Photo by Megan Leigh Barnard

Small Wonder

Stephanie Rond is sick. She’s sniffling and smells like cough drops. The funny, creativity-to-spare local artist who just the other day took me for a ride on the back of her scooter – pink hair flying as we raced the curves of the Walhalla ravine – today is sagging, energy leaking onto the cracked pavement in front of Strongwater.

And yet, as the sun sets over warehouses and her friends start arriving for a photo shoot, she starts to perk up, the pink and blue tendrils shining a little more, and soon she is laughing hysterically, her loud rat-a-tat guffaws echoing off the brick walls.

It’s this sense of community and collaboration that not only bouys her spirits, but wraps her inspiration in blanket of support. This sharing-is-caring ethos will be front and center at her one-woman show Dangerous Impermanence & Tiny Out Loud, on view this month at the Fort Hayes Shot Tower Gallery.

Having spent her high school years fidgeting in the plastic chairs of the arts-magnet high school, this show is Rond coming full circle. Sitting in her garage, next to a new dollhouse full of smaller pieces and giant canvases propped up against the walls, Rond throws back to her teen years.

“My art teacher, Teresa Weidenbusch, was my art mom,” she smiled. “I originally auditioned as a dancer, but we had to do all the disciplines…I didn’t do art because all my life I had been told I was ‘doing it wrong,’ but Teresa really pulled it out of me.” Still at Fort Hayes, Weidenbusch is helping Rond pull the show together. “She’s still my art mom, only now we can go to happy hour.”

The gallery itself, the biggest art space in the city, has also been with her for years. As a kid, she looked at its high ceilings in awe, under which she met real living people making a path in life as artists. “They just seemed like rock stars to me,” she said.

And now it’s a Wednesday night in August, and the rock stars of the city’s art scene have gathered to support her. They’ve been asked to be a part of this shoot because each had a part in putting the multimedia exhibit together.

“The reason the city of Columbus is so successful – we have this thing here, in that we all enjoy collaborating,”

“And lifting each other up…when I’m in a room with all of them, and we are all respecting each other and all the ideas, it’s a true example of what happens in Columbus.” Rond says that this spirit of openness and support is not found in other cities, where competition and suspicion is the rule.
And when Rond got the idea to turn her story into a documentary, it was the community that laced their fingers together to give her Kickstarter the funding boost it needed.

“I was overwhelmed,” she admits, eyes open wide. “We had 122 backers and that is part of the reason we are working so hard, because we want them to be proud of what we’ve accomplished. They pushed us to be even more successful and think outside the box.”

Tiny Out Loud tells the story of Rond, her art, and her convictions. Taking as its jumping off point the S. Dot Gallery, her web-only gallery of miniature artworks by local artists, the film takes a peak inside the soul of the artist revealing her commitment to gender equality and art accessibility.

The “billion of hours” worth of footage include Rond’s trip to New York City with a group of S. Rond Gallery artists who, instead of bringing examples of their own work, brought along pieces by other gallery artists.

“All these artists made pieces for us and the theme was ‘safe spaces,’ like, what is the danger of lifting your colleague up instead of competing with them?” The mini-works were hung in a mobile dollhouse gallery that the group wheeled all over the city – from The Met to the Brooklyn Promenade to Coney Island.

Filming by local filmmaker Andrew Ina, Rond remembers being nervous at the beginning of the project. “I didn’t know him at all when we started, but it’s been a year-and-a-half of every weekend and night and now we’re thick as thieves,” she smiled. “If I’m not doing things that scare me constantly, I think there is something wrong.”

In addition to Tiny Out Loud, the show will feature a number of canvases of all sizes and price points. Having her work be available to everyone is important to Rond. And then there’s the all important price point of “free.” All of the canvases have a corresponding “street gift” wheat-pasted to walls around the city. This “ghost girl” series uses Rond’s niece and other young friends as models and each image has the uniting motif of a communication tower. “I’m obsessed with them,’ she said. “We live in this techno age and the ways in which we communicate are changing…and we need have some hard discussions about gender, and not just equality for women, but for all of us.”

“Ghost girl represents all women and girls who see themselves in active roles rather than in advertisements,” she continued. “Part of my art is how people interact with me when I put up the wheat pastes – sometimes teenage girls come to me and we talk about objectification and safe spaces, or a little girl will come up to me with her mom and say, ‘look at that!”

For Rond, the work hanging in the gallery is a remnant of the street work, the “real” work, which is more about experience and conversation.

And now, with the power of small pieces, she’s created an experience that lives beyond gallery walls – a discussion that isn’t tiny at all.

For Rond, the work hanging in the gallery is a remnant of the street work, the “real” work, which is more about experience and conversation. The collaboration that resulted in Dangerous Impermanence and Tiny Out Loud reminds Rond of her punk days in the band sub-Devil. “Everyone has a voice, everyone is respected, there is a give and take, everyone has a specialty,” she said.

Join the conversation on September 5 when Dangerous Impermanence and Tiny Out Loud hosted an opening reception at 6:30 p.m. The show will stay up through October 4 at the Fort Hayes Shot Tower gallery, 546 Jack Gibbs Blvd.