83 Gallery finds a new, permanent home in Franklin Park

The art gallery, which recently signed a lease for studios and an exhibition space in the East Side neighborhood, will open its doors to the public with a show on Friday, May 31.
83 Gallery will inhabit the ground floor of this Franklin Park building
83 Gallery will inhabit the ground floor of this Franklin Park buildingAndy Downing

83 Gallery has long lived a nomadic existence. 

This was true of the egalitarian art gallery’s first run, which began with its 2008 debut as a pop-up in the basement of a house at 83 W. First Ave. and continued through several Short North spaces before the founders closed up shop in 2014. And it has carried on in the years following 83’s revival with a 2022 reunion show at Blockfort, the gallery most recently taking up temporary space at Brothers Drake Meadery.

In early May, however, founding member Geoff Collins signed a lease for 83 to move into a former maternity hospital in the East Side neighborhood of Franklin Park. The gallery will take over and remodel a chunk of the ground floor, creating studio space for a dozen artists, along with a large exhibition and performance space that Collins said he hoped to have operational by the end of the year.

83 Gallery started to look for a more permanent home starting in March 2023, around the time that some of the city's creators started to express frustration with events unfolding in Franklinton, which in recent years has become a hub for a portion of the city’s artistic community. “And as soon as we heard about what 400 [West Rich] was doing, and the exodus taking place there, we started looking,” Collins said during a late May tour of the new 83 Gallery space, located at 1551 Bryden Rd. “And hopefully we can make this a place where artists can keep on creating, and where we can continue to build our community.” 

Collins is currently focused on finishing out the artist studios, which have already attracted a trio of tenants, including Emily Morgan and Isabel Francis Bongue, who recently returned to Columbus following a short stint in Texas. “And when I started looking for studios, I wasn’t really looking in Franklinton anymore, because I feel like that [neighborhood] is not going to be viable for emerging artists much longer, if it even still is,” said Bongue, who instead turned her attention to some of the smaller arts pockets beginning to emerge throughout the city. “And this is a cool building. … Part of it has been converted into apartments, and part of it is untouched and unrestored. It has all of these little pockets of what it once was, with hospital rooms in the basement and a chapel that hasn’t been touched.”

The artist studios are located in the western wing of the massive building, located off of a long hallway that will serve as a temporary exhibition space beginning with a new show set to open on Friday, May 31, and featuring 150 works by nearly 50 artists. The eastern wing, currently under construction, will one day house a larger exhibition space, along with a small, raised stage for performances. “The first thing we’re going to do is get these floors done,” said Collins, who recently started the laborious process of stripping back the old floors. “And the walls in here now are pretty good, but eventually we’re going to put up gallery walls and then raise the ceiling. ... And the end goal is to also put some kind of coffee shop in.”

Prior to landing on the Franklin Park space, Collins was close to bringing 83 Gallery downtown. He had located a building, lined up investors, and even started the process of obtaining a liquor permit. “So, we were really close, but I felt like this was going to be more attainable,” said Collins, who believes the gallery’s new home is better positioned to allow it to grow more organically. 

Part of this growth, Collins said, will involve fostering connections not only with the artists who live and work in the area, including those inhabiting the studios a mile down the road at 700 Bryden, but also the surrounding neighborhood residents. “I’m approaching everyone right now and just trying to make this an open space,” said Collins, who has visions of trolley tours one day taking visitors back and forth between 83 Gallery and 700 Bryden. “But, yeah, it’s about bringing in the whole community. The first thing I ask people [in the neighborhood] is, ‘Are you an artist? Do you make art?’ And if they do, the next thing I say is, ‘I can get you right into the show.’”

From its inception, 83 Gallery has attempted to operate as a barrier-free space, staging sprawling monthly exhibitions in which artists of all stripes are afforded the opportunity to display and sell their creations to the public. “It’s tough out there,” 83 Gallery cofounder Maddy Beaumier said in March 2023, highlighting the challenges Columbus artists have in even finding galleries where they can exhibit their work. (Beaumier has since left 83 Gallery).

“I like that they’re open to pretty much anyone’s form of expression or art,” said Bongue, who has participated in a handful of 83 Gallery exhibitions. “I feel like a lot of the work they show is approachable and affordable. And I like how they just make it work, whatever it is. It’s a gallery that has moved around a lot and inhabited a lot of spaces. And I’m hoping this can now be more of a permanent home.”

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