Center of Creativity

Talent from around the country congregates in Columbus this month for the city's arts extravaganza.

It’s a date: More than 230 artisans from around the country come to Ohio’s capital city annually for the renowned Columbus Arts Festival. The juried three-day event — celebrating its 51st year — showcases the best in a variety of mediums, including painting, drawing, glass, wood, sculpture, metal, photography and fiber arts.
Here, meet four artists who will be there this year to eagerly share their passion about their work.

Picture Perfect

John Galbo attributes his success behind the camera to sheer luck. But one look at his magnificent impressionistic images reveals it’s so much more than that.

“If I don’t feel it,” the photographer affirms, “I don’t shoot it.”

The Florida resident, who majored in anthropology and sociology, received a Yashica Rangerfinder as a gift in the ’70s. He never looked back. His early photographs — red tulips and cyclamen shot in winter against a backdrop of snow in a Canadian greenhouse — were instant best-sellers.

For the last three decades, Galbo has traveled the world — from the French countryside to the Italian Riviera — in search of scenes that will translate into unforgettable sensory pictures.

“Since I never formally studied photography,” he explains, “I never learned what the rules are — so I can break them with impunity.”

World of Whimsy

Looking back, Belinda Riley reflects, there was never a time when she didn’t have a pen in her hand.

“I think I drove my kindergarten teachers crazy,” she muses with a laugh. “I’m a Type A, and they’d run out of activities to give me to do, so I just started drawing to entertain myself.

“And,” she adds, “I loved it.”

Through the years, Riley’s ink sketches of horses evolved into a passion for 3-D mixed media and an affection for all creatures great and small. In fact, when the Kansas City, Missouri, artist travels to Columbus this month, she’ll be accompanied by a clay menagerie that includes the rams, pelicans, giraffes and alpacas she adores.

“I am just fascinated by animals,” Riley says, “which is why I hang out in zoos. A lot.”

Many of the artist’s creations are adorned with llama and camel hair she collects from friends who own farms near her home. Riley is meticulous about adding just the right embellishment to create the one-of-a-kind touch of whimsy she strives for.

“What my work comes down to,” the artist explains, “is that it must be playful. You can only have so much stuff in your house and what you have there should make you feel good when you walk by it and see it every day. It should lighten your mood and make you feel happy.

“My goal,” she adds, “is to give people a lift when they see my work.”

It’s in the Bag

Carol Hearty understands why her customers call her a quick-change artist. She has a knack for pulling off the ultimate hat trick women everywhere appreciate: The artist creates leather handbags that, at first glance, appear to be no bigger than a cosmetics case. But, after a twist here and an unzip or two there, they’re transformed into full-sized purses guaranteed to hold all the day’s — or evening’s — essentials.

Hearty calls them pear blossoms. Her fans call them extraordinary.

“I have a lot of fun making them,” she says, “but the most fun I really have is when I see people enjoy them.”

An avid sewer since age 8, Hearty developed the pattern for her purses a decade ago. Ensconced in her New York studio, she tinkered with a variety of shapes until finally fashioning a dozen designs that can be downsized in 11 seconds and stowed in a suitcase for travel.

“I invented this technique,” Hearty explains, “because I had a simple willingness to experiment until I got it right.”

The artist embellishes each bag with silver charms, including the proverbial silver spoon, the sign of prosperity.

“I tell people,” she explains with a laugh, “that if you weren’t born with one, I’ll give you one.”

Architectural Adornment

Ashka Dymel found her creative calling by happenstance: While studying architecture at New York’s Parsons School of Design, she wandered into a metalsmithing workshop down the hall.

“I fell in love right away,” she recalls. “With metal, it’s instant gratification because it’s real material. It’s not imaginary like an architectural drawing.

“I can take a piece of metal,” the New Yorker enthuses, “hammer it, torch it and have art to show for it at the end of the day. That’s wonderful satisfaction.”

And it’s no surprise that Dymel, a self-described “hippie kid of the ’60s,” would also develop a zeal for making jewelry. The artist vividly recalls the first work of art she made as a teen growing up in Poland: Dymel took an apple, chewed it down to the core, dipped it in polyurethane, attached a leather cord and strung it around her neck.

“It was a statement piece for me,” she explains with a smile, “and, as you can imagine, it received a lot of looks.”

She’s still known for creating pieces that are exquisite attention-getters. Her collection — ranging from brooches that can also be worn as necklaces to rings and earrings — are made with semi-precious stones reflecting a natural palette of cool blues, brilliant greens and fiery sunset oranges.

“I search for the nontraditional, the unusual,” Dymel says. “As I’m working on each piece, I consider how it will be worn. For me, jewelry should be an art form that has a life all its own.”

And she remains true to her architectural roots.

“I use a lot of rivets and bars to connect the stones together,” Dymel says. “I want the structure to be visible.

“Where one material meets another,” she adds, “the transition is nothing short of beautiful.”

Columbus Arts Festival
The Riverfront, June 1–3
Hours: Fri.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Sun. 11:30 a.m.–6 p.m.
Admission is free