The phrase “art in Columbus” often elicits images of gallery hops and museums, clean white spaces adorned with pricey framed paintings.
But to experience the pulse of the art scene in the city, go in search of the collective.
Artist collectives and co-ops have a long history in Columbus, but only recently have these repurposed buildings in some out-of-the-way parts of town drawn the attention of the public and serious art collectors.
The oldest and most well-known of these artist studio spaces is Milo Arts, located in Milo-Grogan just east of Italian Village.
The building — a 1984 school designed by the same architect who designed the Franklin Park Conservatory — opened its doors to artists in 1988 and now houses visual, literary and performing artists who live and work in 39 studio spaces.
“Having started only 20 years ago with only a vision of what could be and with much resolve and determination, Milo Arts has become a successful artist haven in Columbus,” the group states on its website. “The diversity of artists has included painters, industrial artists, writers, woodworkers, sculptors, jewelers, commercial artists, photographers and dancers to name a few.”
The building has a gallery which is currently down due to extensive renovation and rehabilitation plans for the building which include sculpture gardens, an artists’ shop, expanded gallery space and high-speed internet for every studio space.
A newer and perhaps more well-known artist collective is 400 West Rich, which opened in a former industrial manufacturing warehouse in Franklinton in 2011 with 12 studios and a handful of tenants.
Since then, 400 West Rich has grown to include more than 140 artists, craftsmen, designers and performers and functions both as an artistic community and an educational space.
Along with traditional artist studios, the building now houses four music studios, 16 offices home to local startups and nonprofits, a 3,500-square-foot coworking space, the OSU STEAM Factory, the Ohio Arts League X Space, a classroom space and three galleries.
On the second Friday of every month, the space opens up to the public for Franklinton Fridays, when visitors can come and peek in the studios, buy artwork and learn about classes which include everything from pottery to aerial acrobatics.
The sheer size of spaces like 400 West Rich and Milo Arts make them staples of the art collective community in the city, but intrepid art seekers can also find hidden gems just about anywhere in the city.
For instance, hidden away in the alleyways of Merion Village on the south side is MINT Collective, which makes its home in an old meat factory at 42 West Jenkins.
A truly collaborative space, MINT does away with the traditional studio model and relies on its artists to help take care of the wide open, communal space.
The group’s mission is to “support underrepresented and developing artists” and to “remain persistently disobedient to traditional thinking.”
The collective has had several exhibitions and supports about 20 artists.
Other collectives in Columbus lack physical spaces but you can find their work all around town.
CAW Columbus is a women’s artist membership association that acts as a resource and works to promote the work of its members. The group has a two-part exhibition opening in March at the Cultural Arts Center called “Inside/Outside.”
Artist collectives are so widespread in Columbus that you may have even seen their work without knowing it.
Covert, a street art collective whose motto is “art for art’s sake,” pastes colorful artwork on public property around the city.
The guerrilla art, the work of anonymous artists, is meant to inspire conversation and spread color in the community.
So the next time you stroll past a conspicuously placed rainbow robot or rubber duck with spiked hair, just know that you are already looking at the work of one of Columbus’ many artist collectives.