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Drive-By Art in Brighton

By Steven Rosen · May 20th, 2009 · The Big Picture

Because opening a new art gallery is timely and costly, especially if few people come in to buy or even visit, entrepreneurs have been looking for alternatives on the Internet. This, too, has problems.

“In the great ocean of the Internet, any one Web site gets lost unless you can do a lot of advertising,” says Clay Wainscott, a 65-year-old artist/gallerist with an unusual solution for the problem.

He has a drive-by (or walk-by) gallery in Brighton consisting of the display windows of one long-vacant shop at the corner of Freeman and Central avenues. You can see the art from the street, but you can’t go inside the building — for more information, you have to consult the Web site, www.freemancentralgallery.com.

“This is a way to combine a physical presence with a Web site,” Wainscott says. “The windows work like a billboard, but are more substantive.”

Wainscott’s brother Jim, a Cincinnati painter who has been renovating it as studio space, owns the building. Clay Wainscott, who lives in Lexington and is also a painter, thought it would be a good location for an experiment in showing and selling art.

The windows feature framed paintings by both brothers, as well as artist Will Wolter.

The work is appealingly mounted on panels so as to be visible from the street. The paintings are representational, though not strictly realistic.

Clay Wainscott’s work has a popish, abstracted feel — a brightly colored close-up of a motorcycle, for instance. Brother Jim’s major contribution is an exacting depiction, rendered on birch panel, of the West End as seen through the oval window of a nearby building’s upper floor. And Wolter has provided relatively small panels of pastoral landscapes and seascapes with a quiet, 19th-century appeal.

The art can be seen day or night. Evening hours are recommended because the building’s restored shop-window electrical wiring allows for illumination. But at the front door is a sign stating “No Entrance.” Instead, it tells the curious to visit the Web site and also provides a phone number. The site provides information about the artists, as well as close-ups of the work.

While the paintings might veer toward the traditional, this is an innovative — conceptual, even — approach to bringing more art to street level in a picturesque but gritty old neighborhood where there are studios but little consistent gallery activity.

However, while it couldn’t be immediately confirmed on this column’s deadline, more change might be coming. Jim Wainscott said that TODT, the avant-garde New York conceptual-art collective that used Cincinnati as a base in the mid-1990s, would soon be occupying a three-story red-brick building at 2133 Central Ave. Its space might also have a public component, possibly to document its history. The collective had a well-regarded show, Zero-Sum, at the Contemporary Arts Center in 1995.

So far, in the roughly six weeks the storefront/Web site has been in existence, nobody has bought anything. Word-of-mouth has been slow.

“I’m sure the first wave of interest I get won’t be from people wanting to buy art but from others wanting to show it,” Clay Wainscott says.

If that’s the case, there are many other vacant storefronts available, given the economy’s current state.

CONTACT STEVEN ROSEN: srosen@citybeat.com



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