Last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Walter Herrmann at his studio, Studio 75 (named for the year he was born)
in the Cultural Arts Center where he creates and teaches clay, stone and earth sculpture .
I first learned about Walter through Facebook when he created The Art and Artists of 614. I was curious about the inception of the group and wanted to learn more about how and why he created it so made the trek down to the Arts Center to meet with him and his studio mate, Ric Stewart. I found both of them busily working away at some pretty cool sculptures, ceramic and metal and almost hated to interrupt their process to do the interview!
Initially, he and Ric thought about becoming the Sisko and Ebert of Columbus where they would attend area art, dance, music shows and then follow up with critical reviews in an attempt to expose more people to the Columbus art scene. However, it sort of seemed cost prohibitive and didn’t really address what they wanted to accomplish. The more they talked (they do LOTS of brainstorming as they create!), the more they realized that what they wanted to do was find a means of bringing artists in the 614 area code together; to discuss, promote, connect in a larger inexpensive venue. More brainstorming and kicking around ideas ensued and led to the next phase of community involvement…the Infestation projects.
Walter actually said that the idea for the 614 group evolved from the 4 Infestation projects, pop-up conceptual art shows, that were his first attempt to bring artist folk together. Facebook event announcements were sent out one week prior to the event but details were not shared until the night before. Although the projects were effective, he chose to retire them in May because they proved to be costly and time consuming. The final installation occurred at Stephanie Rond’s S.dot Gallery with a group show called “in the neighborhood” where 20 Columbus artists were asked to do a show with a community theme. “I thought it was the perfect way to end the project, another artist promoting the theme of community for the arts. The idea for me had come full circle!”
Thus came the ‘ah-ha’ moment that led to 614.
In the last 24 weeks, the group has grown bit by bit (at the time we met the group had 958 participants and I am happy to say that the group just reached 1000 members! Pretty impressive wouldn’t you say?) It continues to morph as a self-governing, no cost entity that works to promote individual artists and encourage an open forum for discussion. Walter believed that good ‘Midwestern values’ needed to be the foundation of the group; being respectful and paying it forward in a grassroots movement to promote all artists NOT himself. He made sure not to talk about or promote himself….that was not his intent. Although he has created the group, he has not controlled the direction the group has taken and doesn’t want to. Lisa McLymont, Amy Leibrand, and Chad Cochran, members of 614, have also been working hard as administrators for the last 3 months, talking as a group almost everyday and one of them monitoring the page almost all day. He humbly stated that he is ‘pleased’ with how successful this endeavor has become. I think synchronicity was at work here as Columbus obviously needed this type of outlet for it’s many artists/crafters/artisans.
In an attempt to create a free marketplace for artists, he also established an event called ‘First Monday’ where artists can post their works during a set time period on the first Monday evening of each month for viewing by anyone with access to the FB page. Each month a different curator chooses a theme to feature. Again, this is not controlled by Walter but has become a chain where he asked the first curator and then subsequent curators have been chosen by the previous month’s curator. This way all members take ownership of the event…great idea, huh?
Although Walter didn’t want the 614 Facebook group to feature him or his work, I thought we’d all like to learn more about him and his art. Originally from Sharon PA ( near my hometown of Pittsburgh!), his creativity was encouraged by a high school art teacher which led to his attending Edinboro University in PA where he received his B.F.A. in Ceramics with a minor in Art History. He moved to Columbus after graduation because of interest in the Short North area and has been here ever since working as a studio artist. and supporting himself as a ‘starving artist’ by waiting tables and bartending before getting the gig at the Cultural Arts Center. Synchronicity was at work there, too, as he was asked by a friend (Dan Plank) to give a stone sculpture lecture for Denise Romecki’s stone carving class in January 2006. Following the lecture, he was asked if he would be interested in teaching there and was hired the next week ! Think that was meant to be!
When categorizing himself and his art, he states: ” I am a sculptor who works in just about any medium I can. Other than that I would rather not categorize myself.” He has the philosophy that you only get one life and, therefore, wants to spend as much time as possible experiencing the world and making his art…life is the main inspiration for his works. He always creates…even on his worst days, he makes or works on something.
He has many of his works in and around the Columbus area. Recently, he built a 20 ton stacked river stone installation called “The Ruins” along the river banks of Griggs Park. There he learned a lot about stacking and staggering odd shaped stones. One of the coolest things that happened during these builds was that the rain would start to flood the area as he worked and noticed that as the water rose, he could use the rising water table as a level for the sculpture. Although he may never get to use this technique again, he is excited to have been able to use this technique for at least one project.
He has also been busy building a stone trough for a sculpture in Dublin Square in conjunction with brass sculptor, Mike Tizzano. Hopefully, this installation will be dedicated some time in October so stay tuned for more details about that! While I visited him at his studio, he was working on the piece that you see in the first picture that will be part of a collection to be displayed in November at the main library along with 19 other artist for the Carnegie Gallery Invitational, “ART Unbound”.
He is also showing in the A.M.A. Motorcycle Museum here in Columbus for the “2 Wheels and a Motor” exhibit. Next week , he will be attending his 7th annual “Fire on Water” sculpture build held on the north shore of Middle Bass Island and built by a core group of himself and his artist friends .
Three of his pieces will be shown in a 15 artist invitational in his hometown of Sharon PA this fall as well as building a large stone Earthwork for that city. He will be submitting for the “You Call That Art” exhibition, a celebration of the 100 yr. anniversary of the 1913 N.Y. Armory Exhibit, at the Cultural Arts Center in September. There is also a solo exhibit scheduled for him in May 2014 at Image Optical in the Short North and another solo scheduled for early 2015 at the Cultural Art Center.
Although he sells some of his work in the Cultural Art Centers Gift shop, he usually makes most sales through person to person contact. ” I like to know my collectors and have them become part of my life.”
Walter is a very busy man because in addition to his work with 614, the studio, curation of several shows and all of these showings, he sits as the contractor representative chair for the Friends of the Cultural Arts Center and on the CAC gallery selection committee. Very deservedly he received the Art for Life Facebook People’s Choice Award for 2012 and is humbled to be int he recent Hilton Collection curated by Michael Reese ( works for Loth Inc, providing creative and innovative solutions for workspaces, learning spaces, and healing environments).
I don’t know about you, but after learning all of this about him, I want to watch Walter’s star rise!! I found him to be a well-versed, immensely talented yet humble and articulate young man. I hope that I have done him justice in this interview.
To contact him and purchase his innovative works, try one of the following:
Studio75Art on Facebook