A new exhibition combines visual art and writing

A page from the ‘Big Hero 101’ comic book by Open Door artist JD Hirst, whose works are featured in the exhibition at the Carnegie Gallery. Credit: Courtesy of JD Hirst

Vivid colors, intricate narratives and detailed drawings characterize “THE WRITING IS ON THE WALL”, the latest art exhibition to be presented at the Carnegie Gallery at the Columbus Metropolitan Library.

The exhibit, which opened September 2 and will be on display until October 28, is a combination of written words and visual art, which Claire Smith, program director at Open Door Art Studio & Gallery, makes the exhibition an excellent choice for the library. The gallery is a Columbus-based nonprofit organization that provides creative support and representation services to artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities, according to its website.

“A lot of our artists use words in a somewhat unconventional way, so there’s a little more meaning you can put between the words,” Smith said.

Smith said the studio gave its artists full creative control when it came to interpreting the exhibit’s theme. She said some of the artwork features singular words or slogans, while others are more story-based or even inspired by comic books.

Smith said one of the artists featured, JD Hirst, who is on the autism spectrum, has a comic he’s been working on since he started coming to the studio included in the exhibit. He created hundreds of pages from the “Big Hero 101” comic strip, from which they are excerpted for the exhibition.

“He’s got so much experience when it comes to these characters, their personalities, their strengths or their weaknesses,” Smith said. “He incorporates his own narrative, as well as Viking mythology and the Bible, and he kind of created this complex world.”

The exhibit is free to the public, underscoring Open Door Art Studio & Gallery’s commitment to accessibility in the arts, Smith said.

“It’s a great moment for kids to come in and see, ‘Oh, hey, you know, I can do this,'” Smith said. “I strongly believe that art should be accessible to everyone and accessible to everyone. I really think everyone is an artist.

Melissa Combs, director of gallery development, said accessibility is important not only when it comes to exhibiting artwork, but also when it comes to helping their own artists create them.

“Many of them have no place in their homes. Some of them may live in other intermediate care facilities where they share a room with someone else, or they live in their family home and don’t have access to studio apartments,” Combs said.

Because many artists lack the financial resources for projects, Combs said the gallery provides ceramics, a full kiln, and photographic equipment.

Combs said the exhibition was a great opportunity to show the public the work that the artists of Open Door Art Studio & Gallery create daily.

“The artists we support have something to say,” Combs said. “All of them do it, regardless of what type of medium they work with, and so we want the community to see it and appreciate their contributions.”

“THE WRITING IS ON THE WALL” is on display at the Carnegie Gallery of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, located at 96 S. Grant Ave. More information can be found on the gallery’s website website.