Essex Studios in Walnut Hills will reopen its doors for public events this month after a nearly two-year hiatus. The Fine Arts Evening from 6–10 p.m. November 19 features the work of five local artists, while 20 or so artists who work in the building will open their studios for tours. Sculptor Tom Tsuchiya will give a keynote presentation.
Essex Studios has not held a public event since the facility was forced to close to the public in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to that, quarterly Art Walks gave visitors the chance to engage directly with artists and explore the facility’s wide variety of independent work. The sprawling historic building at McMillan Street and Essex Place has been providing spaces for rent since 2000, offering a working environment for more than 100 fine artists, performing artists, musicians, creative professionals, entrepreneurs, and small businesses. It’s also home to Missio Dei Church.
Gilda Horn, a longtime Essex artist and oil painter, says the Fine Arts Evening represents an incredible opportunity to show the public what artists have been working on during lockdown. “Like a valve on a pressure cooker, it will feel wonderful to release some of the work we have created during this challenging time for people to visually enjoy,” she says.
Horn’s work will be featured in the Essex’s main lobby in a collection titled Velvet Flower Music. Other collections on display include painter Stephen Jenkins’s The Rainbow Dancer Series, artist and teacher Dave Laug’s MoVida, impressionist painter Magno Relojo’s The Influence of Color and Nature, and painter Trish Weeks’s A Conversation with Color.
“With the loosening up of the world, I intend to grab the opportunities afforded to me with open arms,” says Horn. “It’s always been such a pleasure to have my doors open at Essex to share my work with people, and I very much look forward to returning to this model.” She says the event will be “joyful” and “reveal explosions of color and richness available through all of the arts.”
The Fine Arts Evening will deviate slightly from the pre-pandemic Art Walks, explains Glen Carley, an Essex artist and interim artist guild board president. Previously, Essex Studios would invite anywhere from 10 to 30 guest artists to present their work on site, and another 20 to 40 Essex artists would open their studios to coincide with the event. Food trucks would offer food and refreshments in the parking lot, and there would typically be a visitor count of up to 500 over the course of two evenings. Altogether, the Art Walks had an “open house” atmosphere that felt like an arts bazaar.
Instead, Essex is putting its own artists at the forefront of attention and modifying event logistics to comply with COVID protocols. Face masks will be available, fewer studios will be open, and tour guides will help visitors move throughout the building so that there’s more space to socially distance.
“We figured, having done nothing for almost two years because of COVID, we would try something a little different to help build our own brand identity for what Essex Studios is,” says Carley. “We think that the diversity of artists in the building is an asset. It’s something we have that a lot of other art galleries don’t.”
He views the Fine Arts Evening as a way to peek into the organization’s future, saying, “With the restart, we want to try to do something just for us first and see where that goes.”
Tschuyia—known for high-profile public sculptures of Marian Spencer, Pete Rose, and musketeer D’Artagnan at Xavier University, among many others—sees the event as a way for artists to re-emerge from their solitary work. Like other Essex artists, he’s been able to continue working at his studio throughout the pandemic despite its closure to the general public.
“It’s great to get back to pre-pandemic times,” says Tschuyia. “That was something I always looked forward to, and a lot of friends of mine ask me when I’m going to have a show and when we’re going to be back. So many people have been cooped up for a while. What a great way to celebrate getting back out and going back to normal.”
Tschuyia has been working from Essex Studios since 2006. His presentation at the Fine Arts Evening will feature insights about his artistic process and how the collaborative nature of the Essex community contributes to his work. “One of the great things is that Essex Studios is a nice community of artists,” he says. “We work together a lot, we collaborate. It’s been a really great experience to share studio space and to help each other out on projects. Family is a great way to describe it.”
The Fine Arts Evening will also include music by multi-instrumentalist Sarah Gorak and refreshments provided by La Soupe. The event is free and open to the public. Get more details here.