Beyond art: Mona Gazala's Second Sight is the house open to all artists

Jesse Tigges, Columbus Alive

Mona Gazala is no stranger to change. The artist and Cleveland native began making visits to Columbus five years ago to check out the arts community, and was immediately impressed. She felt Columbus would be a place she'd live and continue her art career someday, but unforeseen circumstances led her to move to Franklinton - an up-and-coming arts district she was excited to become a part of - sooner than she expected. That was 2012.

"My initial attraction to Franklinton was entering Columbus through some area with affordability. There are so many interesting things going on in Franklinton, and this is just one of them," Gazala said during an interview at Second Sight Studio in September.

Gazala almost immediately began hosting exhibitions in her Bellows Ave. home, dubbed Second Sight Studio, and continued to until May when she received a job opportunity back in Cleveland she couldn't pass up. More change was on the horizon.

"I had always thought it could grow organically, not just through me, but other artists. I have this house and gallery and this propensity to share," Gazala said. "But when I got my job offer in Cleveland and had this established down here, I didn't want to let it go. So I just started [a residency program] a little sooner than I expected."

Gazala said Second Sight was always meant to be an artist-in-residence space, with herself being the original resident. Gazala is an experimental installation artist who's shown her work in Second Sight and other galleries in Columbus.

Now Gazala is looking to the artists who've take up residence at Second Sight to fill the house with art. There have been three so far: Columbus native Dana Harper and Gabe Michael Kenny - both recent MFA graduates from Penn State - took up residence in May, and Pittsburgh native Julia Betts shortly thereafter. Betts exhibited in June, Harper in August and Kenney in September. All exhibits have a public opening, and are then viewable through appointment (on Second Sight's website).

Gazala has been immensely pleased by how each artist has let themselves become immersed in the space and completely transform it with their work and installations.

"I've been blown away. I don't know how else to say it. I could not have asked for three better first artists to be in this program. They take the entire space and see what they want to do with it … and run with it, experimented and they've owned it," Gazala said.

A somewhat unanticipated aspect of Second Sight's residency program is akin to Gazala's own experiences. Harper and Kenny are contemplating their next step after graduation, and Columbus is an option. Second Sight is, simply put, about the artist - wherever they're from or what they're looking to create - getting to know the space, this city and the Franklinton and arts community as well.

"It's a completely immersive experience for the artists. They get to be right here in the neighborhood, experiencing it firsthand. They have the entire house to use as their laboratory and do with it what they will," Gazala said. "I was attracted to this community because of the affordable housing, and that's something I think other artists would be interested in. This could be a way for them to test the waters, especially artists coming in from out of town. This is a way for them to feel things out and see what they like about Columbus. And it doesn't have to be someone from out of town. It can be someone from a different community who's never had the experience of living here."

Photos by Meghan Ralston

Second Sight Studio

730 Bellows Ave., Franklinton