The blog highlights the happenings of the Short North Arts District. In Art Spotlight, we feature the artists, gallerists, performers, and professional companies of the District and explore their exhibitions, shows, and more.

2019 marks the 140th anniversary for the Columbus College of Art & Design, and Brandt-Roberts Galleries is helping to celebrate with its September exhibition, appropriately titled CCAD Grads in the Galleries. We talked to gallerist Michelle Brandt about her experience and why she loves to collaborate with CCAD, and chatted with three of the exhibiting artists – Terri Albanese, Richard Lillash, and David Reed – about how their time at CCAD prepared them for careers as professional artists, why they enjoy working with Brandt, and why they’re glad to be represented by her gallery.

Brandt, who earned her Bachelor of Arts Education from The Ohio State University, was working as an art teacher in Charleston when a friend recommended a new gallery there that was seeking a sales associate. Brandt didn’t think she’d be a good fit, but visited anyway and was hired on the spot because of her natural abilities as a storyteller and deep passion for art. This experience taught her that owning a gallery is about much more than selling art, and she gained invaluable insights about forming meaningful relationships with artists and collectors.

Since opening her own eponymous gallery in 2010, Brandt has spent countless hours visiting artists’ studios to discuss ideas and critique their work to help them grow. She also assists their careers both in and outside the gallery by marketing their work online and through curated exhibitions, and by explaining and selling work to potential clients and collectors. Brandt has also cultivated partnerships and collaborations with several institutions to foster a collaborative and inclusive arts community, including internships at the gallery for CCAD students to sustain and elevate the next generation of artists and thinkers.

The current exhibition, another collaboration, highlights the success the artists have achieved in both professional careers and in fine arts. As undergrads at CCAD, Albanese, Lillash, and Reed learned important skills that informed their professional careers as well as their continued evolution as artists. For Albanese, the importance of establishing a concept in her work is essential, while foundation classes that covered the basics of color theory, drawing, and painting have stuck with Lillash, and being self-motivated to work consistently has driven Reed.

After graduating, each artist pursued careers that utilized their degrees – Albanese started her own graphic design business, Lillash began his own illustration business, and Reed worked as an illustrator for commercial art projects – while painting on the side for personal enjoyment. Each worked in their fields for 20 to 25 years before deciding to seek gallery representation for their fine art paintings, and showed at other galleries before working with Brandt. For Albanese, the gallery’s location in an arts district is another important factor. “The credibility of the District gave me the confirmation I needed [as an artist],” she said. “You have the opportunity to meet more people, and to be a part of exposing more people to art.”

For her part, Brandt enjoys her job immensely, but she also takes the financial commitment of buying a piece of art seriously. Her wholehearted dedication to fulfilling her responsibility to her artists translates to curating exhibitions that show their best work, encouraging them to push themselves in new directions. All the artists expressed an appreciation for this intentionality, noting how fortunate they feel to work with a gallerist whose love of art is abundantly evident and infectious. “Michelle is a consummate professional; she shows good work, she appreciates the artist, she appreciates the art, and she knows how to promote it.” Reed said. “Michelle has sold more of my work in the last six months than I have sold in the last 25 years.”

CCAD Grads in the Galleries will be on display at Brandt-Roberts Galleries, located at 642 N. High St, through September 29.

– Michelle Gibson