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Lather, Rinse, REVAMP
Waldo's on High gets a new owner - and a makeover

March 2008
by Jennifer Hambrick


Patricia Young (left) owned and operated Waldo's on High at 755 N. High St.
for 14 years before selling the business to Christine Chamness last summer.
Pati's work continues there as art curator and part-time stylist. PHOTO/ Darren Carlson

A little off here, a layer or two there, then add some highlights.

Christine Chamness, the new owner of Waldo’s on High, has heard it thousands of times. Now that’s what she’s done to her salon.

One of the Short North’s earliest salon-galleries, Waldo’s on High has coiffed many a client in its 23-year existence. When Chamness took over as owner in July 2007, she gave the hip, artsy salon a makeover and added new spa hair services to its menu. And Chamness says Waldo’s fresh look makes it no less the Short North institution it always has been.

A Fresh New Face
Chamness says she’s taken the unisex salon’s hair services and ambience to the next level.

“We’ve done pretty much a full renovation, and the quality of service that we’re doing is at a more upscale level,” Chamness said. “Waldo’s has been here forever, but now we want to focus more on building our clientele from what we have in referrals and getting our face out there as an upscale, premium salon.”

As one of only three L’Oréal Elite salons in central Ohio, Waldo’s now offers new spa treatments for the hair in the L’Oréal Professional line, including four new pre-treatments for the scalp for repairing damaged hair and for coloring hair.

“Basically they’re (salon) treatments that you can get to make your color penetrate deeper, last longer and make your hair healthier,” Chamness said. “They’re like an extra shot of conditioning treatment.”

Chamness says Waldo’s also has upgraded its after-color service, treatments that volumize, repair and promote better color for the hair. These treatments can be updated at home with the products from the L’Oréal Professional retail line available at Waldo’s.

“All of the shampoos and conditioners in our retail treatment line contain diluted forms of the same ceramides that are in the treatments, so you’re constantly being exposed to those services,” Chamness said.

To showcase the upgrade in salon and retail services, Waldo’s also has undergone a transformation in its physical space. Chamness has remodeled and redecorated the salon, replacing outdated styling stations with brand-new equipment and installing a reception lounge, complete with luxurious overstuffed sofas and complimentary coffee. In addition to the artwork perennially on display at the salon-gallery, Waldo’s now also soothes the eye with a relaxing décor scheme of muted golds and purples.
“It was kind of a hodge-podge of stuff prior to July, so we wanted everything to be cohesive as far as the way the atmosphere felt,” Chamness said.

To celebrate this makeover, Chamness aims to heighten Waldo’s visibility in community events. The salon’s staff will serve as hair stylists for the Columbus Destroyers Bombshell Dance Team through 2009. Chamness also plans to enhance her staff’s reputation as go-to stylists for professional photo shoots, like the one they completed recently for their next-door neighbor, the fashion boutique Dr. Mojoe.

“We can accommodate any client, from a young child all the way up through the professional model, professional women,” Chamness said.

Some things will stay the same, though. Waldo’s will still make the December Holiday Hop a signature event at the salon by going all out on eye-catching designs (with live mannequins) for its front window. But perhaps most importantly, the salon will continue to function as one of the Short North’s most progressive art galleries, a reputation that results from the aesthetic talents of Waldo’s stylist, gallery curator and former owner Pati Young. Considered an institution herself by many of the artists she has nurtured at Waldo’s, Young will stay on as curator and part-time stylist, and the Waldo’s gallery tradition will carry on in all its deliciously odd splendor.

Johanna Teschner pictured here a year or two after Waldo's opened
at the corner of Buttles and High in 1985. The salon was named
after her shobbish cat, Waldo.

Not Your Mother’s Art Gallery
When Johanna Teschner and her business partner, the late Michael Evans, opened Waldo’s in December 1985 at High and Buttles, the area around it was still known as the Near North Side. Teschner and Evans had each developed a good clientele while working as stylists at Snippers, formerly in the campus area, but they wanted to open their own place. They had their eye on the High and Buttles property, and Teschner, who lived around the corner from it with her cat “Waldo” knew the area well.

Waldo’s on High wasn’t the first hair salon-gallery in the Short North – that honor goes to Doo-Wac, which Brad Sutton opened at High and King in 1984 and expanded into a salon-gallery in 1985. But Teschner and Evans thought another salon would be a welcome addition to the few commercial enterprises then in the area.

“It seemed like a neighborhood that things were going to be happening in,” Teschner said. “It would be easy for the people in the neighborhood to walk to, and it would probably just be the neighborhood hair salon.”

In 1985 things were happening as the Near North Side struggled to remove itself from the throes of decline and decay. In the salon’s early days, Teschner recalls watching prostitutes work their territory outside the span of windows that made up Waldo’s south wall.

Still, great strides had been made in renovating the historic residences of Victorian Village and Italian Village, and other businesses were opening up along the Short North’s High St. corridor. Even art galleries – including pm gallery, Artreach Gallery, Glass Galaxy, Studios on High – had begun to spring up.

“I think we just realized that there was something exciting getting ready to happen,” Teschner said. “We had a gallery in the lobby (of Waldo’s), and we did that because we realized that making the Short North a place for the arts was probably a good thing, and we wanted to support the other galleries down there.”

The first art show at Waldo’s was in place by the time the salon opened for business in December 1985. Right away, Teschner and Evans hired more stylists and someone to oversee the gallery. Teschner’s then husband, glass artist Bill Teschner-Breitbart, who curated the gallery during Waldo’s first few several years of business, looked for trained artists whose work was not always marketable in independent commercial art galleries.

“They were artists who chose to work in styles that one might not readily buy, but they definitely know what they’re doing and they’re definitely trained and they definitely have an eye toward something,” Teschner-Breitbart said.

Waldo’s was host to many edgy shows and installations, Teschner said, some a little too edgy. In one installation, a group of women artists decked out the salon’s window with waves of red velvet, and attached handwritten notes bearing quotations about menstruation.

“People did not like it,” Teschner said of the installation. “It bothered a lot of people. One customer told me, ‘I can’t wait until this goes down.’ One thing I thought was cool was that our customers really paid attention to the art we put up.”

But Teschner and Teschner-Breitbart were willing to show controversial art at Waldo’s.

“We could always take more chances with things that were more controversial because we did not have to make a living off of the gallery,” Teschner said.

Teschner-Breitbart had one other criterion for the artists he invited to show at Waldo’s: they had to keep their egos and their tendencies to procrastinate in check.

“My personal take on the business was, there were and are plenty of artists out there whose work is really excellent that I don’t need to deal with insane people who are problematic artists,” Teschner-Brietbart said.

Despite this decree, Teschner-Breitbart says he had difficulties with some of Waldo’s artists. More than once he considered closing the gallery to rid himself of the hassle of organizing creative types whose happiest moments are outside the box.

“When I got an artist through the gallery who made my life easy – had all their work ready, showed up when they said they were going to show up, was professional about getting their work installed – that was a rare occasion,” Teschner-Breitbart said. “Most of the time it was, Why aren’t they here? Why are their paintings still wet? Why do they not know how they want their work to be hung?”

Why didn’t Teschner-Breitbart close the gallery?

“I am kind of foolishly dedicated to my profession for some reason,” Teschner-Breitbart said. “I guess I believed in art as an important form of communication that fills an area of communication that the written and spoken word can’t fill and that is important to human beings.”

The late Michael Evans, original co-owner of Waldo's, circa 1986.

Waldo’s moved to its current location, 755 N. High, in 1987, and in 1993 Teschner-Breitbart handed over his responsibilities as gallery curator to one of the salon’s stylists, Pati Young. Young had taken some art classes at Ohio State and had both the passion and the right philosophy to organize art shows at Waldo’s.

“Hair is art,” Young said. “I’ve always felt that it’s actually one of the most rewarding, fastest pieces of art that a person can become involved in. A very good friend of mine said, ‘Darling, only the highest of the high touches the head of the Buddha.’ It’s a very gratifying thing that you can make people happy and you’ve created it yourself.”

Young, like Teschner-Breitbart, had no qualms about taking risks with the artwork she displayed in the salon. And because Waldo’s had established itself as a go-to place for budding young artists, Young never had to beat the bushes for new talent. Artists, instead, came to her.

“Back in the day, it was really the place for young artists, a good jump-off point,” Ron Arps, a painter who has had several shows at Waldo’s, said. “A lot of young artists cut their teeth there. It was a transition between coffee house and actual commercial gallery.”

That Waldo’s wasn’t a fulltime commercial art gallery meant it didn’t have a commercial gallery’s credibility. Still, it became a respectable venue for uninitiated or semi-initiated artists, largely because Young wouldn’t let just anybody show there.

“Pati had a very good eye, and it seemed like there was a more stringent curatorial oversight,” Arps said. “It wasn’t just anybody who happened to knock a handful of paintings could get on their walls just because they had empty wall space. It was more like going to a regular gallery and having to show that you had some work of merit in order to get in.”

The crop shop’s status as a salon-gallery seems to have hit the right nerve for what was then a nascent arts district in a sleepy Midwestern town. The hybrid art gallery-other commercial enterprise had just the right quirkiness and just the right art-meets-real life aura to appeal to all comers. In this respect, Maria Galloway, owner of pm gallery, the Short North’s longest-running gallery, says Waldo’s even today reflects the essence of the Short North.

“People bring (art) into their homes, they bring it into where they work. I don’t see a legitimate dividing line between where you should see art, and where you shouldn’t. It’s one of the things that makes the Short North the Short North, it’s part of our vibrancy: we don’t shut art away and make it precious.”

Cleo, by Ron Arps, mixed media on canvas, 1996.

And every artist knows he’ll have a heck of a time making the rent if perpetually holed up in a garret currying favor with the muse. In art, as in many other kinds of business, there’s almost – almost – no such thing as bad publicity. That’s why artists, especially those who weren’t as well received in the Short North’s commercial galleries flocked to Waldo’s for a chance to get their work, and their names, seen.

Painter George Kraemer, who has had half a dozen shows at Waldo’s since his first show there in 1997, says Young, who by that time had owned Waldo’s on High for three years, gave him his first break at a time when other gallery owners were squeamish about promoting him.

No one wanted to show my work because it’s kind of progressive, a little political. People were telling me that they really liked my work, but it didn’t fit,” Kraemer said. “Pati gave me a show and I sold (work at) my very first show, so it was like, ‘Ha, Ha. See what you missed out on?’”

Kraemer believes his business as an artist took off because of the exposure his Waldo’s shows gave him. He has exhibited some of his (less avant-garde) artwork at other galleries in the Short North and elsewhere, and has been able to sustain a career fulfilling commissions for his paintings. He hasn’t done a show in several years, he says, because his work sells so quickly he can’t keep a large enough supply of completed canvases in stock to justify a show. He says Young is to thank for much of his success.

“One of the great things about Pati is that she doesn’t put art on her walls to sell it. She puts art on her walls because it’s meaningful to her,” Kraemer said. “If she sees talent, she’ll scoop it right up and want to put it on her walls and nurture it.”

The Waldo’s Scene
In “scooping up” talent for her salon’s walls, Young says she relies solely on her taste and artistic instinct.

“Pretty much, I pick the stuff that I like,” Young said. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as art is as well.”

From this unassuming philosophy, an artists’ scene developed around Waldo’s, generating as much creative energy as custom for haircuts.

“This whole little subculture existed around that place that was rather fun,” Arps said. (Young) would do events and musical things and fashion shows. It was really kind of a hub in this artists’ community.”

Painter and performance artist Leni D. Anderson was another talent Young nurtured as Waldo’s gallery curator. He and Young met in the mid-1990s while living in neighboring apartments in the Milo-Grogan building. After showing his paintings at Waldo’s, Anderson had a chance to see the salon’s basement. It gave him some ideas.

“One day I went down in the basement and said, ‘This is a great performance space.’” Anderson said. “She wanted to clean it out anyway.”

The first performances of NAIVE (New Artistic Incidents, Vision and Experimen-tation), a performance art collective co-directed by Anderson and Eric Myers, took place in Waldo’s basement, rechristened the Prince Ubu Gallery. NAIVE was in residence at Waldo’s for three years and later became a national act, giving performances in major centers like Boston and Chicago.

Anderson now enjoys a national reputation as a painter and performance artist. The Columbus Museum of Art and OSU’s Cartoon Research Library own some of his artwork. His work has been shown in exhibitions at museums and galleries around the world. He still performs in locales beyond Columbus.

Anderson says the free reign Young gave him was an inspiration.

“(Young) allowed me to do almost anything I wanted,” Anderson said. “If I was in New York or anywhere else, I don’t think the opportunities I had would have existed, and she played an important role in that. She put her trust in me to do these things.”

And some of the things Anderson did were out there, like the performance he and Myers did in Waldo’s Prince Ubu Gallery based on Alfred Jarry’s irreverently nonsensical concept of pataphysics incorporating original live music and lighting designs.

“We probably had 50 people down there just diggin’ what we were doing,” Anderson said, a testament to the avant-garde art hub Waldo’s had become.

“It was very much open arms for everyone who wanted to come in there and just be around the weirdness that we were,” Anderson said of the Waldo’s scene. It was a kind of a bizarre mix of people. It was also a place where we could go and talk with other artists in other disciplines and share ideas and collaborate. There was just all these ideas and creativity all about us.”

Waldo's live mannequin display for Holiday Hop won
"Best Window" in the 1996 and 1997 SNBA contests.

As NAIVE’s performances became community events, Waldo’s found more ways to establish itself as a player in the arts scene. The salon became a force to reckon with at Gallery Hops, especially the December Holiday Hop, for which it won first place in the Short North Business Association’s Best Window Display contest in 1996 and 1997. Young upped the ante on holiday festivities at the salon by encouraging her stylists to dress in costume on Halloween and developed her salon clientele to include a fair number of artists in her gallery’s stable as well as some well-known drag queens.

About this time, Young also filmed several installments of a public access television show called Head Room on which she discussed issues (hair extensions, etc.) in hair styling and interviewed artsy and style-conscious people. And though it has little to do with Young’s artistic sense, somewhere in her years as Waldo’s owner she became foster parent to a cat, whom she named after the salon and its own feline namesake.

Passing the Curling Iron
Last summer, Young’s 14 years running Waldo’s caught up with her, and in July she liberated herself from the responsibilities of running a multi-employee business to devote more time to spiritual pursuits.

In January, Young began offering lunchtime yoga and meditation classes at her new yoga studio, Main Yoga, on E. Main St. She feels the same spirit of pioneerism starting a small business in the downtrodden area of East Main that she felt running Waldo’s during some of the Short North’s darker days.

With 49 years of professional experience as a hair stylist under her belt, Young will continue to work part-time as Waldo’s most experienced stylist and as gallery curator, the latter a task she would only reluctantly give up.

“So if someone asked me, ‘What do you do?’ I’d say, ‘I’m an artist,’” Young said. “Art is my life.”

Christine Chamness says the gallery tradition will continue in full force at Waldo’s, thanks to Young.

“I think it’s great to display local artists and give them a venue to display their work,” Chamness said. “People know (Young) and know this is what she does. I know (the gallery is) going to be in good hands.”

And as Waldo’s on High continues to develop the quality of hair services it offers, Chamness envisions some day expanding her business under the name of Lavish Hair Spa to other locations around Columbus.

But one of Waldo’s traditions may well die out entirely. The proud owner of a Japanese Chin named Rosie, Chamness has no plans to adopt a cat.

Waldo's is located at 755 N. High St., Columbus, Ohio 43215. They can be reached at 614-294-2887.

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