934 Gallery Heads Into a New Year of Change
When Johnny Riddle superseded Abigail Hartung as 934 Gallery’s Executive Director in October, the gallery was considering major changes going into the new decade.
Riddle has been at 934 for over two years, initially joining on as a volunteer acquiring sponsorships for 2017’s 934Fest, before officially taking on the role of acquiring funding for the gallery at-large.
Riddle wanted to expand the support the gallery received via grants and sponsorships, looking at different pathways to supporting 934 programming, especially for their young Milo-Grogan neighbors.
“I wanted to help facilitate our mission on a greater scale…to provide accessible arts experiences for the Milo-Grogan neighborhood,” says Riddle. “And I saw a space that should be supported, that was worthy of being supported by other organizations and companies.”
This past summer, Riddle worked with 934 to create a music program where musicians worked with Milo-Grogan youth in a songwriting workshop during the day that they would perform that evening for the neighborhood.
Over the last two years, Riddle demonstrated to the team — including Hartung — that he wanted to be in a serious role at the gallery.
“I fell in love with our mission, I fell in love with the people, what this place can be, and when Abby first told us that she was thinking of moving into a more supporting role, I knew that I wanted to step into this role,” says Riddle, “expand what we’re doing and work for a model of sustainability, where we’re not thinking of 2020, but we’re thinking of 2030, that we want to be here and [have] an impact.”
Riddle sees a 2020 where 934 expands its volunteer base, transforms its space to offer a small print and workshop, and diversifies structure to attain better resources, all while keeping the gallery’s mission intact.
“We as a team never want to change the accessibility aspect of what we’re here for. So our exhibitions are always going to be free. Our festivals [are] always going to be free,” says Riddle. “It’s that accessibility. It’s allowing people the chance, with any level of resources, you can purchase a piece of original local art and start your collection here.”
The 934.shop — which opened in December and will have an official grand opening at its January exhibition opening reception — will transform a former office to allow exhibiting artists and others to sell work such as prints, zines, ceramics and jewelry, generally for $100 or less.
The gallery will also pursue 501(c)(3) status in 2020. Riddle says while more and more volunteers continue to offer their support, operating as a not-for-profit organization would give the gallery the ability to expand their funding options, especially grant-wise.
“As a not-for-profit, volunteer-run gallery, it’s difficult when you’re looking to expand your resources in our current model,” says Riddle. “That’s going to open up some doors for us that we haven’t been able to thus far. It will expand what we have, the capability…expand our resources for the long run.”
Other changes at 934 include a new exhibition schedule and gallery setup allowing more exposure and opportunity for artists to be seen, and a potential new mural mentorship program, “which would connect young artists here in Milo neighborhood, as well as Greater Columbus, who are interested in that very first step of doing murals, doing large scale work,” says Riddle.
Riddle says he had a few amazing moments during 934’s summer music program, including a conversation he had with the grandfather of one of the young musicians.
“I had a neighbor who just, he thanked us so much for what we do because he saw the benefit of it,” he says. “He was just so excited that we were able to give his grandson something to do that was here. And it was free.”
He says 934 works very hard to get grants, sponsorships, or resources to make programs like this free. The new changes will help 934 provide accessible arts experiences for the Milo-Grogan neighborhood, and Greater Columbus, on a grander scale.
“We were born out of artists who lived in Milo, so we [want] to continue to grow this organization and what we could do,” says Riddle. “Making a positive impact on this neighborhood is what we all, ultimately, want to do. Our avenue is art.”
934 Gallery is located at 934 Cleveland Ave. The gallery’s January exhibition opening reception for “Symptom of the Universe” takes place on Jan. 3, 2020, from 7 to 10 p.m. For more information, visit www.934.gallery.