Artscape: Stephanie Sypsa on "The Artist Interview"

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

With venues ranging from museums to restaurants, you can see work by Ohio artists pretty much anytime you want to. Casual forums for artists to talk about their work are harder to come by.

Enter Stephanie Sypsa, a gallery assistant at the Riffe Gallery and a multiple award-winner for her haunting prints tracking the instability of memory. Last month she and husband Jason Sypsa launched The Artist Interview, an online publication that invites artists in all disciplines around the state to talk to each other and share their conversations with readers.

October's edition included chats between Melissa Vogley Woods and Paul Volker, and Fuse Factory director Alison Colman and designer and photographer Daniel King. For November, Elsie Sanchez's talk with artist Barb Vogel has already been posted, and features with veteran photographer Kojo Kamau and painter Amanda Cook are coming soon.

On an unseasonably warm day last week, Sypsa invited me up to the roof deck above her Downtown apartment to talk about the project.

How did The Artist Interview get started?

I was looking up questions that someone might ask me about my work. When you get out of college, your work's not critiqued like it was, so I was looking at questions that I thought were interesting.

Also, working at the Riffe Gallery and doing the tours with all the shows, we were getting a lot of local artists coming in for the openings, and I needed to interview them for information.

So I was looking for better questions to help me understand what their work is about, and I came across this blog where they had artists interview artists. I thought that the questions coming out of that were kind of interesting.

They were a little more laid-back, and you learned about the artists being interviewed obviously, but how the other artists asked questions was telling about their own work. They did an online Q&A, it was really simple and I thought it was a great collaboration, like an artist exchange.

It's really hard, I think, for artists to get a lot of exposure, because there's just not that many opportunities. There's so many out there and they might not get the front page of the arts section. This is a resource for artists to use, a record they can refer gallery owners and curators to. Working in a gallery setting, I know curators appreciate that very much.

For the first issue, did you find that artists were contacting you more to be interviewed or to do interviews?

They were contacting to be interviewed, because that's easy [laughs]. But I'm really trying to push one interviewing the other, because it doesn't have to be difficult. It can just be conversation. Paul Richmond was the one artist willing to try it first [with friend Melissa Forman].

I really want artists to know that you don't have to be scared to death. It can just be your buddy. Just record the conversation or do an e-mail back and forth, and there you have it.

Is there a selection process?

So far I haven't had that problem. I think Columbus is a great arts city. I want to cover fashion and I'd like a little bit of literature. That would be really interesting. I have a choreographer who requested to do an interview. For me, it's finding the people who will be consistent [contributors], but I have it open where anyone can offer ideas.