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The exhibit Silence is Death will be spread out across the Franklinton neighborhood. Credit: Dana Harper

Collection of Franklinton art exhibits speak out on political revolution

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“Any great revolution is fueled by the artistic and creative community,” said Lisa Steward, an Ohio State alumna and program coordinator for the new art exhibit, Silence is Death.

Steward said the above statement was the inspiration for Silence is Death, a group of art exhibitions spread across the Franklinton neighborhood that is set to open Friday. The event is the focus of the neighborhood’s monthly art crawl, “Franklinton Friday.”

Six different venues will be participating, including the Vanderelli Room, Promenade Gallery, 129 Studios, the Idea Foundry, the Artist Wrestling League Headquarters and Lundberg Industrial Arts. Each gallery will explore a different sub-theme relating to “silence is death,” such as “inclusion,” “making America create again” and “the pussy grabs back”.

“This neighborhood exhibition explores the social and political role of creatives to ignite change, empower the people, and challenge hatred in our community,” according to the event’s Facebook page.

The initial idea for the event came from AJ Vanderelli, owner and curator of the Vanderelli Room. Upset by the results and climate of the 2016 presidential election, she said she had the idea for an exhibit called “The Pussy Grabs Back.”

“After (Donald Trump) was elected I was really depressed, and my friend said that, as creatives, it’s time for us to pick up the paintbrush,” Vanderelli said. “So I decided to put together a show just for my gallery, and it wasn’t called ‘Silence is Death,’ it was called ‘The Pussy Grabs Back,’ based off of something (Donald Trump) had said.”

That show was initially going to feature only female artists, but Vanderelli decided to open it up to all artists after some of her male colleagues were disappointed that they could not participate and showcase their pieces made in reactions to the presidential election.

“I was talking to some male friends of mine and they were pretty upset that they couldn’t participate in the show because they had a lot of anxiety,” Vanderelli said. “So I decided to reach out to other venues in the neighborhood to see if they would be on board, and expanded the exhibition to include everyone. I wanted everyone who is creative, from all walks of life, to be a part of the exhibition.”

With this new focus on inclusion, Vanderelli reached out to the venues and artists who were interested in participating and they decided to change the exhibit to “Silence is Death” with one of the sub-themes being “The Pussy Grabs Back.”

A call to artists went out in December and submissions poured in. Steward said one of the biggest challenges for the exhibition was the sheer number of submissions it received.

“I was overwhelmed by the response from artists,” Steward said. “There’s a lot of people who want to be heard right now, and I think that they’re very excited and pleased that they have this outlet in which to showcase their work.”

Artists from all across Columbus will be participating in the show, from high school students to professional artists. Having a wide range of representation was important to Steward and the other curators and coordinators of the event.

“We have fem, queer, trans, people of color … everybody across the spectrum in Columbus, Ohio, is being represented,” Steward said. “I think that’s really important to me and AJ and everyone in this event that we have this intersection of artists and creative speakers. It’s not meant to be just white males, or even white females — to make sure that we have a wide range of people represented.”

While the exhibit strives to offer a voice for artists, Vanderelli said she hopes that attendees will be able to take and apply the expressions to their everyday lives.

“I just want people to walk in and feel it, feel the humanity,” she said. “To feel the mistakes and the acceptances, the differences, and walk away with a better understanding of our diversity, and that’s what should be celebrated … take it back with them to their homes and share it.”

Admission to the event is free and 20 percent of all proceeds from the sale of pieces will be donated evenly to Gladden House, Planned Parenthood, Standing Rock and the ACLU.

The event will kick off Friday at 7 p.m. at The Vanderelli Room at 218 McDowell St.

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