Mote Gallery is a classic art gallery with a twist. Instead of the art hanging on white walls, works are displayed solely in windows.
“We’re technically functioning under the same rules,” Felipe Castelblanco, multimedia artist and founder of Mote Gallery, said. “We’re giving an option to the city to reimagine what a gallery is.”
The idea started in 2013 when Castelblanco had a residency at Ohio State. After talking to other students, he said their was consensus there were too few spaces to show art in Columbus.
Graduate art students were concerned about the amount of opportunities an artist would have to show their work, Castelblanco said. So he decided to open a small space, which he called a “happy accident.”
There was a small window in the basement of his studio in Hopkins Hall. Castelblanco said people walking by would stop and look through the window, watching him work.
“I realized there was a captive audience,” he said.
He turned the window into a gallery, and started displaying exhibits. He called the window gallery Mote 078 after its room number in Hopkins Hall.
“This project is intended to question what a gallery actually is,” Castelblanco said.
The studio and window-space was given to someone else once Castelblanco’s residency ended in July.
There is now another space housed in the Ohio Exterminating Co. building, located in the Short North at 1347 N. High St. Its name — not coincidentally — is Mote 1347.
“It is an experimental space that tries to engage the public with new contemporary artworks that they may not have been interested in seeing,” said Jacki Miller, the gallery’s director.
Castelblanco was walking down High Street one day when he noticed the storefront space the building had. He approached the owners with the idea of using their space as a gallery. They agreed, and within a week, the second Mote gallery was open, Castelblanco said.
“All the spaces are windows,” Castelblanco said. “We are not interested in having a physical space.”
The partnership with Ohio Exterminating has perks for both parties.
“We don’t pay rent, it’s an agreement,” Castelblanco said. “We’re trying to, in a way, bring attention to that beautiful building.”
The gallery has since hosted more than 10 shows and three residencies, Castelblanco said, including “Caravan: Double Feature” which took place on Friday and was a vaudeville-inspired expanded cinema event by Evan Dawson and Paige Phillips.
“I think it works well at the exterminating company,” Dawson said. “The gallery is a bit of a parasite. It’s taking up residence in places where it’s not necessarily in its own home.”
Castelblanco said he’s interested and open to collaborating with artists.
“We’re choosing the works based on a particular kind of focus we have at that moment,” Castelblanco said. The gallery also accepts submissions on its website.
The name “Mote,” which Castelblanco defined as a piece of moving dust, carries the mission of the gallery it aims to bring small spaces to a variety of locations.
Castelblanco said he believes that he can turn a window into a gallery anywhere in the world and make spectators believe it is an actual space. The plan is to bring a new energy to different cities and activate spaces that were totally neglected, he said.
Mote Gallery is set to extend its reach to a number of places over the next year, nationally and internationally, as Castelblanco is currently working to secure a new gallery in London. Mote also has a new location at the Short North Stage at 1187 N. High St. — Mote 1187 — and Castelblanco was invited to install a gallery later this year at FIVA, a video arts festival held in Cuba. The gallery will have an exhibition within the show that will include art from American artists.
Money is not spent on spaces, but Mote applies for grants because but money is needed order to support the artist, Castelblanco said.
The space at Hopkins Hall will reopen this fall with a different resident, Castelblanco said. The space was renovated and will include a bigger window.
“I really want the OSU space to be accessible to undergrad and grad students as a means of why it started,” Miller said.