Artscape: Wall Gallery at Wholly Craft

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

There's a new, freestanding wall in the back of Clintonville's hand-made goods store Wholly Craft. Centrally planted, it has a stage-like presence. Is it a permanent shoji screen for quick-change artists? A giant puppet theater awaiting its window and curtain?

In fact, it's a new gallery space, called, quite precisely, the Wall Gallery.

Curated by local artist Stephanie Rond, the fresh wall - plus half of the storefront window - is now home to new monthly fine art shows, usually closely related to the crafts that fill the shop's abundant shelves.

"We're looking for stuff that's an extension of the store," Rond said. "With the same charm and sense of humor to it, and definitely work that is affordable."

Opened in 2005, the cheerfully irreverent retail space generally draws neighborhood gift shoppers looking for one-of-a-kind items ideal for housewarmings and baby showers, or who simply "appreciate the labor that goes into something creative," said owner Olivera Bratich.

Workshops, live performances, trunk shows and other special events already made Wholly Craft a central point of convergence for people who like to get their own hands dirty.

The gallery was envisioned about a year ago as something naturally interesting to the store's patrons, as well as another outlet for the crafters who sell there, many of whom also create fine art.

But it's also good business sense to draw new, fine-art-inclined customers into the store. The opening of the inaugural show, "I'm Still Bitter I Didn't Get 'Most Artistic' in High School," by Carolyn Slebodnik brought about 125 bodies into the room, many of whom had never been there before. Well over a handful of Slebodnik's floral-themed paintings sold right away.

Just below its impossible-to-miss bright pink sign, the store's northernmost window features some of Slebodnik's paintings as part of an installation she designed. A suitcase filled with crystal spheres and bright silk flowers is suggestive of her work in the inside gallery. The window gallery is set to be an essential component of every monthly show.

"It gives something back to the community because they can see part of the gallery, they can look at artwork, day or night," Rond said.

Active as an artist herself, Rond also serves as curator of the Columbus Metropolitan Library's Carnegie Gallery and co-founder of local collective CAW (Creative Arts of Women). She's already booked the Wholly Craft space through the end of the year and continues to look ahead.

Among the booked exhibitions Rond is looking forward to is a fall show by Cleveland-based puppet makers that will include a performance at the September opening.

Wholly Craft has a broad appeal for those who prefer to buy local or Ohio-made goods, and Wall Gallery artists will also be cut from that cloth.

"People care more about where their money goes," Bratich said. "They have less to spend, but they care more about where they're spending it. And we are really grateful for that."

Slebodnik's show remains on view through April 5. The next exhibition, "Snacktacular," featuring circus-themed food dioramas and other pieces by Amy Neiwirth of Sweet Stella Designs, opens on April 8.

Wholly Craft

3169 N. High St., Clintonville