Curio-A-Go-Go, from 17 Buttles Ave. to 861 N. High St., tried to convince Fordyce to move Studio 16 from its current location into their old address.
“We really wanted Doug to move into our old space because it was so hard to let go of it and we hoped someone we knew and liked would get it,” Snouffer says.
At first Fordyce was not enticed by the idea; he was happy with Studio 16’s location at 431 W. 3rd Ave., across the street from Caffé Apropos in the Harrison West neighborhood. But then “I took a look at the space, and the idea of having a larger gallery, a separate classroom, and a separate design office really appealed to me,” Fordyce says.
Studio 16’s new location has almost three times the square footage of the Harrison West venue, where Fordyce had to use the main space as both a gallery and a studio for the classes offered by his co-op. Fordyce and his new business partner, Joseph Holliman III, have signed a 3-year lease with some rent flexibility in the first year.
The other beneficiary of this chain reaction of trading spaces is Alpha State, Studio 16’s former neighbor. Alpha State, which offers massage therapy and classes in yoga, Pilates, meditation, and the movement arts, will expand into the space vacated by Studio 16.
The co-owners of Alpha State, Lee Kelly and Lori Guth-Moffett, are thrilled with the opportunity to expand their business into the area vacated by Fordyce. “It couldn’t have come at a better time,” Kelly says. “We were beginning to ask the universe for the new space as it happened.”
Alpha State will use this expansion opportunity in several ways. They’re currently forced to offer their Pilates machine classes in the same space as the yoga and movement arts studio.
“We will now have more working space for Pilates,” Kelly says, “and the new space will allow us to get more equipment and offer more machine time and studio space to more students and clients.”
Kelly and Guth-Moffett also plan to bring in more experts and other practitioners to increase the diversity of classes and teaching styles available to their clientele.
Looking back, looking forward
Co-op members Jenn Marlatt, Adam Brouillette, Erica Rusick, and Trevor Boswell.
Studio 16 opened in October 2002 when the space owned by Martin Wilt at 431 West 3rd Avenue became available. Fordyce was trying to figure out a way to make a living as an artist, a difficult undertaking in many ways. Fordyce had freelanced as an artist and graphic designer, and had a studio in the Buggyworks building in the Arena District, before the gentrification and corporatization of the area drove out artists and others who couldn’t afford the skyrocketing rents.
Fordyce’s dreams started to materialize with the formation of Studio 16, what he calls “a gallery run by an artist’s co-op.” Here he brought together a group of artists to work not only toward a space where they could exhibit their art, but also toward a larger presence of art and artists in the area.
Studio 16’s mission is larger than simply the creation and consumption of art works. Fordyce created the co-op to serve the community in a variety of ways. Studio 16 offers classes in the arts taught by both members of the co-op and experts from the Ohio arts community at large. Studio 16 also hires interns from local college art departments, giving them invaluable training in the pragmatic and business aspects of the art world.
Fordyce calls his experience with Studio 16 “very positive.”
“My main reason for starting Studio 16 was to try and make a living at my art,” he says. “I also wanted to find ways for other artists to make money as well.”
Founding and running the co-op has had its ups and downs, Fordyce says: “The highlight is definitely when we would open a show for a new artist and they would sell over a thousand dollars of work that first night. To see the reaction of the artist and the aftermath of that event was fantastic.”
The low point was a robbery in January 2003. In the middle of the night someone broke in and stole art and equipment worth more than $10,000. The real heartbreak: the theft occurred not only a week before Studio 16’s first group show, but also a week before the business was to get its insurance and install a security system. In addition to the art, power tools, and cases of beer and wine for the opening, the criminals took with them Fordyce’s sense of security and peace of mind.
David Jones was a founding member of Studio 16 and left during the second year to pursue other interests. According to Fordyce, "He was a very large part of the start of Studio 16."
Fordyce will move into the new Buttles Avenue space with a new business partner, Joseph Holliman III. The two are in the planning and interviewing stages of hiring a part-time administrative director, although the co-op will continue to attract interns from prestigious art schools and colleges in the area to help out with day-to-day business.
Holliman brings to the partnership business planning expertise and an “entrepreneurial bent.”
His plans for Studio 16 include taking advantage of its new location off of High Street.
“I intend to market the new location properly. I want to grow the foot traffic and art sales,” he says. “I want to grow the Studio 16 design side as well.”
Holliman will continue in his regular job as a payroll accountant for the state of Ohio as he becomes what he calls “the money man” for Studio 16.
Studio 16 becomes the second art co-op in the Short North area, joining Studios on High at 686 N. High St. Although each is a collection of artists coming together to make and display their work, there are a few fundamental differences.
Contemporary painter and ceramicist Teda Theis, a member of the Studios on High co-op, explains that that business is an artist-owned and -operated gallery in which all 18 artist members have an ownership stake through rent and membership fees. Each artist works one day a week at the co-op gallery, and from time to time a few of the artists create work in the space itself. In addition, all the artists’ works are constantly on display in the gallery.
Studio 16, on the other hand, has separate shows throughout the year that feature the co-op artists’ work. In addition, Fordyce and Holliman are the sole owners of Studio 16. The artists pay a yearly fee and additional costs toward the marketing and publicity for their particular shows, and are expected to assist with co-op duties, from helping to hang shows and host opening night receptions to conducting classes and helping to run the day-to-day business.
Studio 16 will be bringing to the Short North a variety of classes open to the general public and to artists with all levels of experience and expertise. "It is so cool to take an art class in the heart of Columbus' arts district," says Fordyce. This year they will be offering eight-week classes in beginning drawing, beginning and intermediate oil painting, beginning watercolor in Goodale Park, and figure drawing. Starting April 29, Studio 16 will do something especially fun and innovative – they are offering an open studio figure drawing class on Tuesdays from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m.
Camaraderie and commiseration of co-op cohorts
The members of the Studio 16 co-op have varied from year to year. But in that ever-changing group remain a few stalwarts fast becoming old faithfuls.
Studio 16 member Susan O’Dell, a trained seamstress by profession, uses textiles, found objects, and other media to create intimate, thought-provoking works. She’s recently started to explore what she calls “sky paintings.” These are a series of works based on images of the sky that O'Dell has been painting based on photographs she takes of the firmament at various times of the day.
O’Dell met Fordyce when they were co-workers at Dragonfly Design a Columbus design firm that provides graphics and art work for businesses and marketing purposes. O’Dell says that when Fordyce started Studio 16 in 2002 and approached her to become a founding member, “I said ‘absolutely’.”
O’Dell is enthusiastic about her last two years with the co-op. “It has been very good, particularly meeting more artists, seeing what the others are doing, and being more involved with the arts community in general.”
O’Dell says she also loves the “camaraderie of an encouraging and nurturing group.”
This sentiment is echoed by Jay Moffett (partner of Lori Guth-Moffett of Alpha State). Moffett says that he “needed to get together with other artists to get back into the art world,” something he had left behind for quite a while. When Lori introduced him to Fordyce, Moffett decided to join Studio 16 in its second year. “I am now a sophomore,” he jokes.
Like O’Dell, Moffett loves the “co-operation, encouragement and critiques” the other artists provide. “We bang ideas off of each other, and there is a creative energy here that truly inspires.”
This year he plans to continue to explore in his painting “a microscopic examination of line and color.”
Like Fordyce and other co-op members, Moffett is excited about the impending move. “There’s going to be an incredible energy as we re-launch Studio 16,” he says. Moffett says that the previous location was a bit “isolating” and that “people forgot about us being there from time to time.”
Another founding member, Rob Colgan, who made a splash with his photography at the Toledo Museum of Art in 2003, is taking this year off from the co-op to finish work on his own studio. Colgan, who had a studio in the Buggyworks building, had to leave due to skyrocketing rents and eventually decided to add a studio to his home. Colgan will surely be back, as he has been an integral part of Studio 16 since its inception.
Meanwhile, the “freshman class” has started at the co-op, and includes Erica Rusick, Shannon Fleet, and Adam Brouillette.
When Fordyce was looking for new members for the 2005 year, he invited Brouillette based on the artist’s works exhibited at a few shows in the Short North. Brouillette jumped at the opportunity.
A printmaking instructor at Columbus College of Art and Design, Brouillette also works in acrylics, creating images based in the world of cartooning and pop art and reminiscent of works by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.
Brouillette is looking forward to the show he has to prepare for at Studio 16 later this year. In a change from past years, in 2005 all co-op artists will have shows with two other artists, rather than solo shows. This allows the Studio 16 schedule greater flexibility and the possibility of many more shows for the artists and for the audiences, who are sure to visit the new location in greater numbers than they did at Studio 16’s prior incarnation.
Birthday boy’s bonanza: Fordyce’s 40 at 40
On April 22, Fordyce will turn 40. Born in 1965 in Elyria, Ohio, and raised in his parents’ hometown, Pine Grove, W. Va., Fordyce graduated from Valley High School in June 1983 and moved to Columbus that October. Except for a brief stint in Newport, R.I., he has spent the past 20-plus years in Columbus.
He attended CCAD for 3 1/2 years, majoring in illustration, but left after 3 1/2 years due to financial constraints, then spent two years in the art department at Ohio State University and graduated in 1997 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.
Since then, Fordyce has been forging an independent path to success and prominence in the art world.
“I have been pushing the last two years or so to get a lot accomplished – to establish more of a career in graphics, to become a better painter, and to push the gallery in new directions.”
Fordyce says he’s looking forward to turning 40 and creating more balance in his life after the overwhelming workload of the past few years: “I have been working constantly at some aspect of the business or my art.”
As he struggles to achieve that balance between work and play, it’s evident that he’ll have to give up some – or perhaps a lot of – control over Studio 16. This can be a double-edged sword at times for someone who has been so in control of all aspects of his business.
“It is difficult sometimes and at others it is a huge relief,” Fordyce says.
When I ask him if there’s something about turning 40 that he is not looking forward to, he jokes that his “knees are already giving out.”
Those knees are probably getting even more worn as the artist races time to finish 40 new paintings for a solo show, the inaugural exhibit at the new Studio 16 venue.
Although the newer pieces are mostly works in progress at the moment, they promise to provide a dynamic, explosive start for the new phase of the business – which augurs incredibly well for the future of Studio 16. Fordyce continues to work with abstract painting, although he has started to experiment with new materials that are stretching his work in fantastic new ways. The show opens on April 22 and runs through May 6.
Studio 16 is not just moving east; it is moving up!
email Doug Fordyce at email@example.com
Studio 16, 17 Buttles Avenue. 614-220-9016. www.studio16.org closed December 2005
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