Arts preview: Angela Meleca's new art gallery is personal, vulnerable for long-time collector

Jackie Mantey, Columbus Alive

It was 4 a.m. when Angela Meleca discovered Delaware-based painter Ed Valentine, the star of her gallery's inaugural show.

In fact, it was around 4 a.m. when Meleca discovered most of the 14 or so artists whose work have a new residence in her Downtown contemporary art gallery.

"I kept waking up in the middle of the night and getting on my computer," recalled Meleca, former press secretary for the Ohio Senate. "I'd surf the web, Google search for artists."

She was so excited to get together her gallery she couldn't sleep. It helped, probably, that the gallery was also in the space below her bedroom.

Meleca lives with her two children and husband, David, above the new gallery space. The bad economy a few years ago convinced them to leave their Bexley home for the upper levels of David's firm Meleca Architecture. After the renter from the front of the building moved out, the couple wondered what to do with the 1,400-square-foot, State Street-facing vacancy.

A longtime fan of art collection (Meleca recalls fondly the first piece she ever bought as a young journalist after she learned you could pay off a painting over time), Meleca decided why not build a gallery. Contemporary art was her passion, it complemented her husband's business in the back, and Columbus' Downtown could use a contemporary gallery that was, she said, "like something you'd find in Chicago or New York."

"I don't want to pigeonhole myself. I want good, contemporary art," Meleca said. "This is the most vulnerable thing I've ever done. I choose artwork I'm drawn to, artwork I'd buy myself."

Multiple contemporary artists comprise Meleca's original lineup. They come from across the country (see: the innovative paper, vinyl and metal work by Anne Lemanski), including her own backyard (see: Columbus sculptor Dale Johnson's giant head greeting visitors outside). It's a deep, refreshing bench, and the unexpected coach is just as pleasantly surprised with the team she's built.

"I don't come from an artistic background," Meleca said. "I didn't know this was my dream. Now I can't imagine doing anything else."

Meleca plans to have her gallery exhibits open on Thursdays, like many of the other Downtown art attractions (CCAD, Riffe Gallery, OSU Urban Arts Space), so Downtown's visitors can hop from one awesome art show to the next. Meleca's first must-see roundup - a moving collection of works by Ed Valentine - opens this Thursday evening.

The gallery will also be open for free perusal during weekday business hours. Sorry, no 4 a.m. showings - yet.

Angela Meleca Gallery

"Recent Works by Ed Valentine"

5-8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19

144 E. State St., Downtown