Athens county art galleries gear up for the holiday season

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In theory, the Nelsonville bypass should have a significant affect on local businesses. After all, the new highway redirects tourists and passersby, which could take dollars away from a community that needs it most around this time of year. 

One local business, however, doesn’t expect to lose any customers. In fact, this holiday season is as busy as ever for Starbrick Gallery in downtown Nelsonville. 

“We’re expecting a big holiday rush over the next few weeks or so,” said Paul Kerns, a Starbrick co-owner and featured artist. 

The co-operative gallery, owned and operated by a handful of regional artists, held a winter open house last week to showcase a holiday collection that includes hand-painted Santas, portraits of snowmen and tightly knit red and white winter scarfs. 

Kerns doesn't believe the Nelsonville bypass will be the Grinch that stole revenue from the small co-op art gallery. 

“Last week this place was swarmed with people,” Kerns said. 

Typically, the holiday rush is when Starbrick is able to cash in on its collection of handmade jewelry, trinkets and specialty wood items such as the wizard wands that Kerns carves out of local trees.

While the holiday season brings plenty of customers in from the cold, it’s the period after Christmas where the gallery expects sales, and visitors, to be few and far between. 

Down in Athens, another gallery is seeing an increase in demand during the holiday season. Passion Works Studio, a shop that supports collaborative artwork from artists with and without developmental disabilities, has become a staple in the community.

The colorful arrays of Passion Works bestseller, the Passion Flower, are as unique as the town it calls home. Special holiday themed flowers and other winter wonderland goodies are displayed in the window of the East Stimson St. store. 

“This is [the artists] busy season,” said Wayne Savage, Passion Works studio coordinator. “We’ve really had a steady flow of customers.” 

The winter season isn’t the only time the creations from Passion Works are in demand. Savage has helped bring Passion Works outside of Athens. Currently, artwork from the studio is available at locations around the greater Columbus area.

The recognition for one of the leading art programs for adults with developmental disabilities continued this month as the Ohio Secretary of State’s website featured Passion Works as a nonprofit businesses that works to help better its community. 

From Secretary of State’s website: “The Passion Works Studio, in Athens, is a leader in its field employing people with disabilities to create one-of-a-kind flower decorations, with their Passion Flower becoming the official flower of Athens.” 

For sales representative Mallory Cozard, being recognized was a “big step and an honor.” 

“They pick a small handful of businesses every month from the entire state. For them even to be aware of us is a pretty big deal.” Savage said. “Our reputation gets us places like that. So it just means that we’re doing our job right to be recognized like that.”