Carnegie Gallery: One local artist’s “labor of love”

Main Library’s Carnegie Gallery is the realization of one Central Ohio artist’s vision and the support of the library administration and the Friends of the Library. Its history is closely intertwined with Stephanie Rond’s background as an artist and passion for creating a gallery at the library.

A Columbus-based street artist, Rond’s colorful, feminist works can be seen on walls around the city. Her work seeks to combat the objectification of women, explore gender roles, and expand accessibility to art.

In 2005, Rond was working in the Humanities and Arts Division at Main Library. Columbus Metropolitan Library had a longstanding relationship with the Ohio Arts Council digitizing the art of Ohio artists. Rond and division manager, Chuck Cody, created a juried exhibition of these Ohio artists for the first time in 2005 called the Ohio Online Visual Arts Registry (OOVAR). Friends of the Library (FOL) sponsored the reception for this exhibit and funded the best-in-show award.

Shortly after the OOVAR exhibit, an old administration reception area in the Carnegie portion of Main Library was renovated to create an art gallery space. Rond left the library to pursue her art full-time in late 2005.

The new art gallery space remained empty until 2007 when Rond had a conversation with her former colleague Cody, proposing that the gallery space be used as a venue for exhibitions by local artists and art organizations. The goal of the gallery was to bring together visual literacy and textual literacy. In addition, the gallery would serve as a new and interesting exhibition space for artists. Library patrons, especially children, would have a unique opportunity to view a wide variety of art. The gallery would bring art exposure to a population that might not otherwise be able to easily view art works. The concept evolved to become the Carnegie Gallery we know today.

Over the next four years, Rond volunteered her time as a liaison between CML and local art organizations, and as a curator for the exhibitions guiding the choice of art to be displayed. Rond donated her time to personally installing the artwork, saying, “It was, and is, a labor of love.” FOL provided support for opening receptions for each exhibition.

In 2011, with the FOL’s increased commitment to Carnegie Gallery, Rond was given the title of Gallery Director and provided a stipend for her work. In addition, Carnegie Gallery was featured on the FOL website and received expanded funding.

Rond has become a formidable presence in the Columbus art world and far beyond.

She has had the distinguished honor of representing North America in “She’s a Leader,” a street art project created by the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society based in Paris, France. She is co-founder of Creative Arts of Women (CAW), founder of the website Women Street Artists, and the owner of several galleries.

The Columbus Dispatch and Columbus Alive newspapers tapped Rond’s 97-piece solo show, Dangerous Impermanence, for their coveted lists of Best Art Exhibits of 2014. An award-winning 2014 documentary, Tiny Out Loud, studied her gender-gouging street art and dollhouse art galleries. Rond produced the film, joining director Andrew Ina in crafting a fun, but evocative exploration of shrinking gender roles and enlarging the art world’s accessibility. Last May, The Ohio State University hosted a tribute and retrospective of Rond’s work entitled “Studies and Discourse: 20 Years of Artwork by Stephanie Rond.”

In the 11 years since Carnegie Gallery was established, it has showcased more than 60 exhibitions, providing opportunities for thousands of library customers to experience the work of hundreds of Ohio artists. The gallery has hosted 11 OOVAR exhibitions, and the artist competition grows every year for the popular exhibition.

Under Rond’s leadership, strong partnerships have been forged with local art organizations, and the Carnegie Gallery has gained notice through local news coverage as well as WOSU’s Artzine and Broad & High programs.

Carnegie Gallery will continue to provide a unique gallery space for artists. FOL continues to support the gallery and to expand the goal of bringing together art and literacy. With the completion of the renovation of Main Library in 2016, Carnegie Gallery was expanded with a direct physical connection to the library.

More than ever before, library patrons can view new and exciting works of art. Many exhibitions are planned for the coming year as more art organizations realize the value of Carnegie Gallery. Come and experience the wonderful space that is Carnegie Gallery.

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