A red sign sayigng ACME ART on the wall behind silhouettes of musicians, a guy playing a bass fiddle, a person singing into a mic and a woman wearing a mid-length dress

By Andy Hudson, Grge Boas, Jane Ries, A.J. Vanderelli and Michael Kehlmeier

Imagine a time when there was no Short North Arts District, no Short North Gallery Hop, no WexnerCenter for the Arts, no cap over I-670, no not-for-profit art galleries on High Street, no lighted arches, no galleries or coffee shops, no health gyms, no preppy apartment buildings and no fancy restaurants. Rather there was just the Press Grill, Bob’s No-name Bar, PM Gallery, Michaels Goody Boy, the Short North Tavern and some antique stores and other long gone businesses. Thirty years ago that was the situation in 1987 when Geoffrey Taber created the ACME Art Co. (at first named the Geoffrey Taber Gallery).

Jeff’s mission was simple: to provide a venue for central Ohio outsider artists to show their art works. Relying on volunteers and local artists, Jeff created an alternative, activist gallery where issues of the day outside the mainstream could have an audience. ACME partnered with many local activists organizations including Comfest, the Free Press, the Other Paper, Pagan Rights activists, the Third Avenue Performance Space, the Short Stop Teen Drop in Center, state prisons, the Ohio Arts Council, the Greater Columbus Art Council, the Ohio Art League, ACE Gallery (Art for Community Expression), Roy G Biv Gallery, Glass Axis, OSU, CCAD, Stonewall Union, GAGA, Mad Lab Theater, the Evolution Control Committee and many others.

ACME provided a space for artists and activists to creatively and directly address critical issues that were missing from main-stream venues and discourse. ACME not only presented art addressing the AIDS crisis, but covered its art and turned the lights out every December 1st as a pioneering participant in “A Day Without Art” to commemorate the artists taken by AIDS and their missing art. ACME curated shows and performances on gender and sexuality issues, rampant consumerism and commercialism, local and global politics, pagan rights, gay rights, women’s rights, teen’s rights, homeless rights and other issues of the day. ACME put up the first arts tent at Comfest, which was later to become the Arts Stage, and started the first alternative fund-raising arts auction.

ACME pushed its own boundaries by opening up alternative spaces in the gallery including the Spotlight Gallery, the Bathroom Installation Space and Café Ashtray, which featured live performance art monthly.

Part of ACME’s core mission was to make art available to the people not only as something to be seen and observed, but also as something that was affordable and accessible. AMCE art might not match your living room color scheme – but it would make you think and want to get involved. ACME gave outsider artists a place to sell their work and as importantly gave everyone opportunities to buy nicely priced art through events such as the twice-yearly member show, the Holidaze Extravaganza sale, and its annual auctions.

ACME was instrumental in establishing the first Saturday of each month as Gallery Hop, and along with Glass Axis many not-to-miss annual Halloween parties that were the forerunners of the High Street Halloween High Ball. ACME’s Karnavil also happened in the fall and featured a stage of experimental music and performance art.

ACME had its last show at the end of last decade, but you can relive ACME’s cutting-edge spirit this month at the Vanderelli Room in Franklinton (218 McDowell St.). ACME Art Company will be resurrected at two upcoming events devoted to the local artists that made ACME happen.The first event on October 6th, from 7:00pm to 10:00 pm-Café Ashtray – ACME Art Company Resurrected shows past and present works, many for sale, of ACME member artists, including videos of ACME performances from the early 90’s as well as slides of the gallery, its art and performances by former ACME Director and photographer Lori McCargish. We will have tarot card readings in the spirit of Globinhood (a.k.a. Jim Beoddy) summoned through a copy his own tarot deck.

The second event, also at the Vanderelli Room, on October 21stfrom 6:00 to 10:00 pmresurrects the annual ACME Art Company Auction. Get your outsider art here! The auction will feature both contemporary works by former ACME artists as well as regional cutting edge Ohio artists. Visit the Vanderelli Room foran auction preview in conjunction with Franklinton Friday on October 13th from 7:00 to 10:00 pm.

The venue hosting the ACME’s resurrection was until 2014 known as the “The Church” when it was converted by Alicia Jean “AJ” Vanderelli into an alternative gallery space for local artists and a personal studio space to create her own work. Over the last three years, The Vanderelli Room has become a catalyst for Vanderelli’s vision of a community united through arts and education that enables individuals to reach their potential through self-expression and exploration. Located within the Franklinton Arts and Innovation District, The Vanderelli Room is multifaceted, housing a variety of art exhibitions, performances, private parties and events. The gallery is an environment conducive to social networking with professional artists and to facilitate a holistic art educational and developmental experience for adult and teen artists with and without autism and other physical and mental diagnosis.

ACME Lives! Come help us celebrate past and present cutting edge art at The Vanderelli Room and while you visit and reminisce buy some art to support Central Ohio’s artists.

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