CULTURE & TRAVEL

Sarah Gormley Gallery Adds to Downtown Columbus’ Surprisingly Robust Visual Arts Scene

The new gallery is one of several new arts spaces that have opened in the city center in recent years.

Joel Oliphint
Columbus Monthly
Sarah Gormley at her new Downtown gallery at 95 N. High St.

When Sarah Gormley ran her gallery in the Short North, the same neighborhood she calls home, she rarely ventured Downtown. She didn’t even realize how many restaurants and businesses populated the area, but when a new space became available at 95 N. High St., Gormley decided to jump headfirst into an art scene beginning to coalesce Downtown. “It’s an entrepreneurial decision,” she says.

Gormley is certainly not the first to take advantage of Downtown’s gallery-friendly spaces. For years, art has found its way to the city center through the Columbus Museum of Art and mainstays like Hawk Galleries, Skylab Gallery and Ohio State’s Urban Arts Space, along with galleries at Columbus College of Art & Design, the Columbus Metropolitan Main Library branch, the Riffe Center and more. But recently, Downtown seems to be approaching a critical mass of galleries, undoubtedly tempting someone at Experience Columbus to designate the area an arts district.

Following the openings of Blockfort on Sixth Street in 2016, Rebecca Ibel’s Contemporary Art Matters on Fifth Street in 2017 and the Greater Columbus Arts Council’s Loann Crane Gallery on Long Street in 2020, No Place Gallery moved Downtown to Gay Street from the South Side last year. In September, after three years in the Short North, Sarah Gormley worked with developer Jeff Edwards to take over the new High Street location. “This space is my dream gallery,” Gormley says. “This feels like an art gallery. It was built and designed to be an art gallery.”

Huge, street-facing windows allow lots of natural light to fill the minimalist space—a blank canvas, of sorts, with white walls and polished concrete floors. Gormley lobbied Edwards hard for a bathroom, and she wanted to be next door to her favorite restaurant, Speck, the forthcoming Italian eatery Veritas chef Josh Dalton relocated from downtown Delaware. “I think there will be an intersection between the people who come to Speck and people who would like to buy art,” she says.

A hanging piece by Virginia Kistler titled “Fungi Gills, Kerfed 02” at Sarah Gormley Gallery

During her time in the Short North, which she describes as “the most amazing experience,” Gormley also learned that a neighborhood is only so important to success. Art galleries, she says, are destinations. “As long as there’s parking nearby, and you have great art and great artists, they will come,” she says.

Contemporary Art Matters’ Ibel, also a Short North alum, echoes the sentiment, citing differences between the retail and art worlds and emphasizing the energy galleries inject into any area. “We bring the vibrancy. We bring the spice to the neighborhood. Wherever galleries go, people show up,” Ibel says.

More people are almost certainly coming. By 2040, the Columbus Downtown Development Corp. hopes to have 40,000 residents in the center city, adding more art collectors to a part of town that could use an energy injection after a pandemic lull.

“It’s scary, but it’s exhilarating,” Gormley says of the move Downtown. “I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, but something’s happening, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Art in the City’s Center

In addition to the Columbus Museum of Art, visit these Downtown galleries for fall and winter exhibitions.

PRIVATE

Blockfort, 162 N. Sixth St., blockfortcolumbus.com

Contemporary Art Matters, 243 N. Fifth St., Suite 110, contemporaryartmatters.com

Hawk Galleries, 153 E. Main St., hawkgalleries.com

No Place Gallery, 1 E. Gay St., noplacegallery.com

Sarah Gormley Gallery, 95 N. High St., sarahgormleygallery.com

Skylab Gallery, 57 E. Gay St., instagram.com/skylabgallery

PUBLIC AND NONPROFIT

Beeler Gallery, Canzani Center, CCAD, 60 Cleveland Ave., beelergallery.org

Carnegie Gallery, Columbus Metropolitan Main Library branch, 96 S. Grant Ave., columbuslibrary.org/friends/carnegie-gallery

Cultural Arts Center Main and Loft galleries, 139 W. Main St., culturalartscenteronline.org

Fresh A.I.R. Gallery, During the pandemic, Southeast Healthcare’s gallery has temporarily relocated from 131 N. High St. to Seen Studios in Franklinton’s Chromedge building, 289 W. Walnut St., southeasthc.org/services/freshairgallery

Loann Crane Gallery, Greater Columbus Arts Council, 182 E. Long St., gcacgallery.org

Ohio Arts Council Riffe Gallery, Vern Riffe Center, 77 S. High St., oac.ohio.gov/riffe-gallery

OSU Urban Arts Space, 50 W. Town St., Suite 130, uas.osu.edu

This story is from the November 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.