The ShortNorth.org 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.

In many ways, Duff Lindsay’s proclivity for communicating led him to opening a gallery of folk and outsider art; he grew up in Portsmouth, Ohio, located along the Kentucky border in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, where the locational isolation is often reflected in the cultural tradition of storytelling. As a film student at The Ohio State University, he shot game films and made recruitment videos for the Buckeyes, then worked as a producer at WBNS 10TV for 24 years, sharing the news on a daily basis. However, it was his deep passion for the genre that ultimately spurred his decision, and that drives him to this day. On December 6, 2019, Lindsay’s eponymously named gallery will host its 20th Anniversary show; we spoke with Lindsay, as well as a handful of gallery artists, to reflect on the past 20 years.

Lindsay was first introduced to folk art as a student at OSU in 1973, when he was invited to work on a film about the life of Columbus artist Elijah Pierce. “I was hooked; he blew me away, I loved the artwork, and I was totally charmed by his message,” he said. Part of the appeal came from a sense of connection; Lindsay, a self-described “blue collar kid,” never thought the art world was open to him until he began learning about Pierce, who had little formal education but was internationally known and praised during his lifetime. Once he got a job after graduating, Lindsay began immersing himself in folk art and steadily growing his collection.

24 years into a his career in television, Lindsay could feel his passion for it starting to dwindle and contemplated his next venture. Around that time, a friend who was closing her clothing boutique in Upper Arlington asked whether he knew anyone who would be interested in taking over the remaining two years of the lease. “It seemed like the planets aligned,” Lindsay said. Soon after, he walked into work and quit on the spot. During the two years Lindsay spent at that location, Short North developer Sandy Wood frequented the gallery and told him he would one day make Lindsay an offer he couldn’t refuse. Lindsay was skeptical but eventually agreed to see the space located in the Short North Arts District, and the gallery has spent the last 18 years there.

Lindsay says the biggest lesson he’s learned after all these years is just how hard it is to run a gallery. “I was prepared to work hard, but I didn’t know how hard,” he said. “If you’re going to be successful at this, you have to work harder than anyone would ever imagine. You have to dedicate yourself to it.” In addition the typical responsibilities people think of, including curating and marketing shows, hanging work, and keeping up the gallery space, Lindsay also cultivates relationships with collectors, spending hours each week on the phone, writing emails, and searching through auction catalogs for folk artwork. Most importantly, Lindsay builds relationships with artists, in a role he likens to being a cheerleader. “I wouldn’t be effective at infecting people with my enthusiasm if I didn’t believe in the art I was showing,” he said.

It’s safe to say his passion and hard work are felt by the artists he represents, all of whom expressed gratitude toward being able to work with someone who is so supportive of and excited about their work. For self-taught Columbus painter Ashley Pierce, who had her first show with Lindsay, his ability to push her without restricting or dictating her work is invaluable. “Duff seems to have a sixth sense in knowing how I’m doing creatively and will light just the right amount of fire under me to get me going,” she said. Self-taught Columbus-born sculptor Antoinette Savage feels similarly, particularly because of how much Lindsay cares about his artists as people. “Our relationship is built on trust, knowledge, mutual respect, and understanding,” she said.  “He’s interested in what drives us, how we think, how we feel, and what inspires us to create.”

Columbus self-taught doll artist Amber Groome, who is also a part-time gallery associate, said her favorite memories in the gallery are getting to see Lindsay’s initial excitement about new artwork and artists. “I feel [like I’m] part of a family that inspires one another with new discoveries in art,” she said. For Pittsburg-based self-taught artist Bill Miller, who creates assemblage pieces out of vintage linoleum, showing work with Lindsay extends beyond the gallery. “Duff and I have travelled a bit through the years, showing my work at art shows and fairs throughout the country; exhibiting with him in New York, Chicago, and Atlanta have been some of the most satisfying and fun art experiences,” Miller said.

Like Miller, who was connected to Lindsay through mutual acquaintances, embroidery artist Meghan Willis first met Lindsay after she had relocated from Columbus to New York. She said her work is not “typical” for what the gallery shows, but his dedication to showing work he loves regardless of its creation is is part of what she loves about working with him. Though she is now based in Hong Kong, she leapt at the chance to be part of the 20th Anniversary Show and the gallery’s story.

Another important aspect of the gallery, to both Lindsay and his artists, is its location in the Arts District. For Lindsay, having a community of gallerists, who he counts as friends and colleagues,  has helped to make gallery ownership less solitary because of the “incredible relationships” and “wonderful collaborations” they’ve shared. While artists outside the capital city feel a special kinship with it and the people in it, Columbus-based artists like Groome and Pierce enjoy being part of a vibrant, talented, and supportive arts community that is centrally located in the Short North.

Lindsay Gallery‘s 20th Anniversary show will include the work of over 30 artists, including Ashley Pierce, Morris Jackson, Harry Underwood, Janis Price, Joey Monsoon, William Hawkins, Ricky Barnes, Stephen Sabo, Amber Groome, Elijah Pierce, Antoinette Savage, Bill Miller, Meghan Willis, Robert Falcone, Mike Egan, Steve Moseley, Stephen Warde Anderson, Lonnie Holley, Wallace Peck, Roy Butcher, Damian Valdes Dilla, Levent Isik, Katie Kikta, Steve Ehret, Mike Jones, John Taylor-Lehman, Kendall Polster, Mark Thomas, Troy Stith, Popeye Reed, and Paul Patton. It will be on display through December 2019.