A new gallery opened in Over-the-Rhine at 1121 Walnut St. Gallery OTR, which opened on July 28, 2017, is owned and managed by Mark Byron, a professional photographer, and passionate advocate for the OTR neighborhood, where he both works and lives.
Gallery OTR joins other galleries which have opened recently in Greater Cincinnati. Byron will feature his own photography, and also art by other artists, including painting and sculpture.
Byron watched retail establishments emerge in Over-the-Rhine. He decided to open Gallery OTR, a narrow, 865-square-feet space, on upper Walnut St. with a five-year lease. The domain name was available.
He initially found the studio a shell. He had to add flooring. Gallery OTR became his field of dreams – ‘build it and they will come.’
Featured in the gallery are his photographs as well as those by his great grandfather Percy Byron. Just two months after opening, Byron asked ten regional artists to show their work at his gallery. They include artists Michelle Heimann with her abstract paintings and Casey Dressell, who paints abstractly, as well.
Byron keeps busy with commercial work as well: He has created photos for The Kroger Company’s corporate headquarters, for example.
Since July, Byron has seen a steady increase in customers. During Blink, hundreds of people visited the gallery. “Cincinnati stepped up to the plate,” said Byron. “People love art.” In addition to being an exhibit space, Byron plans to rent the gallery for special events.
He doesn’t have a staff yet. He is doing everything by himself, but hopes to eventually hire people.
Byron also wants to reach out to schools to inspire young artists. He is eager to talk to schools and have interns work at this gallery.
Asked about the current art scene, he said he doesn’t concern himself with other galleries. “I don’t want to copy them.” His mission is to have a reasonable price point and have the gallery pay for itself. Byron is a huge fan of the neighborhood and wants to participate in it.
As a child, Cincinnati-born Byron lived in several states, then graduated from Amelia High School. “I didn’t have a hometown,” said Byron. In the early 1990’s, however, he moved back and bought a house on Klotter in OTR. At the time, he was working in Information Technology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Although the job provided financial stability, Byron yearned for something more. “Art is my passion,” he said.
Byron comes from at least three generations of photographers. His great-grandfather, who came to America before the Civil War, was photographing as early as l843. Byron’s father ran a photography studio in Grand River, Western Kentucky. Byron graduated from the University of Kentucky, got married and had two children. He began to look for a different challenge, which turned out to be photography.
He watched his father take and develop photographs. With the advent of digital technology, Byron upped his game with two Hasselblad DSLR cameras to use. He entered the Capture Cincinnati-sponsored contest. It inspired him to do more. He freelanced for The Enquirer, taking pictures of concerts and events. By 2012, he had a photo studio on W. 8th St. in Lower Price Hill.
He took additional courses at UC. With an associate’s degree, he was accepted into the BFA program in Fine Arts at UC/DAAP. He was graduated in 2015.
Now, he has his dream of his own gallery.