Tony Dotson, outsider artist, and Janet Berberich, owner of Eye Candy Design agency, are making long-range plans on Short Vine.
This Friday, Dotson will debut 71 Gallery, a space for artists and up-and-coming graphic designers. The opening also will kick off Artbeat on Short Vine, a monthly event to encourage people to rediscover a street largely ignored since the mid-1990s.
Bogart’s recent renovation aside, no one put the “Rock & Roll” back in Short Vine’s vibe, says Dotson, who was in the music business for 20 years. He’s held production roles for Bogart’s, the Taft Theatre and Nederlander/SFX Entertainment, and he owned the now-closed Poison Room.
To return electricity to the Corryville strip after years of blight, Dotson decided to try something new. So, amid still-empty storefronts, he’ll have a “see it, buy it, take it now” gallery open the first Friday of each month. Dotson’s lineup for the former Norton Photography space is nearly complete through December, and he already is thinking about an art festival next year.
71 Gallery’s first artist, Berberich, recently moved part of her business from the Pendleton Art Center to the old Ladder 19 fire station a block from the gallery.
“We found (Short Vine) when we bid on one of the restaurant projects there, and then became familiar with the new energy on the street. We felt this was more grassroots,” Berberich says, comparing Short Vine to the edgier Over-the-Rhine renaissance.
The firehouse, which once housed Zino’s restaurant, has been empty for about 15 years. “The space is perfect for events,” Berberich says. Inside, she and Eye Candy partner Ben Jason Neal point out beautiful brick walls, a loft for offices and lots of natural light. Starting with July’s Artbeat, Neal and Berberich will showcase new artists in the street-level windows.
Eye Candy also created the Artbeat brand. Dive Bar and Beelistic Tattoo are part of the June 7 launch. Over time, Eye Candy and Dotson envision pop-up galleries in remaining vacant spaces. With nonprofit developer Uptown Consortium, Berberich says they want to bring life to the firehouse and create more energy for the whole street.
Sidewalks are being repaired, apartments are up between Daniels and University, and soon Taste of Belgium and brunch joint Hang Over Easy will join Mio’s pizzeria and the sandwich shop Which Wich as new dining options.
Short Vine will be “pretty” once finished, Dotson believes.
If you can get the “fur coats” to come to the gallery, he says, other retail will happen and East Siders will come to an area they might once have perceived as sketchy. “Art is the bridge,” Berberich agrees.
Even as they look forward, Berberich and Dotson are reminiscing.
Dotson, a 1989 Oak Hills grad, remembers coming to Short Vine when he was 15 because it was a little dangerous and exciting for a teen. In addition to Bogart’s, there was Wizard Records (which fled in 1999 for Oxford) and The Cupboard (seller of, um, pipes and sex toys — and is still around).
“I saw my first hippie. I remember stepping over a guy on the sidewalk,” Dotson says. “Everything’s gone — Sudsy’s (the laundry/Rock bar), Scentiments (the clothing store for goths and punks).”
The good news, he says, is that the danger has gone, too. Dotson says Short Vine was “Rock Street.” Now it can be “Art Street,” another spot to visit on a Friday night. He wants 71 Gallery — the number refers to the year he was born — to be a fun, child-friendly place. Eventually he’d like to show kids’ drawings.
Dotson calls himself a vintage guy into old-school stuff and compares the experience of discovering his stripped-down, cartoonish art to finding an old toy. Superheroes, animals and clowns are done in bright house paint on wood. The characters look like stick figures, only with some weight on them, and they take on weighty issues such as racism and death.
“I paint like a child with adult themes,” Dotson says. “The title is where the adult part is.”
Since he started painting just more than 10 years ago, the self-taught artist has been collected across the country and overseas and has shown locally at Thunder-Sky, Inc., the old OTR hot spot Club Clau and PAC Gallery. He’ll sell his art in 71 Gallery’s back room.
Dotson wants to keep offerings “real, contemporary” and affordable, which he defines as less than $500. There won’t be any gold-framed works. “I want to make sure everyone owns art,” he says. It’s also important to him to focus on local and regional artists.
Dotson looks forward to bringing in Kentucky artist Bruce New in July for his first Cincinnati exhibit. “He’s the king of us,” Dotson says, referring to outsider artists, and was just featured on the cover of Raw Vision magazine, the folk art bible.
Berberich is on her own nostalgia trip. Her exhibit is titled POPP=D ART, a play on pop images past their prime. “I’m interested in dead media, stuff you don’t see anymore,” she says.
Her images include record spacers for 45s, razor blades, cassette tapes, clothespins and the soda pull tabs that kids used to loop into chain belts. The words “OFF AIR” are barely visible beneath a resin-coated painting of a TV test pattern.
This is her first solo show. After joining forces two years ago with Neal, a former gallery owner/director, Berberich was inspired to paint for the first time since graduating from NKU in 1995.
Other paintings pay tribute to shuttered Hostess factories. White silicone “icing” loops across lemon, strawberry and chocolate canvases to spell out wise-ass and wistful goodbye messages: “bite me,” “eat me,” “love me tender” and “the end.”
But Berberich had to decide how to say hello to Corryville. When coming up with the Artbeat name, she debated whether the wording should be Artbeat of Short Vine — “like a heartbeat” — before deciding on Artbeat on Short Vine.
“Like you’re on the beat, walking the beat,” she says, confidently striding across her new space.
Who’s joining her march?
71 GALLERY opens 5-10 p.m. Friday, then every first Friday of the month or by appointment. 2609 Vine St., Corryville, 513-305-8989, facebook.com/71Gallery.