A Columbia artist is leading an effort to fill a void in the city’s art gallery and gathering-space landscapes, with hopes to turn an empty warehouse-office building into just that.
Ron Hagell, a local visual artist who is creating an organization called Gemini Arts, is holding a Sept. 18 meeting among local artists at the space and subsequently hopes to sign on for a building lease. Hagell and his group want to build a space in the mold of the former Tapp’s Art center on Columbia’s Main Street, offering affordable working space for artists and exhibitions space, along with occasional special events.
The ambitious plan is currently centered on an empty office-like building in the Rosewood neighborhood at 2847 Commerce Drive, near the Hunter Gatherer Brewery and Ale House Hangar location and the City Roots building. The building is owned by developer Richard Burts.
In that Sept. 18 event, dubbed a “hard hat party,” Hagell is hoping to elicit feedback from artists and others in the community on his plans. In that meeting, he also is set to offer up a description of what he believes is possible in the space, with potential floor plans and other options for the building.
“It’s very possible this could work out quite well,” Hagell said. “It already has some spaces in it that could turn into studios quickly.”
Hagell hopes to sign a lease after the meeting and, after renovations, open the space roughly in a year.
He believed the space could offer lower cost studios that still offer larger spaces for artists to work out of and, in other cases, offer shared spaces at a more accessible cost, as well.
Columbia’s Michael Krajewski, a visual artist with works on the walls of local business Black Rooster and in regional galleries, said he currently works in a studio space at his home, but would “definitely” lease a space at Gemini.
He said Gemini would offer him a new space with more public interaction possibilities than he currently has and noted its location as a boon as well.
“It has so much potential,” the artist said. “It’s always positive to have the arts in the community where you can, but also when you can have it in a space where it’s not so prevalent (is important.)”
Caitlin Bright, the former director of now defunct arts nonprofit Tapp’s Art Center, said she has been consulting with Hagell on a pro-bono basis.
She believes his ideas for Gemini have potential, particularly with the demand for artist spaces outpacing supply in Columbia.
Bright argued the loss of Tapp’s (the Five Points location acts effectively a retail outpost for a handful of craftspeople-artists and the nonprofit organization has dissolved) opened the door for a wider variety of needed art spaces that can cater to more traditional ideas of artists’ spaces, like Tapp’s, or other more contemporary spaces as well.
Bright has been contacted by several other locals who have interest in forming other art studio spaces as well, she said.
“I think it’s becoming a bit of a movement where people are creating spaces,” she said. “I’m hearing about the inception point of ideas, most ideas are people wanting to create their utopian space … I think Ron is doing the same thing.”
Hagell has yet to sign a lease for the space and is still in the works of forming Gemini into a true nonprofit. At this point, he has a steering committee for the organization and is awaiting further feedback on the Sept. 18 event to determine next steps.
Gemini Arts Hard Hat Party
2-5 p.m., Sept. 18., 2847 Commerce Drive. Facebook.com for more info.