New exhibition combines visual art and the written word


A page of the comic “Big Hero 101” by Open Door artist JD Hirst, whose artwork is featured in the exhibition at the Carnegie Gallery. Credit: Courtesy of JD Hirst

Bright colors, intricate narratives and detailed drawings characterize “THE WRITING IS ON THE WALL,” the latest art exhibition on display at the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Carnegie Gallery.

The exhibition, which opened Sept. 2 and will be on display through Oct. 28, is a combination of written word and visual art, which Claire Smith, program director at Open Door Art Studio & Gallery, said makes the exhibition a great choice for the library. The gallery is a Columbus-based nonprofit that provides creative support services and representation to artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities, according to its website

“A lot of our artists use words in ways that are somewhat unconventional, so there’s a little bit more meaning that you can put in between the words,” Smith said.

Smith said the studio gave its artists full creative control when it came to interpreting the exhibition’s theme. She said some of the art pieces feature singular words or slogans, while others are more narrative-based or even inspired by comics. 

Smith said one of the featured artists, JD Hirst, who is on the autism spectrum, has a comic that he has been working on since he first started coming to the studio included in the exhibition. He has created hundreds of pages of the comic, “Big Hero 101,” which they are sampling from for the exhibition.

“He has so much background in terms of these characters, their personalities, their strengths or weaknesses,” Smith said. “He incorporates his own narrative, as well as Viking mythology and the Bible, and he’s kind of made this intricate world.”

The exhibition is free to the public, highlighting Open Door Art Studio & Gallery’s commitment to accessibility in the arts, Smith said.

“It’s a great moment for kids to just come in and see, ‘Oh, hey, you know, I can do that,’ ” Smith said. “I fully believe that art should be accessible for everyone and available to anyone. I really think everyone’s an artist.”

Melissa Combs, director of development at the gallery, said accessibility matters not only when it comes to displaying art, but also when it comes to helping their own artists create it.

“Many of them don’t have a space in their house. Some of them may live in other intermediate care facilities where they share a room with somebody else, or they live in their family home and don’t have access to studio spaces,” Combs said. 

Because many of the artists don’t have the financial resources needed for the projects, Combs said the gallery provides ceramics, a full kiln and photography equipment.

Combs said the exhibition serves as a great opportunity to expose the public to the work that artists with Open Door Art Studio & Gallery create daily.

“The artists we support, they have something to say,” Combs said. “All of them do, no matter what type of medium they’re working with, and so we definitely want the community to see that and to value their contributions.”

“THE WRITING IS ON THE WALL” is on display at the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Carnegie Gallery, located at 96 S. Grant Ave. More information can be found on the gallery’s website.

‘Everyone’s an artist’: New exhibition combines visual art and the written word