OHIO’S ART TOWN
Zanesville Art Colony A Major Draw
It’s all in the vibe. The atmosphere of the Zanesville, Ohio art scene is vibrant and friendly at every corner. Dozens of hand-painted street banners hang from light poles throughout downtown promoting its art community. As they should, considering the town was once the center of the pottery industry.
This town has always been creative. Going over its storied Y-bridge will reveal that. Its history is as rich as the clay deposits in the region. Now, Zanesville is in the midst of a renaissance driven primarily by the Artist Colony of Zanesville (ArtCoz).
“I drove through Zanesville years ago on my way home to New Orleans. The character of the architecture drew me back to open my studio,” said Larry Zink, a painter and the owner of Larry Zink Studio and Gallery.
Zink pulled an antique bottle of Zane Club Whiskey from his pocket. It had the same emblem as the outside wall of the Paul Emory Studio and Gallery across the alley parking lot. The building was a saloon in 1910, where they made and served the local brand he had in hand.
The small 19th Century two-story brick building dates back to 1876 when it originally served as the Clossman Hardware Store annex building.
“I have always been interested in art, building things, making pictures, and imagining possibilities,” said Paul Emory, owner of Paul Emory Studio and Gallery. “After winning an art competition in the third grade, I was pretty sure this would be my path.”
Years later, after art school and a two-year stint in the army serving in Germany, Emory returned to Zanesville. He began to see his old town resembling old cities in Europe, much like Zink did. Emory, at just 29-years-old, bought his first old building with the idea of turning it into a local art gallery, which is now known as Zaap. He continued to make art and restore architecture in the 600-block of Zanesville, which he and others refer to as the old quarter.
“I try to keep a balance between working on my art and working on the buildings,” said Emory. “Sometimes people will ask me, ‘How long did it take you to paint that piece?’ I usually answer, ‘all my life.’”
The people at ArtCoz, like Emory, are working to make Zanesville’s past a part of its future. ArtCoz helps sustain, grow, and promote its art community. The art community has nationally recognized artists by names such as Paul Emory, Alan Cottrill, Yan Sun, Michael Seiler, Joel Yeager, Nora Daniel, and others actively at work on their craft today. Through ArtCoz, they selflessly become mentors to budding artists trying to get off the ground today.
“Everybody starts from somewhere,” said Kristen Brown, 2020 President of ArtCoz and owner of Studio Leigh. “Our art community does an excellent job of making everyone realize that they are important and helping get their artwork noticed and out there.”
Zanesville started making a name for itself in the global art world in the mid-19th century when the pottery industry discovered the plentiful and rich clay throughout the area, and Samuel A. Weller and Karl Kappes were born. All three of these events would mold the future of Zanesville, putting its stamp on the national art scene.
Many of the buildings being restored were built during the boom times when Zanesville was the heart of the pottery industry. Zanesville’s pottery manufacturing began to thrive while Weller was growing up. He not only became a talented potter but a gifted salesman to boot. Cutting his teeth in the blossoming industry, Weller used an old white horse to haul the much sought-after crude red clay from the hilly terrain to his modest shop. After Weller finished his clay-working, he took the finished pieces to market. From there, he built his empire in clay. By 1910, S.A. Weller Pottery was the largest pottery manufacturer in the world.
Zanesville’s Karl Kappes was born just 10 years before Weller. After studying art in Cincinnati, New York, Paris, and Munich, he found his way back home. In the years straddling the turn of the 20th century, he worked for Weller Pottery. He was a driven artist who often repeated a Chinese proverb, “No man is an artist until he has painted 10,000 pictures, and I am an artist.”
Kappes produced thousands of pencil, oil, and watercolor pieces. His portfolio was known for lively portraits, colorful landscapes, and exceptional pottery designs. His last studio in Zanesville was at the Masonic Temple building, which is home to more than 30 art galleries and studios today.
Travelers to Zanesville often stop at the visitors’ center upon entering the town at 205 North 5th Street, and a statue of Kappes finishing a piece of pottery is there to greet people at the front door.
Evoking the spirit of Kappes, today’s larger-than-life artist Alan Cottrill has an incredible work ethic.
“When I began sculpting, I was determined to “out-work, out-think, and out-feel every other sculptor alive!” said Cottrill.
Cottrill has a working sculptor studio with many different statues in various stages of completion. There are over 500 sculptures on display, 400 of which are bronze, and dozens of which are life-sized or larger. Anyone can walk in at just about anytime to find Cottrill throwing himself into a piece or stepping back to contemplate his next move. Watching this artist in action can be an intense sight, but when he steps out of “the zone” and sees that he has visitors, he will flash a bright smile and chat up a storm.
You can’t miss the Alan Cottrill Sculpture Studio and Museum, the largest collection of any sculptor’s work in the world. His towering bronze sculptures pour out of his two-story studio onto the roof, down the sidewalk, and across the country, including statues of Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson.
The thing that everyone remembers after their visit is the breathtaking tombs on the second floor of his studio. The two become one by an outstretched palm touching outstretched fingertips in the likeness of Alan and his wife, Susan. They are lying on top of their caskets, Alan donning a ballcap, legs crossed, and carving tools in hand. Susan, lying still and angelic. Both at peace. However, this work by Cottrill will need to be finished by someone else, as the date of “completion” is not yet known.
In a word: powerful!
Powerful and subtle, past and present, and near and far pieces of art are showcased at the Zanesville Museum of Art (ZMA). It displays masterpieces from local legends dating back to Kappes through to the marquee names of today such as Yan Sun, and others. It also features stunning pottery from Weller, Roseville, Owens, and Rookwood companies. Its 18 galleries display a rich selection of the museum’s permanent collection of American and European art, including pieces by Bierstadt, Cassatt, Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir, Picasso, and Matisse, among others.
“That feeling you get when you are looking at a 2,000-year-old sculpture or a painting from an artist you learned about in high school – That’s what the ZMA provides,” said Daniel Pitcock, ZMA’s marketing coordinator. “I love that I get to be a part of and help the art scene in Zanesville. This is a significant part of the city’s history, and I feel that it’s one thing that makes Zanesville special.”
The beautifully designed and airy museum is highlighted with natural light but also has great use of shade and darkened rooms. The approach to each piece is by no accident. And this is no more evident than when rounding a corner to come eye-to-eye with a Yan Sun painting which showcases diverse culture. Lit perfectly, it grabs you!
Professor Yan Sun is an artist who teaches at the nearby Muskingum University. His studio in downtown Zanesville is named Yan Sun Art Museum. This place instantly relaxes the folks who enter, partially due to the amiable smile and courteous demeanor of Sun. The museum was designed to make its guests feel at home. It even offers meeting spaces that are as calming, such as the sunroom where people can sit for afternoon tea. The museum is a working gallery and studio. Sun’s artwork captures a meditative moment composed of three main issues: life, time, and space.
“I love art very much, although I was born in a family of medical professionals,” said Sun. “My father was a doctor. My mother is a retired pharmacist. I didn’t know if I could be successful in art. I was lucky that my first art teacher gave me confidence.”
Taking a walk through Sun’s museum of works is to take a journey through the world, past and present.
Another artist who evokes the past in a provocative and fabulously creative way is Ron Cole. He built his career in Los Angeles, California and spent time working at places like Disney, Pixar, and Boeing. As a model-maker, his creations have appeared in major motion pictures like Terminator III, The Aviator, and Madagascar. But his passion since childhood has been historic aviation. This led to his innovative ‘relic displays.’ For this, he acquires actual pieces of landmark aircraft and incorporates them into works of art.
“People want more than just a pretty picture on the wall,” said Cole. “I offer them that. I provide people with a real history that they can reach out and touch.”
These pieces by Cole’s Aircraft are on display and for sale at Gallery Luminaria. This studio is co-owned by Erin France. And with her wire-wrap jewelry and zaney mixed-media art, it’s safe to say that this is Zanesville’s most eclectic gallery.
France turned her childhood of growing up with two ladies from the great depression into upcycled whimsical assembly art. She loves to repurpose things and give them new life and opportunity.
“Our nation has become a nation of waste,” said France. “Everything is disposable: clothing, electronics, even people! Many in our society discard the elderly with little respect for their experiences, knowledge, wisdom, and hard-learned lessons they have to offer us. So my wish is that people will look at my art and think about what they throw away. Not only objects but thoughts, emotions, experiences, people, and rethink the future. What will I keep and give new life?”
Whether it’s through the story of Erin France, an artist coming into her own, or the stories of Emory, Sun, Cottrill, and Kappes, a lesson begins to reveal itself in the history of the Zanesville art world: To learn, there must be someone to teach. And to teach, you first have to learn.
“I had a lot of great art teachers along the way,” said Kristen Brown. “Susan Stubbins at The Art Loft was one of my teachers at Roosevelt Middle School and again at Zanesville High School. We became good friends.”
The Art Loft is run by a group of four women artists who love to create a variety of art in the loft setting of a restored warehouse in downtown Zanesville. The cheerful colors of the building façade lure visitors inside and then up the staircase to the loft. There, Stubbins, Susan Nash, Linda Graham, and Sandy Booth work at stations side by side creating mixed-media collages, alcohol inks, art quilts, paintings, assemblage, and textile art.
“We find inspiration in collaborative projects with other artists and each other,” said Stubbins. “Our inspiration is everywhere. We are proud to be a part of the art community in Zanesville, and we work hard to promote local artists, musicians, and the art community.”
Kristen Brown credits her art coming into focus after moving back to Zanesville, and being surrounded by a community of artists who she says is very supportive and helpful. Her Studio Leigh inside the old Masonic Temple building is full of bright colors that match Brown’s personality.
“I always loved to paint and create things. I love bright colors,” said Brown.
One of her many artist neighbors in the Masonic Temple building is yet another example of a selfless mentor. Bob Grayson is a gentleman who has given back much to the community. He is a retired school principal and now owns Gallery G.
“I have been given the gift of teaching and mentoring,” said Grayson.
As he talked, a man walked in and gave him a big hug. Some time ago, Sean Elliot came home after serving in the Marines. He stopped by Gallery G to see Grayson for some encouragement to bring his artwork to the public. Grayson offered him display space, and Elliot went to work. Grayson asked him to assist in teaching and mentoring some high school students. So, through art, a friendship grew between the teacher and former student.
“Any time I see Sean, my heart leaps with pride and joy to see how art connected us in an artistic way but also as a lifelong friend,” said Grayson with a smile that said it all.
In a town where students and buildings get a second wind to reach even higher than before, the former Pioneer Elementary School has followed suit. David Mitzel purchased the century building at auction and later invited ceramic artists from anywhere in the world to move to Zanesville, Ohio. With this, the PSZ Clay Center was born, offering residency to those honing their craft in clay and pottery, once again making Zanesville a beacon of light in the world of clay.
“Plans are in the works to build a clay center downtown,” said Brown. “It will connect the clay sculpture history to the clay sculpture artists of today under the same roof. This effort is by another well-known Zanesville potter, Maddy Fraioli.”
And that is the theme throughout Zanesville’s history: individuals serving the greater good of the community by helping those in it to rise and reach their full potential. These efforts are why the town is so art-centric.
“We had some pretty awesome people start ArtCoz,” said Brown. “People like Alan Cottrill Susan Stubbins, Susan Nash, Paul Emory and Michael Seiler (owner of Seilers’ Studio and Gallery) have been monumental to the Zanesville artists’ community. They have all worked together. Now it’s up to all of us to keep it going.”
ArtCoz provides outreach to shine a light on the community to help sustain economic growth. It is accomplished through the endeavors shared on their website, newsletter, and primarily through the special events that they sponsor.
First Friday Art Walk is held from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on the first Friday of every month year-round. Studios across the town open their doors for the public to see works in progress, finished pieces, and pieces for sale. An artist is featured as the “artist of the month” for each art walk. The entire town turns into an art show. Artists even have their works up at restaurants and other gathering spots during the events.
A stone’s skip across the river is Girl UPcycled Studio. It features custom painted furniture and hand-crafted gift items by local artists. Here, owner Kelly Wiler helps DIYers with workshops and classes.
An annual ArtCoz event is Holiday ArtFest. This is held during the second week in November and provides an opportunity to shop around town for that special holiday gift. Food trucks and live music put everyone in a creative shopping spirit.
The biggest event by ArtCoz each year is the Y Bridge Art Festival. It is held the first week in August at Zanes Landing Park. This event has grown into one of the largest in the region. It was created by Linda Regula and is now in the hands of Bob Grayson. It features about 75 artist tents, many from other states. The art shown and sold here is from across the spectrum of mediums and styles. The event also has plenty of food trucks and live music.
Linda M. Regula-Warren was a mover and shaker in the Zanesville art community. She is remembered for her passion and as a mentor by many. She co-founded the “You Will Rise Project” with Paul Richmond to help empower people anywhere to express themselves through their art. A scholarship to honor Regula-Warren’s legacy is being led by Richmond.
“This will be a great way to help people who may have been overlooked,” said Brown. “It will be for artists whose art and passion helped them persevere and heal during hard times.”
ArtCoz has two new events in development. One is called ‘365’. It will only showcase artwork created within the past year (365 days). Another, called “The Big Show,” will showcase large pieces of artwork.
Zanesville’s colony of artists continue to pass the baton through history and with it, bringing its history into the present …often with a creative twist.
No doubt, Zanesville will continue breaking the mold.
By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun
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