July 2006 Issue
Connecting Art & Business
Nelsonville's arts scene has become a learning laboratory for students.
Mark Hackworth loves being on the Public Square. He says it is perfect for students enrolled in Hocking Collegeâ€™s Arts, Marketing and Design program, because they can interact on a daily basis with artists whose shops and galleries make up Nelsonvilleâ€™s Historic Square Arts District.
As coordinator of the Hocking College program, Hackworth oversees activities at 73 W. Columbus St., where students learn creative techniques from some of the areaâ€™s most recognized and accomplished artists. â€œStudents love this nontraditional environment and they are learning just by being here, even though theyâ€™re probably not aware of the importance of everything thatâ€™s going on around them,â€ says Hackworth. â€œIf the artists who own these shops and galleries arenâ€™t good business people, they wonâ€™t be around long. Marketing and business courses are part of what we teach, but some will put it together sooner through observation and make the connection,â€ he adds.
Hackworth notes that the business piece is often where artists fall short. â€œThey might have considerable talent, but if art isnâ€™t sold the artist isnâ€™t making a living.â€
The goal of the Arts, Marketing and Design program is to polish creative techniques and at the same time expose students to basic business skills that will allow them to earn a living while creating art.
Hackworth believes the program accomplishes both.
About a dozen artists from around the Public Square teach classes that are available as day and evening courses.
Ann Judy, owner of Starbrick Clay, teaches all the marketing courses for arts students. Several artists associated with shops and galleries around the Public Square also teach in their areas of expertise. They include Jennifer Lâ€™Heureux, owner of Nelsonville Pottery & Art Supply, who teaches pottery; Jonathan Seibert of Element 47, handmade silver jewelry; Aaron Smith, Majestic Galleries, painting; Chris Eaton, 2C Studio, photography; Mamerto Tingdongan, Half-Way Sun, wood-carving; and Suzanne Oldham, Foothills School of American Crafts, metals. Both flint-knapper Danny Roush and Susan Corbet, a flame worker, are independent artists who offer instruction to Hocking College students.
Bonnie Proudfoot is an extraordinary artist who teaches warm and cold glass techniques. Her philosophy is simple: â€œGive the students the confidence that enables them to find their niche and express themselves. Then theyâ€™ll be able to make a living by being creative and individualized.â€
Proudfoot believes art must be original for an artist to succeed. Her art glass is sold locally at Foothills Gallery and Court Street Collection in Athens. It is also sold at the American Crafts Gallery in Shaker Heights and at the Belushi-Pisano Gallery on Marthaâ€™s Vineyard.
Her first job was making lamps for Wendyâ€™s, and Proudfoot grins as she says she must have made â€œabout a millionâ€ of them. Perhaps this was in preparation for a later challenge: She worked for six months creating 16 stained-glass windows for St. Paulâ€™s Episcopal Church in Lynchburg, Virginia.
â€œArtists need to learn about all the possibilities that are out there, then they will have the tools to make a living and to find themselves as artists. I have never not done art and I am fortunate at this stage to combine art with academics and to have a hand in building this special program,â€ says Proudfoot, who has completed the coursework leading to a doctoral degree in creative writing from Ohio University.
Like Hackworth, she sees major advantages to offering classes in town, whether in Hocking Collegeâ€™s studios or at the artistsâ€™ galleries. â€œStudents are constantly exposed to artists, [their] collective creation.â€
Hackworth has a masterâ€™s degree in fine arts and is an accomplished photographer and printmaker. He and Proudfoot work well together because of their complementary approaches to art and their teaching styles.
Lisa Johnson is a second-year Hocking College student from Kingston, Jamaica, who came to Ohio specifically to study in the Arts, Marketing and Design program. When she has completed her studies, Lisa says she will return to Jamaica where sheâ€™ll work as a glass artist and graphic designer.
Students also work on special projects such as decorating one of the 100, 7-foot-tall vases that are part of the Weller Vase in Place project. Vases are being installed along the â€œclay corridorâ€ from Nelsonville to Dresden and are sponsored by local businesses. A vase is located at Foothills School of American Art Gallery in Nelsonville.
The Mechem Gallery, named for the family who originally owned the West Columbus Street building, is another learning experience for students, who manage and operate the gallery. â€œIn fall and winter quarters, second-year students run the gallery, and in spring quarter first-year students take over. Iâ€™m there to advise them, but the gallery is really in their hands,â€ says Hackworth. â€œThey will either succeed or fail, but itâ€™s an experience from which they will learn as they create strategies to make the gallery look good and entice buyers in to purchase their art.â€
The premier art activity in Nelsonville is Final Fridays, held the last Friday of each month, except December. Gold flags hang outside participating shops and galleries in and around the Public Square. Visitors can enjoy artist demonstrations, art chats, openings of new exhibits, plays and musical performances. During warm-weather months, drum circles, street musicians, dancers and other sidewalk entertainment add to the festive atmosphere.
Some businesses that are not necessarily art focused have found ways to fit into the art theme. Steve Roley of Hocking Hills Travel and Ben Bohl, director of International Field Studies, share an office space on the Square where Outback Gallery is located. â€œIf art is what brings people to the Public Square, we want to be part of it. The art we offer relates to travel and the nature theme â€” tribal masks from Africa, pottery from Peru, and wood, clay, and metal sculptures from Asia, the Caribbean and [local artists],â€ Roley says.
A life-size cow made of papier-mÃ¢chÃ© greets visitors to Leslie Lillyâ€™s Foundation for Appalachian Ohio office. Most of the art on view is from Lillyâ€™s private collection and changes periodically, but always highlights artists from Appalachia.
Hackworth sees the presence of Hocking College and others who support the arts movement as a commitment to community revitalization. â€œOur program [Arts, Marketing and Design] was developed with the arts community in mind. I see a huge difference in the foot traffic from three years ago, when we first came over [to the Public Square]. Faith goes a long way in bridging development and commitment, and weâ€™re beginning to see the fruits of these efforts planted by the college, the Baird Brothers Company Foundation and the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio.â€
Communities come together by inviting others in â€” itâ€™s a chance to share whatâ€™s special and to have fun. By mid-summer, particularly the months of July and August, special events are plentiful and itâ€™s not difficult to find something of interest going on around the Public Square in downtown Nelsonville or at Hocking College.
Thunder in the Valley is Athens Countyâ€™s official July 4th fireworks celebration. Itâ€™s the largest boom-blast in southeastern Ohio, and while the official location is the campus of Hocking College, it doesnâ€™t take long for drivers along U.S. Rte. 33 to discover that a great vantage point is simply to pull off the road and look toward the sky. Over the years, locals have discovered which back yards provide the best view. Booms are followed by oohs and ahhs as fireworks light up the sky in synchronization with music heard locally over radio station WAIS/WSEO. The display culminates months of work and planning by the Nelsonville Fire Department and is generously supported by local merchants. The Hocking Valley Scenic Railway shuttles passengers to and from Hocking College, where the fireworks are set off. (www.thunderinthevalley.org)
The weekend of July 7â€“9 is devoted to a unique family-oriented sport. Archery enthusiasts take part in two separate events held simultaneously on the Hocking College campus. The International Bowhunter Organizationâ€™s Triple Crown of Bowhunting is the final leg of the national championship and the Bowhunters Challenge is the local event. These competitions attract shooters of all ages and of varying skill levels. Those who want to see whatâ€™s going on are invited to visit the practice range and watch as shooters warm up or pick a comfortable spot near the Youth Shoot competition. (www.ibo.net)
The Nelsonville Art and Music Festival, a summer fundraiser for Stuartâ€™s Opera House, is Saturday, July 29, on the banks of the Hocking River, just behind the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway depot. Live performances by singer-songwriter Todd Snider, Leon Redbone and Bravo Combo, one of the greatest bands to come out of Texas, are among entertainers who are confirmed thus far. Family and friends enjoy this special evening of music, fun and food. (www.stuartsoperahouse.org)
The Parade of the Hills is one of the areaâ€™s longest-running and most successful festivals. Seven years ago, a group of thirtysomethings took over planning of this weeklong event. They shortened it from a week to four days, offering three parades and activities galore that appeal to a broad age range and cater to families. The festival, this year August 16â€“19, is set up in and around Nelsonvilleâ€™s Public Square. Multiple stages bring a variety of musical entertainment, and visitors will find amusement rides, a food court filled with local favorites, a theme park for children, an art walk centered on the work of area artists, a pie competition and auction, the Ohio State Old Time Fiddlers Contest at Stuartâ€™s Opera House, and competitions for Little Miss and Miss Parade of the Hills. Nightly entertainment on the main stage includes the Guy Lombardo Orchestra, Phil Dirt & The Dozers, McGuffey Lane and Tony Rio & Relentless. (www.paradeofthehills.org)
Riding the Trails & Rails
Hocking Valley Scenic Railway volunteers have pledged to work with the Nelsonville community in an effort to extend the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway from Robbins Crossing on Hocking Collegeâ€™s campus into the heart of the community. Grants are being sought to fund the extension that is just over a mile in length and will follow the railroad tracks through Hocking Collegeâ€™s campus, over the old black iron bridge and into town. One of Ohioâ€™s most scenic bikeways, the 19-mile bike path currently stretches east from the college along the banks of the Hocking River, past Eclipse Company Town, which includes a historic coal company store, and in and out of Wayne National Forest before it ends in Athens.
The Hocking Valley Scenic Railway harks back to the bygone era of passenger trains. Operating on weekends from mid-April through October, the restored train offers a choice of two rail experiences, both involving a stop at Robbins Crossing, an interpretive historic site at Hocking College.
The railway has been in operation since 1972. Its loyal volunteers do their part to preserve and restore historic railroad equipment and share a part of history many have forgotten or never experienced.
Special excursions offered annually include Fall Foliage trips in October, when natureâ€™s colors are at their peak, and Santa Rides in late-November and the first three weekends in December, when old St. Nick makes an appearance. The Easter Bunny Special is one of springâ€™s first special trips and includes a stop along the way for an Easter egg hunt. Other special offerings include a Train Robbery and caboose shuttle rides. (www.hvsry.org)
The Railway recently purchased a vintage brick building adjacent to the railroad lines with the goal of developing the site into a railroad museum. The Hocking Valley Scenic Railway is one of several places in Nelsonville that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.