Title of show

An Earth without art is “meh.” In the last year, since COVID lockdowns and restrictions began, artists have turned to creating art to cope with isolation. The arts community in Franklinton marked the one-year anniversary of the global pandemic with a special art show, which was all about change.

The March exhibition at 400 West Rich, “Evolution in Isolation” was a tribute and a reflection on the year that showcase some of the artistic changes that have taken place since the Pandemic began. Artists have had to find ways to create meaningful pieces of work over the last year.

The description that 400 Square gave in promoting this exhibit could be comparable to our everyday lives since the pandemic began: “There was a ‘before’ the COVID-19 pandemic, but there is not yet an ‘after.’ Everything has changed, and these changes are reflected nearly everywhere we look, including our artwork.”

This exhibit, curated by Stephanie McGlone, features artwork from approximately 20 of the artists of 400 Square, which comprises of 400 West Rich and neighboring Chromedge Studios, showcased two different pieces of artwork. The first piece that each artist submitted for this exhibit was a piece from pre-pandemic times, and the second piece each artist submitted was a piece of work done since March 2020, when COVID lockdowns and restrictions took place.

Each artist had their own thoughts about the pieces they created for this exhibit. For example, artist Raymond McKenzie taught himself how to paint with watercolors, which led to him hand-painting cards, in which he wrote personal notes and mailed them to friends all over the world. McKenzie said this about the sense of reality that is tied into the pieces he created: “Each reality is its own unique bubble — beautiful, imperfect, dazzling, scary, lonely, and any number of other descriptions.”

No two pieces were the same, as artists showcased their creativity, while coping with the continued isolation brought on by this pandemic. Artist Kristin Morris’s pre-COVID piece, Roland was a ceramic sculpture of a snail. “Roland is a peaceful ‘happy go lucky snail’ rolling along through life with no clue as to what pandemonium is about to unfold in the coming year,” Morris said, comparing Roland to her other piece Can’t Touch This!, which was a mixed media sculpture that Morris described as a “visual representation of the Coronavirus,” featuring the virus itself wearing a mask, while atop a bottle of hand sanitizer.

The meaning of the exhibit goes back to telling the story of how the world came to an abrupt halt in the face of COVID. It was only just the second week of March in 2020 that lockdowns and restrictions began. Events were canceled left and right – starting with SXSW and Coachella, but it wasn’t until fans were banned from the Arnold Sports Classic, that the severity and uncertainty of the Coronavirus came to light. After Ohio Governor Mike DeWine placed a ban on mass gatherings, Franklinton Friday organizers canceled the March Franklinton Friday in 2020, leaving it unknown when the studios would re-open again.

The cancellation of the March 2020 Franklinton Fridays caused the delay of the opening of a new gallery, The Secret Door Studio, located at 503 West Walnut Street, which was slated to have its grand opening on March 13, 2020.

The Secret Door Studio opened quietly during the Summer of 2020, and has had a few shows at its studio space since opening. In addition to its usage as an art gallery, The Secret Door Studio also doubles as a studio, where a few virtual events, including the Sergeant Peppercorn New Year’s Eve Marathon and parts of the 2020 Virtual Hot Times Festival, were produced from the Studio.

The Secret Door Studio wasn’t the only new addition to the Franklinton Arts Scene during the last year as Wild Goose Creative relocated from the Old North neighborhood to Franklinton. Wild Goose Creative set up shop in the Bridge Gallery at 400 West Rich on a temporary basis, while their new space on McDowell Street is under construction.

Franklinton Fridays slowly returned in the second half of 2020, with some major adjustments to social distancing guidelines. In contrast, what would end up being the last normal Franklinton Fridays, which was held on Valentine’s Day 2020, featured large crowds, and roving receptions in several studios with some studios having refreshments. However, when Franklinton Fridays resumed in July, it was held outside in the lot across from 400 West Rich, and outside the Vanderelli Room, as an outdoor market, with social distancing in place, and masks required.

When Chromedge and 400 West Rich re-opened their doors for the October Franklinton Fridays, signs were placed all over the buildings with guidelines. Food and drinks are not allowed in any of the studios, masks and social distancing are required, and 400 Square Event staff periodically clean and sanitize high-touch surfaces, doors, and restrooms. Each individual studio has a marked occupancy limit.

Evolution in Isolation will be up at 400 West Rich through April’s Franklinton Fridays, which is April 9. Wild Goose Creative will have an opening for their exhibit, Fernweh, in the Bridge Gallery at 400 West Rich. Fernweh, which is German for wanderlust, is a show featuring artwork from students of the Community Connectors Program within Community Refugee & Immigration Services (CRIS).