Off Ludlow Gallery: A Pop Up on Ormond Street in Clifton

June 30th, 2019  |  Published in June/July 2019

On the corner of Ludlow Ave. and Ormond Street is Gaslight Bar and Grill and down the street, there used to be the Clifton Post Office.

Now, the Post Office has turned into Off Ludlow Gallery, a pop-up gallery and small space of 592-square- feet for artists to display their work as well as host meetings and performances.  It opened June 14 with 200 people in attendance.

Peter Block, volunteer, noted author and trustee, Clifton Town Meeting, made a motion to elected officials of CTM that the community create an Arts and Culture Committee in the fall of 2018.  Several artists and activists formed the committee including Sean Mullaney, chair; Joyce Rich, Jan Brown Checco, Pat Olding, John Osterman, Leslie Mooney, executive director, Clifton Cultural Arts Center; Paige Wideman, artist, senior lecturer and coordinator of art appreciation, Northern Kentucky University and Block.

Clifton Town Meeting sent out a survey administered by John Osterman in January 2018 to determine what art projects would resonate in the Clifton area.  Some of the results included supporting existing events such as Clifton Fest on October 5 and working with organizations such as the University of Cincinnati College of Design Art Architecture and Planning to bring more art to the neighborhood of Clifton.

Block said that the intention of the art program is to support the Clifton business district and compete with Oakley and Over-the-Rhine.  There are a variety of small stores on Ludlow Ave. as well as a plaza.  Ideas included lights, sculpture, murals and an improved streetscape.  The survey identified 13 sites, such as Arlin’s, as key places to focus art.

Committee member Rich talked to Dave Taylor, owner, Gaslight Properties, about the former Post Office space.  Taylor agreed to have the space used as an art gallery until he found a tenant.  The committee decided to rent the space, however, from July 1 through December 31, 2019.  Donors paid for the renovation.

Block said the committee wanted to bring awareness and vitality to the neighborhood of Clifton. The committee is giving the gallery six months to see if it can be sustainable.  Mullaney said the gallery is trying to cover its costs as a nonprofit volunteer organization.  As Mullaney said with a smile, “It’s an art infusion.”

The gallery has already attracted well-known Clifton artists for the first exhibit.  Current artists whose work is on display include Jan Brown Checco, Margot Gotoff, Pat Olding, Donna Talerico and Saad Ghosn.  The gallery will rotate art every four weeks.

The next project is the Ludlow Garage Mural coming to the outdoor wall at 342 Ludlow Ave.  Seven artists, some well-known, serve on the team to create ten-foot-tall portraits of musicians who have performed at Ludlow Garage.  They include C. F. Payne, David Michael Beck, Ellinna Chetverikova, Brandon Hawkins, John Maggard, Gabrielle Siekman and Jenny Ustick.  The artists selected musicians to honor:  Judy Collins, Rickie Lee Jones, B.B. King, Albert King, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, The James Gang and Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band.

The difference in this mural is that artists will create studio paintings in the medium of their preference.  These will be scanned and printed in a ten-feet-tall scale onto aluminum composite panels and cut out on silhouette lines.  Finished panels will be mechanically attached to the historic Ludlow Garage and dedicated on Saturday, October 5. Block talked about other mural opportunities in the future.

A show of the artists’ two pieces and a sketch will run from July 19 to August 10 prior to the mural installation. In addition, guests will see a video of an interview of artists.

Cincinnati Public Schools decided it needed more room in the fall of 2018.  It asked Clifton Cultural Arts Center, housed in the former Clifton elementary school, to vacate the space.  Under Leslie Mooney’s direction, CCAC relocated on Short Vine.  The Arts and Culture Committee would like to see CCAC return to the gaslight district and supports its presence in Clifton.

There is another professional organization in Clifton:  Clifton Business and Professional Association, of which Pat Olding is a member.  To be a member of that group, one has to have a business in the Clifton Business District.  Olding serves as liaison with Off Ludlow in addition to showing her work at the new gallery.

Support from the community for the mural came from a variety of places.  Clifton Community Fund supported the mural project with a donation.  Dave and Claudia Taylor, owners of The Ludlow Garage, agreed with the idea of the murals and use of the wall to display them.

Wideman said the committee would like to reach out to different artists in communities such as Northside and Hyde Park to bring their art to Off Ludlow Gallery.

How does it compare to other galleries? Block said, “We want to be as good as any gallery.” There never has been a gallery before in Clifton, sometimes a quirky neighborhood of boutique shops, restaurants and bars in addition to Graeter’s and Skyline.

Mullaney commented that there is more support for the performing arts than the visual arts in Cincinnati.  Yet, it is less expensive to live here than New York.  To be successful, you have to hustle.  Block cited a statistic from Southwest Art Magazine, circa 2001, that the average age to support oneself as an artist in the United States is 57.

Gallery hours are 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday as well as by appointment.  Phone number is (513) 374-7928.  There is also a Facebook page for more information.  Parking is available offsite.

–Laura Hobson

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