Aeqai visited several galleries as they have changed, including names, locations, staff, space, interiors, art, artists, buyers, technology, services, COVID issues and focus. Learn more about new updates.
I started with Indian Hill Gallery, 9475 Loveland-Madeira Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45242. Russ Adams, an accountant who lives in a farmhouse in Morrow, was a regular customer of the art restoration and framing shop. After owner Dan Biggs passed away, Adams thought this would be a good opportunity to buy the store which he purchased on May 23, 2015. Because his minor was in fine art, he painted watercolors as a hobby. “I had some walls available at my art conservation business,” Adams said. He decided to add a gallery.
“We’re the new kids on the block,” Adams said as far as having a commercial gallery. “We occupy something unique – restoration and framing in addition to exhibits. We deal with artwork in a 360- degree fashion. We’re a one stop shop. We have enjoyed it (the process) one step at a time. “
Adams is responsible for all phases of Indian Hill Gallery – the fine art gallery, restoration and conservation, museum quality custom framing and consulting with homeowners and interior designers. He said the gallery is profitable even with the pandemic. “Neither artist nor gallery is going to get rich selling paintings and cover rent, insurance, etc.,” Adams said. “It is a labor of love.”
Casey Dressell, a DAAP graduate, started as a gallery director in 2016. She interned at Manifest Creative Research Gallery and Drawing Center in East Walnut Hills. Later, she answered an ad on Craig’s List that Adams placed and was offered the job. Adams said, “I added Casey, a curator with a fresh eye and an ability to seek out undiscovered or unrecognized talent.” She does studio visits and goes to openings at Essex Studios Cincinnati, for example, when available, as well as researches painters online. She also reaches out to local schools and curators. Some of the paintings have come as far as away as France.
Jason Clary is a restorer who has been with the gallery for five years. He has an MFA and BFA from Indiana University. He taught painting and drawing from 2001 to 2015 at the Columbus College of Art and Design.
The gallery specializes in regional and local artists. It features artists such as Frank Herrmann. The gallery has a variety of art, including representational, contemporary, abstract and modern.
Fewer people came in during the pandemic. When they did come in, it was often during the week. Actually COVID helped. People sat at home and said, “I need to fix grandma’s painting.” They thought of filling a void.
The demographics of the gallery are middle aged or older, the clientele, from ages 40 to 70 although some students stop by. There are corporate assignments. But, Adams does see younger collectors moving into the area. People come from Indian Hill, Loveland and Montgomery for the most part. “People don’t know we’re here,” said Adams. A lot of it is word of mouth and social media.
Indian Hill Gallery fills a void. “There’s not a gallery nearby,” said Adams. Dressell added, “We have benefited. We get to see and work for artists. We both have a passion to help the artist. There aren’t a lot of outlets in town.”
The current show is The Seeker on display from January 15 – March 28. It is a collection of paintings that poses a question to the viewer of the relationship between representation and abstraction and how the viewer bridges that parallelism, according to Adams.
Upcoming is a show with working titles called Sound of Still. Tina Tammaro and Leslie Daly are the two local artists whose work will be on display from April 16 to June 6.
The gallery is booked through the winter of 2021 and 2022. Hours are 10 am – 5 pm Tuesday – Friday, 10 am – 4 pm Saturday. The website is www.indianhillgallery.com. The phone number is (513) 984-6024.
The next gallery I visited was Gallery 708, 2643 Erie Avenue, on Hyde Park Square. It has an interesting beginning. In 2005 Ober-Rea Starr Livingstone founded Fifth Street Gallery as an artist cooperative.
Lisa Inglert, jewelry maker, was part of the original co-op which invited artists to join. It operated with fourteen artists for eleven years. Inglert said, “We would work in the gallery with reduced commissions. One artist would curate; one would put together graphics. It was a harmonious group of people. Cincinnati has a wealth of artists. We were dedicated to promoting artists outside of ourselves. It was often an artist’s first show.”
The gallery relocated to 708 Walnut Street in late 2016. The name was changed to 708 Gallery named after its location. The organization continued as an artist cooperative with a new management team of Inglert, Phyllis Sadler and Sara Pearce (now deceased). As a cooperative, twenty-two artist members contributed to the operation of the gallery and its finances. Gail Lundgren, a ceramist, joined the new owners of 708 Gallery in January 2017.
Michael Hensley, a former advertising executive, started to paint acrylics again in 2018 when he retired. He applied to Gallery 708. By the second time, he was accepted.
Inglert recommended to Lundgren that the gallery invite Hensley as a partner. He joined in November 2020. “I wanted to learn more about the gallery business,” he said. Yet, he thought he could put his forty plus years of marketing experience to work on behalf of the gallery and artists. Inglert said the gallery’s weakest point was that it needed strong representation. Hensley had that marketing background.
The partners originally wanted an Over-The-Rhine location on Vine Street, but parking was not easy. In addition, it was hard to become a destination location. Inglert said, “We knew about this location in Hyde Park, which is a destination spot.” They leased the space at 2643 Erie Ave. with 1,500 square feet.
The owners and artists needed to transform the space with patching, painting and replacing floors which they did in four to five weeks. Because they didn’t have the funds to contract out the work, one artist gave a loan.
COVID and the co-op presented challenges, according to Hensley. Some of the coop members weren’t comfortable working during the pandemic or covering some of its expenses. There were some artists in the vulnerable demographic. COVID, as with other organizations, put shows on hold. “We chose to take a step back,” said Inglert. That said, there were two openings with COVID restrictions in December 2020.
The partners changed direction to become a commercial gallery. The space opened as 708 Gallery on February 1, 2021. Hensley said, “We are all determined people, and we had a great location. We just couldn’t turn off the lights.”
Walking into the gallery now is like entering a room of colored lights with energy. This is by design. The partners chose bright colors and a wide variety of art with an eclectic approach. They have photography, ceramics, jewelry, sculpture, note cards, fiber art and paintings.
Gallery 708 has a secondary meaning besides the number of a street. Hensley researched 708 and found it was an “angel number with origins in sixth century numerology, a belief in the relationship between a number and one or more coinciding events providing a divine message of encouragement.”
“One angel number definition speaks to ‘working slow and steady, but always in the right direction’ while another summarizes the word ‘determination.’ “ This meaning demonstrates the determination the partners had to keep the gallery open from its transition from coop to private ownership through COVID, according to Lundgren. She added, “It captures the essence of an artist, compelled to create, always striving for better.”
Currently there are nineteen Cincinnati area artists exhibiting at 708 Gallery. At this time, the gallery is focusing on local artists. One is John Leon, whose sculpture with an emphasis on music appears in the current exhibit. Nationally recognized Cynthia Lockhart, professor emerita at DAAP, displays fiber art. Another artist is Kent Krugh, whose black-and-white photographs of trees, amongst other work, have become well known locally and nationally.
The partners feel there is tremendous opportunity in the Cincinnati area with a wide variety of art available. They compare buying art without personality at a big box store to buying art at 708 Gallery where there is a story behind every piece.” Inglert said, “Art is for everyone.”
The gallery is doing well even with the changes. Lundgren said, “This is the right place for us to sell. I couldn’t do it by myself.”
Hours are Tuesday – Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm. They will be extended in the summer. The website is www.gallery-708.com. Phone number is (513) 551-8171.
Another change in the art scene is the sale of the Eisele Gallery of Fine Art to David Smith in June 2020. Previous owner Douglas Eisele said, “During the months that followed (COVID), of downtime and uncertainty, I began to consider that the time might be right to pass the torch and pave the way for the gallery to experience a new path and new energy as we emerge from this life changing pandemic.”
“Like most businesses and organizations, the art scene as we knew it, has been altered by COVID-19. New approaches and greater use of technology are needed to sustain artists, art galleries and dealers,” said Eisele.
“I was fortunate to have David Smith working beside me at the gallery, contributing his knowledge, experience, technical expertise and passion. Smith was the clear choice to carry on and grow the Eisele Gallery, while providing me an opportunity to focus on other hobbies and interests, including The Lovis Foundation that honors our late children,” Eisele said.
Eisele remains available to Smith for consultation. “We continue working together to transition and strengthen relationships with clients, collectors and artists,” Eisele said.
Smith grew up here and received his BFA from Miami University. He spent thirteen years in New York City where he cut his teeth at Robert Miller Gallery, Inc. But, he found the hour commute long. He often didn’t get home until after 7 p.m.
Smith decided to return to Cincinnati with his wife and three kids where he has parents and siblings. He worked at the Marta Hewett Gallery, the Cincinnati Museum Center and Eisele Gallery where he wore a number of hats. He worked with client relationships, sales, inventory management, social media, exhibition installation, logistics and day-to-day operations.
Smith and Eisele brainstormed gallery ideas. One idea was to move to Mariemont, a more central location closer to a hotel, restaurants, movie theater and shops with free parking. Smith found a space at 6936 Madisonville Road. The place, according to Smith, is convenient for potential and current clients.
The plan, however, is to lease space at 6902 Wooster Pike and move the gallery there. Smith wanted first to establish the brand on the square. He plans to use the former bank vault as part of the gallery, which is in the planning and engineering stage now. Smith intends to open it before the end of 2021.
Smith plans to keep the original Eisele focus, emphasizing 19th century paintings, specifically American regional painters and Golden Age painters. He has paintings by Frank McElwain and Henry Farny in his gallery now. His theme will remain in the tradition of still life, landscapes and portraitures.
Some local artists he features are Gail Morrison, Holly Schapker, Jeff Morrow and MaryBeth Karaus. Smith also exhibits artists who come as far away as Louisville, Lexington, Florida, New York, France and Canada. Smith works with estates such as those of Jack Meanwell and Peter Williams.
Smith feels that non-for-profit galleries do a good job in championing visual artists. He gives the example of Visionaries and Voices. He also cites the rich tradition of the art scene with the Art Academy and DAAP. “There are people who want to buy works. They play an important role in that,” said Smith.
Smith talks about the connection between the art institutions and galleries. He said, “We continue to have a dialog and relationship” around the subject of collecting and preserving art.
Communication has changed. Smith said there is more online and art available for sale digitally. Artists have established websites. People are becoming more comfortable online. Most of his clients see works online and then make an appointment to see the art in person.
Millennials are beginning to buy which Smith finds reassuring. “It’s going to take the next generation to keep us going,” he said. “We want to build our audience. It will be interesting to see their purchasing habits.”
“We were busy a year ago,” said Smith. “We stayed busy during COVID and had strong online sales. We’re weathering the storm.” He talks with other gallery directors to discuss concerns. One project Smith plans is upgrading the website.
Smith is a staff of one. Hours are Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from noon to 5 pm and Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm. He is also available by appointment. During the summer, he anticipates increased hours. The website is www.eiselefineart.com. Phone number is (513) 791-7717.
The next place I visited was the retail gallery Art Design Consultants operated by Litsa Spanos, owner and president, with two locations and over 700 pieces of art of which 500 are shown. Spanos said, “The expansion to two locations allows us to serve our residential and commercial clients better.”
Services available include consulting, corporate work, events, framing, appraisals, coaching, publishing and shipping in addition to art sales. Due to COVID, ADC has sponsored tours and events with masks and social distancing.
ADC East is located on 2124 Madison Road in O’Bryonville. The gallery was leased in January 2020. Along with her sister Sylvia Rombis, partner, art and creative consultant, who merged Malton Gallery into ADC, Spanos offers clients ideas to give a home or office energy and warmth that reflect their style.
Spanos made the decision to move to O’Bryonville from Pendleton Art Center because it was in the heart of a residential area and just steps away from many boutiques, restaurants and interior designers. Spanos said, “We represent a fresh and contemporary style with light and exposure to the street.” The gallery features contemporary fine art as well as ceramics, glass, metal, mixed media, paper and sculpture.
Spanos considers the location a destination spot for clients, primarily mid-career, from Hyde Park, Mt. Lookout, Mt. Adams and the East side in general. The gallery wants to attract younger collectors.
ADC East has 5,000-square-feet with four salons or interior galleries. They each have different names: city view salon one, city view salon two, garden salon and a boutique which features purses, glass, scarves, glass and sculpture. Rombis manages the O’Bryonville location. She said that ADC East offers personalized service. “We know our clients,” she said. Hours are Tuesday – Friday from 2 pm to 5 pm and Saturday from 1 pm to 5 pm and by appointment.
Spanos said she found the West End space and was attracted to more available room and its proximity to the FC Stadium. She said that Over-the-Rhine was more expensive. “I have always been a pioneer,” Spanos said of the location. She thought it was a great spot to showcase art. There’s a secure parking lot in a quiet neighborhood.
ADC West opened in the West End on 1013 York Street, Suite 200, off Findlay Street in November 2020. The 13,000- square- feet of space was raw and empty.
Spanos said everything is new and includes walls, HVAC, electrical, high speed internet, kitchen and bathrooms. The transformation from a manufacturing facility to a gallery took eighteen months. She bought the front doors of the house of former Mayor Theodore M. Berry, the first African-American mayor of Cincinnati in 1972, from Wooden Nickel Antiques. She purchased two chandeliers from the Millennium Hotel, in the process of being demolished, where they hung in the grand ballroom for sixty years.
ADC West includes an art gallery, design showroom, artist studio, picture framing facility, storage area, a large co-working environment, meeting space, and a conceptual art space called the CUBE, a new nonprofit. There are twenty-two movable walls to change out the space. Spanos now works at ADC West in an office which was originally the loading dock.
She hopes to attract millennials to the space.
ADC West is open Monday – Friday from 9 am to 5 pm and by appointment.
COVID shut down ADC for two and a half months. It did affect walks-ins at ADC East, according to Spanos. As with other organizations, ADC offered virtual tours and presentations as well as focused on Facebook live and social media. Reopened, the gallery can’t have large shows. As a result, they became more intimate. ADC hosted the Viewpoint Exhibition this year, but only the winners came. COVID did not affect ADC West.
Spanos and Rombis remain active and supportive of the art community. ADC sponsored trips to visit museums pre-COVID as a way of educating attendees. The sisters go to other galleries not only in Cincinnati, but also in New York City.
ADC represents over 200 artists including Heidi Hines, Mary Barr Rhodes, Liz Zorn and Karen Rolfes.
The website is www.adcfineart.com. Phone number is (513) 723-1222.
Calls to the Solway Gallery about its future after the death of its founder, Carl Solway, were not returned for comment.