Surrounded by books, pamphlets and zine titles such as Noodle Doodle Coloring Book, never date dudes from the internet and How to Talk to Your Cat about Gun Control, Luke Kindle looks up from his nook in Wave Pool art gallery to cars whizzing past the window through the Camp Washington neighborhood.
One half of the husband-and-wife team that founded the gallery, Cal Cullen, enters the gallery with a mug of coffee for Kindle. Her 18-month-old daughter Alice toddles not far behind, ready to run around the gallery. The furry pink rug underneath the swinging pink monkey sculpture is calling her name.
Skip Cullen joins his family in the gallery and tells me that Alice is obsessed with the furry pink monkey piece, otherwise known as “Not My Circus” by Pam Kravetz. Watching Alice run and dance around the gallery, it seems to be the most whimsical playground a toddler could ask for. It is also the site of Wave Pool’s current exhibit, Cincinnati 5: Artists Impacting the Community.
The exhibit complements the newly released book of the same title by Emily Moores, which explores the practice of five local visual artists and highlights their connections to the city. The gallery features new works from each of the artists, not only as a glimpse into their studios, but also as a celebration of the local visual arts community.
Skip says the goal of Wave Pool is to elevate the arts scene in Cincinnati. The contemporary art fulfillment center hosts eight exhibits per year, which pair local artists with national and internationally recognized artists. The center consists of art studios, a woodshop and other spaces community spaces that can be rented out for private events.
Wave Pool is also the site of a small shop of quirky reading material. In addition to art books that complement the exhibitions, there is an array of humorous titles to choose from. “We also wanted to be a weird, indie book place,” Skip says.
Kindle, a fine arts student at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning, tells me he plans to reads all of them over the summer when he isn’t busy with school.
After meeting as graduate students at DAAP, the Cullens say they always had the dream to open a gallery together. While they lived in San Francisco for five years, they came back to Cincinnati to start the gallery. The couple agrees that there are not enough opportunities for local artists in Cincinnati, and they started Wave Pool to create more.
Despite being located in an old firehouse, Cal and Skip say what makes Wave Pool unique is the artist in residency program, which pays two artists per year to engage with the community in a unique way. The residency application is open to everyone, and the committee chooses artists based on how they will engage the community.
This year’s artists in residence are Sam Ihrig and Anna Riley from Brooklyn, N.Y., and Valerie Molnar and Matt Spahr from Richmond, Va.
Ihrig and Riley will bring their RIAS Studio (Research Institute of Analog Sampling), a project based on the origins and production of glass, to Wave Pool in May. RIAS Studio will explore the intimacy between maker and material and material and place through creating glass pieces specifically for Wave Pool from regionally and locally harvested materials.
The studio will also host a community workshop in which participants can join a geological expedition to identify and collect materials to create glass. They can then create their own formula in the studio and keep their unique Ohio glass.
Molnar and Spahr will transform Wave Pool into a plant rehabilitation center in July. People can leave their plants in the studio for as long as they’d like, while the plants may be groomed, repotted, fed and given other comforts for optimal happiness — such as appropriate humidity, lights and music. The team will also host workshops and lectures on plant care, yoga, guided meditation and other activities to help struggling plant owners.
Cal says Wave Pools looks for experimental art, such as interactive pieces. The gallery looks for work that pushes the envelope of what people believe is art. “Because we are a nonprofit, we’re all about education through art,” she says. While other galleries may look to feature artwork that sells, Wave Pool is dedicated to facilitating the interaction between artists and the local community. She adds that although Cincinnati has many disparate arts communities, Wave Pool is a space where any artist can feel supported.
For more information about WAVE POOL, visit wavepoolgallery.org.