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The End of Junctionview Studios

Walker Evans Walker Evans The End of Junctionview Studios
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For the better part of the past decade, Junctionview Studios has stood at the center of the Columbus creative community. While the familiar warehouse-turned-art-studios type of venue has been done before, two important things set Junctionview apart from many others. First was its community of artists willing to open their arms beyond their own circles and networks and collaborate with anyone willing to get involved. Second was its wide variety of public events that created a level of openness and friendliness so that it was not an uncommon sight to find young professionals, CCAD students, retirees, corporate leaders, politicians, young families and everyone else intermingling at the day-long Agora art festival events.

All of that comes to a close next week as the lights go out forever in Junctionview. The artists who have studio space there are finishing their move out by the end of April, and the building is scheduled for demolition starting in May.

“I certainly moved in here knowing that it could get torn down at any moment,” said Megan Green, the founder of Stinkybomb Soaps, who moved into Junctionview just eight months ago. “I didn’t think it was going to happen as quickly as it has happened.”

If we rewind just a few short years ago, very few people even knew what Junctionview Studios was. Local artist Mike Reed stumbled upon an ad for studio space there because he was no longer able to work on large scale paintings in his living room at home. He quickly moved into a studio space, but rarely saw anyone else in the buidling.

“One night while working late, I grabbed a ladder, walked around the warehouse, and climbed up to look over the studio walls,” he said. “Even though I never saw anyone there I at least wanted to see what every one was working on. To my surprise, nearly every studio was empty.”

Reed took it upon himself to talk to the owner of the building and make an effort to fill the space. One of the artists he connected with early on was Adam Brouillette, who in turn brought in many other artists that he knew who would be interested in space at Junctionview.

“I remember a group of us sitting around in the middle area,” said Reed. “It was fairly empty at that time, and we were just discussing ideas. The Couchfire Collective was born out of those conversations, and from then on we all did what we could to promote the space and get artists into studios.”

The Couchfire Collective is an ever-changing group of twelve artists that began to program events at Junctionview as well as other venues and locations throughout Columbus. The group tasked themselves with the mission of raising the profile of the local creative community both as individual artists and as a whole. The group began producing the popular Agora open-house events which attracted some of the mainstay artists including Laura Alexander, Michael Bush, Chris Tenant. According to Brouillette, the artist studios had been filled in by the time Agora 3 was held, and maintained a waiting list ever since.

“Adam’s energy and connections were hugely influential in the effort,” said Reed. “Couchfire on the whole was hugely instrumental. They are some really great people who all worked hard and smart and helped make Junctionview work.”

What began as 25 art studio spaces quickly expanded to 44. Junctionview was hosting everything from yoga sessions to band practices to Wii Sports tournaments. The waiting list for space grew to over 400 people and Agora events were attracting thousands. But Reed was not content to coasting on the group’s growing success.

“I often played the voice of the devil’s advocate in Couchfire, for better or worse, to make us think about things in a different way or to take some risks we might not have otherwise,” he said. “But everyone brought energy, intelligence, and passion to the table and we all shared in building the great community that formed around the space as a result.”

The news broke in late 2007 that Nationwide Realty Investors (NRI) would be purchasing Junctionview Studios as a part of their master plans to redevelop the area that would eventually be known as Grandview Yard. The company closed on the property in 2008 with original plans to tear the building down in 2010. The leadership at The Couchfire Collective negotiated a deal to manage the art studios and remain in place until the building was ready for demolition, which was eventually pushed back to 2013. In exchange, NRI brought the building up to code, added new track lighting, fixed up the bathrooms in the building, and signed the artists to actual leases.

“Before that there was just a verbal agreement with the old building owner,” said Brouillette. “You just showed up and put money in a little box that was in the hallway and hoped that it got to them. NRI legitimized the process for us.”

Reed decided to depart Junctionview Studios and The Couchfire Collective shortly after, leaving the remaining members of the group to continue working with NRI.

“I left mostly because I’m an impossible-to-please-cause-driven-idealist and I had very specific — but probably unobtainable — ideals about how the space should operate and be governed,” explained Reed. “I also tend to see things in a very black and white way. I disagreed with Adam on some key issues and as a result found it too unpalatable to continue to work in the space. In retrospect, my choices were rash and I was hard to work with — but only because I cared so much about what, in my mind, our work represented.”

The arrangement with Junctionview’s new owners continued forward with little other interruption. Artists continued to come and go over the years. Catherine Bell Smith moved in last April to share a space with several other women involved in the Mother Artists at Work group.

“It’s been fabulous to work here for the past year,” said Smith. “I had a whole bunch of large, installation type pieces that I needed to do and this space has been great. I was working at home, between my garage, a small studio space that I built in my backyard, and my husband’s fabrication shop in Hilliard — so moving to Junctionview meant being able to bring everything together.”

Fortunately, Smith and a handful of other artists won’t be stuck moving their studios back into their homes. Eleven members of Junctionview will be moving not far away to a new studio space located at 937 Burrell Ave. The new venue is called Tacocat and will also house a gallery space for exhibitions and events.

“I think around 80% of the people in Junctionview have somewhere to go,” said Brouillette. “Some are going to The Mill Works, some to the Columbus Idea Foundry, and some to 400 West Rich.”

Other artists are holding out for news on Wonderland, an art studio project originally designed to serve as a replacement and an upgrade for Junctionview Studios. The site location and development of Wonderland has posed some challenges and delays, but the group spearheading the effort led by Brouillette is currently investigating a property in East Franklin on Broad Street.

In the meantime, Junctionview will fall to the wrecking ball over the next few months as Grandview Yard continues to expand.

“Site work in and around 889 Williams Ave will begin in May,” said Tina Guegold, VP of Marketing at NRI. “The demolition of the building will occur over the summer. This site is needed to accommodate the utility and roadway work required to extend Bobcat Avenue further to the north.”

Mike Reed holds out the hope that the momentum from Junctionview will carry forward throughout Columbus.

“I hope in some small way the work we put into Junctionview over the years, and the work that continued well after my departure, reached some people and inspired them,” said Reed. “That said, I can not emphasize enough how critical actual physical space is for creative people. I hope that for every Junctionview lost to development, three more facilities like it pop up some place else.”

More information can be found online at www.junctionviewstudios.com.

To view photos from Agora X, the final event at Junctionview Studios, CLICK HERE.

Photo of Junctionview Studios by Walker Evans.

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