District Art and Apparel Intends to Make Art More Approachable on High Street
Longtime friends Nick Harper and Garrett McLaren run District Art and Apparel, 1251 N. High St., with a mission to make art more affordable and approachable in the Short North.
District Art and Apparel features all original artwork, as well as affordable prints for art lovers without a huge budget. It also features startup fashion brands in rotation, as well as events.
Harper is an art lover and painter himself, with a decent sized art collection. He and McLaren went to school together up through high school, before McLaren moved to Chicago almost a decade ago. Once he returned to Columbus, McLaren approached Harper about opening up an art gallery. That was just seven months ago.
Harper and McLaren’s goal with District Art and Apparel is to be the “un-gallery,” Harper says. He talks about getting a weird feeling when entering other galleries in the Short North, as if he doesn’t belong.
“I don’t know if they could tell that I wasn’t able to afford seven or eight thousand dollar pieces,” he says. “I just kind of got that feeling that I wasn’t fully welcome there.”
Harper has lived in the Short North for six years now. There have been major changes, he says, even in the amount of time he has lived there.
“Growth is coming and it’s welcome,” he explains. “We still have the galleries, but a lot of the artists and the organic stuff have been kind of pushed out. You have the high-end galleries moving in, which is wonderful. I love going in there and doing the gallery hops, but it’s not really welcoming to new and emerging artists.”
With District, Harper and McLaren are hoping to change that for artists.
“I know a lot of [my] artist friends have since moved down to Franklinton and don’t really come up to the Short North as much,” he says. “[Artists are] looking for a place to display their works in the Short North, and unless they’re established, it doesn’t seem like they really have a place or a voice here. We wanted to bring that back and make it not so stuffy.”
Since opening, Harper and McLaren have faced some challenges in getting people out to District.
“At first we were kind of naive,” he says. “We had the mentality where if you build it they will come. So we opened up the doors seven months ago and were kind of shocked that people just didn’t come in on their own.”
As a result, they have begun to concentrate on word-of-mouth and hosting events, for more organic growth. In addition to opening exhibitions with live music, they have partnered with #Underground (no affiliation), a spoken word group, to host poetry and spoken word events. They also have hosted yoga classes. “It really connects with the community and other artists that might not be visual artists,” says Harper.
Harper and McLaren’s goal for District is to continue to give upcoming artists space and grow the talent pool of Columbus artists. In five years, they want District to be a go-to space for local art.
“Whether it be collectors in the community, new restaurants or buildings that are opening, we want to fill those walls with local artists and really empower them to draw from the talent pool that is Columbus artists. Because it’s vast.”
District Art and Apparel is always accepting art and event submissions. For more information, visit the District Art and Apparel Facebook page.