Paving the Way

Paving the Way


Photo: Justin Abbruzzee

Sherrie Gallerie
694 N. High St.
Columbus, OH 43215

When Sherrie Riley Hawk describes her Columbus, Ohio, gallery's success in the über-artsy Short North neighborhood, we learn it's all about connections. Someone will walk through the door, pause in front of a piece of sculpture or jewelry, and ask for the story behind it. "There is nothing more gratifying than connecting the artists to the people who appreciate them," she says. "It makes my life much richer. I learn from everyone who comes into the gallery."

Sometimes Hawk gets a good story out of telling a good story. Recently, a young visitor was captivated by Carol Gentithes' sculptures of wildlife, whose bodies are encased in floral-patterned porcelain. He turned and asked: "Why do all the animals have their pajamas on?" Voilà: an opportunity to form a bond, tell a story, and set another art lover on his path.

So you were a numbers-cruncher first?
I started out as an accountant, but art was my passion. I opened my first gallery in the mid-1980s - mostly glass sculpture. Seven years ago I opened this new space, concentrating on three-dimensional and new art forms. I just love the expression - the way artists use wood, clay, and non-traditional mediums to convey their ideas.

How do you choose the pieces you show? When do you know that "Yup - this is it"?
I am looking for uniqueness in the use of certain mediums. I tend to focus on clay creations, other three-dimensional sculpture, and art jewelry. I also look at what messages are being expressed through the art.

People tell me this is a stimulating space and that they want to touch the craftwork here because, in many cases, they haven't seen so many different textures and whimsies in art forms before. I love that.

Tell us about the Gallery Hop and the Short North.
I am so proud of Columbus and the creative expansion in the Short North. Most cities haven't been able to maintain their art districts, but Columbus has continued to support us. The fact that it has actually grown a lot is something we should be really proud of.

Even the bars and restaurants here have art in them. But mostly it's the popularity of the Gallery Hop that sets us apart from other art districts. And, believe it or not, it's heading toward 30 years.

For a little bit of background: In the early 1980s we rallied to revive our downtown in a way that would celebrate Ohio's passion for arts and crafts. That's how the Gallery Hop was born.

So on the first Saturday of every month our galleries and boutiques - dozens of them - stay open late. It's so popular that people spill over onto High Street. My fellow shop owners agree that it would normally take years to get this kind of exposure. So we are lucky.

You are a SOFA fan.
Absolutely. I see the international expositions of SOFA [Sculpture Objects and Functional Art] as great occasions to showcase my artists and witness global trends at the same time. Sharing creativity is always a good thing.

Your favorite artistic connection story?
The three-dimensional work of one of my artists, Christian Faur, often elicits emotional responses. A car full of Obama supporters from Columbus, en route to the president's inauguration, pulled over when the ladies spied Faur's rendition of the U.S. Constitution in the window. He had reconstituted a copy of the document so that its pieces formed a multi-faceted wall hanging. The ladies wanted to have their pictures taken in front of it. That was great.

Martha Wilson is an art lover and freelance writer in Columbus, Ohio.