Studio 7.5 – Looking back, looking forward


By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

Messenger photo by Rick Palsgrove
Artist Sandy Packer of Canal Winchester creating a painting in 2016 in Studio 7.5.

When the upstairs doors to Studio 7.5 in Canal Winchester—home to 15 local artists for nearly a decade and a half—closed March 31, it was an end and a beginning for the creative women who turned off the lights to the studio for the last time.

The studio, located at Waterloo and High streets, opened in February 2004 as a cooperative venture between Sandy Packer, Margaret Eriksen, Carmen Nestor and Annette Simon.

“We wanted a space to create our art and work in an atmosphere with other artists,” said Packer, who is a retired Canal Winchester High School art teacher. “I felt a need in my life to find a space to make my art. Luckily I connected with the owners of our building back then who were forward-thinking art minded people. They gave us a unique opportunity to each rent a space to pursue our art careers. It was a life-long dream and passion to make this come true.”

Although it was a challenge to get visitors to venture upstairs to the studio and share advertising space on the door to the stairwell, once people discovered the bursts of color and inspiration found within Studio 7.5’s brick walls, Packer said they were hooked on how wonderful it was.

Packer loved the physical space of the second-floor studio wit its tall windows located in the hub of Canal Winchester. But it is the relationships and friends she made with other artists that will last a lifetime.

“It is so exciting to be around like-minded creative people on a daily basis,” said Packer. “We fed off of each other and gained knowledge every day. Support is immeasurable in the life of being an artist. We also built a large client base of art lovers and buyers and I thank them for their support as well.”

Annette Simon, an original member of Studio 7.5, said she joined the group to become part of a collective art voice, get out of her home studio and meet people, share rent and get her work in front of a bigger audience.

When asked what made the studio a special place for artists, Simon said the camaraderie of like-minded individuals was salve for the soul. She enjoyed getting to know the stories of the people who visited, something she said she will miss.

“Over a 14-year span of course there were personality conflicts, but we somehow always forgave each other and realized that focusing on the bigger picture—no pun intended—was the best route,” said Simon, who has a fine arts degree in Graphic Design from Ohio University. “I did all of the signage design, website, printed promotional material. I also love transforming/designing things so I have done quite a bit of renovation and furniture design/building in the spaces I have occupied in the studio.”

Mary Nordstrom was the newest member of Studio 7.5, painting both people and landscapes in oil. She is grateful for the opportunity to join a community of supportive fellow artists.

The studio was an integral part of the lives of the artists and it also became a community asset with outreach programs that touched the lives of many. The studio participated in Christmas in the Village, the Canal Winchester Art Stroll, and shop hops.

Photographers used the space as inspiration for their work due to the uniqueness of the environment. Two of the artists, Packer and Simon, have murals on downtown buildings.

“School children and young adults visited to see how professional artists create ideas for their work and use a variety of materials, market their art, and make a studio space that is conducive to displaying their work as well,” said Packer. “We gave mini workshops to Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Brownies and Girl Scouts to fulfill their requirements. Studio 7.5 has been a place of learning and conversation for various art groups, both locally and from other communities and several artists have given classes for children and adults.”

While most of visitors were two-legged, one day a snake slithered its way into the studio via a kitchen sink, which Packer said created an adventure for the artists. Many of the artists often felt the historic building was also host to ethereal visitors.

“The notes played on our piano one time by themself,” Packer said. “Wild moaning sounds came on windy days, but it all was a part of life in Studio 7.5.”

In looking ahead, Simon said she never puts all of her eggs in one basket. She has an online presence through art auctions, takes commission work, participates in shows outside of Canal Winchester and belongs to several art groups.

“I am in the interview process with several Columbus art galleries and hope to make the transition to one of them in the near future,” said Simon. “I just look at the closing of Studio 7.5 as a change in direction on the same path toward my ultimate destination—becoming the best artist I can be. It is a lifelong process.

As an artist, Packer said she will continue to create.

“Just because the physical studio space in not the same I will still be working. I take my art elsewhere anyway – enter shows, displays, etc. I have 26 works on display at the Village Wines 7 Bistro in Canal Winchester,” said Packer. “I am going to work in my home studio space and take stock in what comes next in my life.”

All three artists advocate for more local art outlets, such as a community-based cultural arts center. Packer said it would be wonderful to have a place for the fine and performing arts and that school children need to see there is life in the arts after high school.

Simon said there is no city that would not benefit from more culture.

“I have advocated this for some time and others are starting to jump on the band wagon so it may come to pass, “said Simon. “We need only look to the Columbus Cultural Arts Center and the McConnell Arts Center in Worthington for example.”

As a retiree, Nordstrom said she spent the last decade developing her skills through community classes at both the Columbus Cultural Arts Center and the McConnell Arts Center and is a strong supporter of community arts programs.

“I would wholeheartedly support a community/city effort to establish a Canal Winchester center for the visual and the performing arts,” said Nordstrom. “It is a benefit, not only to ourselves but to our communities, when we pursue our creative instincts. Whether we engage in music, drama, dance, painting, sculpture or drawing, we learn to tell our stories and in doing so, we define who we are as individuals and as members of a community.”

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