Columbus, Ohio USA
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All in the Family
pm gallery celebrates 35 years in the Short North
By Karen Edwards
November/December 2015 Issue
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© Photos | Gus Brunsman III
Michael Secrest, Barbara Galloway, Eli Secrest, Maria Galloway and Jacob Secrest
You’ve passed it a hundred times, maybe a thousand, glass orbs spinning in its window, fragile as bubbles. You may have stopped in to admire the splashes of humor clearly evident throughout the long, narrow room, like the school of fish swimming along a wall, each looking as if it had been designed by an exuberant first-grader. Or maybe you’ve spotted the painting of giant carrots, so large even Bugs Bunny would be impressed. There is serious art here, too. Photos, sculptures, pottery, ceramics and jewelry so breathtaking it’s hard to move past the display. You may have seen this place from a car or bus window as you traveled down High Street, or maybe you’ve made it a ritual stop on the monthly Gallery Hop. This is pm gallery, a Short North fixture for 35 years this year. That’s right. Thirty-five years.
That pm gallery exists at all is due to its owners, Maria Galloway and her husband Michael Secrest. Both are artists themselves, and that gives the gallery a certain cachet. After all, there are few galleries in the Short North anymore that are owned and operated by working artists. But there is an even greater distinction here for this is a gallery that has grown from solid family roots, from a generation of talented artists and crafts people, musicians and art admirers. To enter pm gallery after 35 years, maybe especially after 35 years, is to place yourself in the hands of a family that deeply feels and understands art.
Step inside its doors and instantly, a low-slung, plush brown dog jumps out of the window to greet you. This is Sisko, the shop dog.
“He’s a cowboy dog,” says an elegant woman, dressed smartly in denim with a red bandana draped and tied artistically at her throat. This is Barbara Galloway, Maria’s mother. “Every Western has a character named Cisco,” Maria explains. Remember “The Cisco Kid”?
It’s a creative connection, the kind that comes naturally to this family.
Barbara Galloway grew up in New York City where museums have been inspiring creative talent for years. “I’d wander through all of them, including the Museum of Natural History, and I was always impressed by the sculptures,” she says. “I wanted to do that. I wanted to sculpt.”
Both of her parents were attorneys, and you might think they’d do their best to push their daughter down a more practical path – like law or business. But you’d be wrong. “My mother didn’t think there was anything about law that was as important as art. I was encouraged to be creative, to write and draw,” says Barbara. Maybe that’s because her parents indulged their own creative side at home. “Dad was a pianist and Mom was a seamstress. She would make all of my clothes,” Barbara says.
When time came for college, Barbara attended what is now Florida State University, arriving at a time when it had just turned co-ed. “There were boys to flirt with and girlfriends to be irreverent with,” she says with a laugh. What artist, after all, doesn’t have a rebel streak? Barbara pursued art courses there and made sure to attend a sculpting class. “The art instructor was German, Holschuh, and he encouraged me,” she says. You don’t want to take that kind of encouragement lightly. Holschuh was in fact Fred Holschuh, a sculptor who was formerly with the Bauhaus, the iconic art and design school in Germany. Barbara Galloway was taught by the best.
And although she has freelanced as a graphic designer and has worked in a variety of media, including block stamps, Barbara Galloway still enjoys sculpting. At least one piece of her work can be found at her daughter’s gallery. (Other pieces, including a statue of two entwined cats, are in places of prominence in the Galloway home.) “Her sculpture is very stylized and elongated,” says Maria. “Almost Cubist.” The sculpted head on display at the gallery, for example, has the kind of clean, modern lines that can slip into a contemporary, mid-century or traditional home and look as if it belonged in that setting.
It’s the same kind of versatility that many pm gallery items display. Each item here is unique and one-of-a-kind, yet appealing to a broad and varied audience. Maria chooses the art for her gallery carefully, which is only natural. She comes to her space with an artist’s eye and sensibility.
Art and the family
“I grew up in a house where art and music were a given,” Maria says. All of her brothers play instruments of one kind or another, and she carries the work of her photographer-brother Nathan. Step into the gallery and you’ll see the photos of fall leaves that he’s shot. The colors are so vibrant you’d swear you were looking out a window at the real thing.
Their father worked for the government and moved his family around “a lot,” says Maria. But each new location opened up Maria and her brothers to the natural and man-made art and music of the region. It was, in essence, a passing parade of inspiration.
At 16 years, Maria was sure she was OSU bound, to study business with a minor in art. But art decided to play its trump card. While attending an art show, she met an artist whose work she fell head-over-heels for. But it wasn’t just the art that set her head spinning. The artist, Michael Secrest had won Maria’s heart, but he was older, and though the two wanted to pair up, Barbara says she nixed the match. “She was too young at the time,” Barbara says. Both went their own way until a few years and moves later, the two re-connected here in Ohio. At an art show. This time, Maria was 18. “She could vote,” says Barbara, so there was no more protest. Besides, Michael fit well into the family.
In addition to his art, Secrest is also a talented musician-songwriter. “I give him feedback and sometimes help him with his songs,” says Maria. “The nicest thing he once did for me,” she continues, “was to give me a co-writer credit on one of the songs I helped with.”
“He did?” asks Barbara. “I didn’t know that.”
It’s not the first time Secrest has been discreet, though. “He doesn’t perform his music in public very much,” his wife explains. But those who were lucky enough to catch that doppelganger of ABC’s “America’s Got Talent” – called, fittingly, “Short North’s Got Talent” – probably won’t know what she’s talking about. He appeared every year that SNGT was staged. If you did hear him perform, you were doubly lucky. “He performed his own music at those shows,” Maria says. “It was always an original song.”
Secrest’s own family is not artistic, at least not in the way the Galloway family is, but there’s no question they supported Michael’s own ambitions in that area, including his choice of an art major while at the Ohio State University. He earned his BFA in painting.
“His studio is our living room,” says Galloway. Who needs pictures hanging on the wall when you can have the artist right there in your living space, creating original art? What might seem messy and inconvenient to many a spit-and-polish homemaker is the kind of advantage, blessings really, that sons Jacob and Eli grew up around.
The next generation
Jacob and Elijah Secrest
Both sons have their parent’s drive to create. Both are innately talented. “It’s the kind of artistic sense that can’t really be taught or learned,” says Maria. Instead, it has to come from an inner place, that sense of balance, rhythm, color, dimension and perspective that distinguishes artists from the rest of us. It’s that sense of seeing and knowing when art is right and what can be done to correct it when it’s wrong. The nature-versus-nurture debate is moot for these boys. They have both. They can’t help but be artists.
“Jacob’s a good painter when he wants to paint,” says Maria. It’s not something he pursues actively, but it’s there.
Instead, he and his brother Eli, 10 years younger, like to work on projects together. Jacob has become as interested as his brother in the short films and animated shows they produce – and recently, the two have paired up to work on a mock-documentary a good-natured romp through a day in the life of Sisko – pm gallery’s shop dog and all-around family pet.
Maria can relate. “When I was growing up, our neighborhood was always working on art projects,” she says. Sure, sure. Some neighborhoods have sandlot teams, some neighborhoods put on plays – with or without the proverbial barn. It stands to reason, however, that Maria Galloway grew up in a neighborhood where art was the activity du jour.
“Once, we made this papier-mache dinosaur,” she recalls. “He was a life-size sculpture,” and even with five or six young artists, including Maria, on the job, it still took much of the summer to create. “It was a papier mache Rhamphorhynchus – a relative to dinosaurs and a flying animal,” Maria explains.” It hung from the ceiling and had marble eyes. Visitors thought it was real.”
Now, son Eli is making creatures as well – nothing as large as his mom’s earliest endeavors, but maybe more exacting. The creatures that Eli crafts are small, desk-size wire sculptures that are selling well at pm gallery.
He became interested in metal work while studying art in school (he attends Fort Hayes Arts and Academic High School), so now he’s apprenticing at a welding shop,” Maria says. That’s a plus for any parent – getting paid while you learn. Of course, at 17 years, Eli may ultimately take his art in other directions, but for now, you can’t beat the fact that he’s making money, not only on the job but through the sale of his metal sculptures as well. Not a bad place to be at 17 – and not a bad place for an art buyer/investor to get in on the ground floor of what promises to be exciting art talent in the future.
The jewelry maker
As for Maria Galloway, don’t think for a minute that she’s just a shopkeeper and nurturer-in-chief. Of course, she’s both. However, she’s also a jewelry-maker, crafting much of the jewelry that’s on sale in the gallery.
“I’ve always been interested in jewelry making,” she says. At 17 years, she took classes at the Cultural Arts Center for a year or two which grounded her with more formal training. “I had to prove I was a serious student before they accepted me,” says Maria. Most 17-year olds after all, are apt to show interest one week and flee the next. But Maria showed them she was in for the duration.
Grounded by the arts center classes, Maria turned next to books on jewelry-making and YouTube video demonstrations to learn more about various techniques. Then, of course, there is her own innate artistry. But Maria’s bracelets, necklaces, and earrings are not something you’re likely to find on YouTube, in books or anywhere else. She works with distinctive materials, including recycled glass shards from shattered ornaments, and she may craft some of the only jewelry in town that’s made with faux Fordite.
Fordite, also known as Detroit or motor agate, is a type of old automobile paint that has hardened enough to be cut and polished. Fordite once formed on the tracks and skids of auto plants when hand spray-painting was still done. The cars would bake on the tracks, forming a multi-layered, multi-colored slag that, when cut, shows off its marbled interior. “They’re not making Fordite anymore,” says Maria, so she uses a faux Fordite she makes out of lampworked glass. “Basically it’s a faux glass interpretation of a faux stone made of paint.” The irony isn’t lost on Maria. She’s amused by the double-masked identities but the results are spectacular. Her faux Fordite could pass for the real thing. Faux or real, however, Fordite makes a distinctive piece of jewelry that will be a conversation starter for those who wear it.
Maria’s jewelry-making goes in waves. “Sometimes, I’ll work on it every night, other times, I let it go for awhile,” she says.
She’d like to devote more time to glass making – she already crafts some of the glass beads she uses in her jewelry. Her husband has even given her a certificate for classes at Glass Axis. The problem is finding the time. With a gallery to run, a family to oversee and outside artists to nurture, it’s a lot to have on deck. But it’s exactly where Maria wants to be.
Visions of galleries
Sisko loves to watch passersby at pm gallery.
pm gallery sprang from the love she and Michael shared for art. “Originally, we were going to open a gallery in Cincinnati,” she says. “We knew a lot of people there who were artists and we thought that would be the place to start.”
However, she and Michael were living north of the OSU campus at the time, and Maria worked in German Village. Once the Convention Center was completed, the bus route she took to work changed. Instead of going around downtown, it went through it. It was a scruffy-looking neighborhood except for this one gallery that shone out like a beacon.” Maria was intrigued. ” One day while out walking her dog (thirty years before Sisko), she encountered a man walking his dog and they began to talk about what they did for a living. She mentioned to him she’d like to open a gallery, and it turns out he happened to own a building not far from the gallery that she had seen on her daily bus ride. Maria's focus changed from Cincinnati to Columbus and her own backyard, spurred by that gallery (which turned out to be Artreach Gallery) and also by the renovations happening in the neighborhoods on either side of N. High St. The man offered Maria and Michael a low rent to open their gallery. “We paid the rent for the year and began to renovate the space,” she says.
Thus, pm gallery was born. “At first, we operated with our own work and that of our friends and friends of friends,” says Maria. Then they began to represent the work of other artists. “We would attend art and craft shows and found artists whose work we could relate to,” she says.
Now, pm gallery not only carries the work of Maria and Michael but also the work of 300 local and national artists, an astonishing amount for 2015. “The recession created real problems for artists,” Maria explains. Many of the artists that pm gallery carried dropped their art and “went to look for real jobs,” she says. As a result, the work they created – that one-of-a-kind piece that can only be created by that one-of-a-kind individual – is gone, and who knows when or if it will return.
But for now, other artists have stepped in to take their place. Some, like artist Paul Volker and potter Bill Campbell, are still here after nearly 35 years. Others, like Jodi Flowers who crafted that colorful school of fish, are fairly new to the gallery.
“I see artists all the time,” says Maria. They stop by with portfolios or samples of their work, and Maria reviews them all. Some she’ll sell at the gallery. Some, she’ll simply critique and send on their way. But the critiques are never harsh. “If they like it, then that’s all that matters,” she says. Art, after all, is in the eye of the beholder.
The blown-glass ornaments are, by far, the most popular item at the gallery and are probably its signature item. “It used to be pottery, but glass is now more affordable as a medium and more people are using it,” Maria says. The ornaments run the gamut in terms of size, shape, and color. Each one is different from the next. There are even glass witch balls, said to remove negative energy from the home. “They make a good housewarming gift,” she says.
With the holidays on the horizon, now is the perfect time to visit the gallery. What better gift for a hard-to-buy-for relative or friend than a one-of-a-kind gift created by an artist?
For 35 years, pm gallery has been providing gift ideas, inspiration and works of art to hundreds that have passed through its doors.
But what about the next 35 years?
“We were supposed to retire this year,” says Maria. With their youngest, Eli, about to graduate high school, Maria and Michael thought it might be the perfect time to close up shop and enjoy the rest of their lives – without a schedule and the responsibilities that come with gallery ownership. “But we’re still here,” she says.
And Eli has expressed interest in keeping the gallery open after his parents retire, taking over the reins. “We’ll wait to see what happens, though,” says Maria. What we want at 17 years isn’t always what we want by the time we reach 27, or even 18 for that matter.
For now, though, the gallery is open. Sisko still sits in the window, rushing to greet anyone who wanders in. “I don’t know what I’d do if I weren’t here,” Maria reflects. “Maybe something to do with the theater.” She currently helps with the house side of Short North Stage, across the street from the gallery.
But “whatever it is,” she says. “I’ll be doing something creative.”
She can’t help it. It’s in her nature. It’s in the nature of Barbara and Michael, of Jacob and Eli. It’s what has made pm gallery a Short North mainstay for 35 years – and maybe 35 more years to come.
pm gallery is located across from the Short North Stage near Fifth Avenue at 1190 N. High St. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday 11 to 6 and Sunday 12 to 5. Visit pmgallery.com or Facebook or call 614-299-0860 for more information.
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