A Thriving Hub for Artistic Entrepreneurs
9 Nov 2023
In recent years, Springfield, Ohio, has emerged as a vibrant destination for artists-entrepreneurs, attracting creative minds who find inspiration in the city's unique blend of history, culture, and community. Among these visionaries are Vicki Rulli and Tom Heaphey, the creative partners behind Itinerant Studio, and Gary Blevins, a seasoned painter known for his Norman Rockwellesq style paintings.
Itinerant Studio: Crafting Art with Purpose
Vicki Rulli and Tom Heaphey, both natives of Ohio, bring a wealth of experience to their creative collaboration at Itinerant Studio. Their journey began in 1998 when, realizing their shared passion for art and photography, they founded Itinerant Studio in Springfield, Ohio. Their production art studio has evolved to design, create, and produce original and limited edition mixed media artwork, as well as custom tables.
“Itinerant means “traveling from place to place for work”. And we were back at it this summer with a month-long road trip shooting photos, sketching trees, painting watercolors, and connecting with friends and clients,” said Vicki and Tom. The couple finds inspiration everywhere from road trips to coffee-fueled patio discussions, the countryside, and in exploring city streets. They’ve also found inspiration in Springfield. Itinerant Studio is located in a charming old warehouse building in Springfield where the couple was inspired to open a second business - Duo Home. This home design business has built up quite a following and features locally-sourced products along with imported European housewares that you’ll never find in a big box store. “Walking through Duo Home is like walking through a gallery, but one that you can easily bring home,” said Christopher Schutte, Vice President Destination Marketing + Communications for the Greater Springfield Partnership. “You can tell it’s a business designed by artists.”
Vicki and Tom are also passionate about supporting the arts and community. They host an annual fundraiser/party for the Frank Lloyd Wright's Westcott House at their studio. “Itinerant donates over 100 pieces of artwork that are sold via silent auction with 100% of the sale going directly to the Westcott House!” they said.
Gary Blevins: A Lifetime of Artistic Pursuit
Gary Blevins is new to the Downtown Springfield scene, having opened his gallery in 2023, but he is no stranger to the city or arts community. “I finally came to the realization that I wanted to do something in Springfield and share my art here,” Blevins told the Hub. Blevins grew up in Springfield and was first encouraged to become an artist by a local teacher. Sixty years, and a few detours later, he has become an integral part of the city's artistic landscape.
What’s interesting about Blevins’ story is that he was always passionate about art but wasn’t able to make a living as an artist until later in life. While raising a family, working at the YMCA and running a photography business, he was approached by a Cincinnati businessman to fill an order of cards featuring Ohio State football players and the expanded Horseshoe stadium. Without being asked, Blevins’ painted a watercolor of the Shoe which was so well received, the company licensed it and Blevins quickly began shooting football games at OSU. Doors continued to open and Blevins was able to transition to becoming an artist full time.
Some liken Blevins’ art to the light-filled landscapes of Thomas Kinkade while others compare his work to Norman Rockwell (Blevins' has a connection to Norman Rockwell's classic painting, "The Shiner," having painted the model, Mary Whalen Leonard, as a mature woman). Mostly, Blevins is known for his ability to capture stories on canvas is evident in the anecdotes behind each painting.
“We are delighted that Gary Blevins has chosen to open his gallery in Springfield. The community is proud that his roots are here and proud of the incredible art he has been able to create,” said Cathy Maus, Investor Relations Manager for the Greater Springfield Partnership. “Now a new generation will become familiar with his art and know it's possible to build a career as an artist coming out of Springfield.”
The Springfield Art Community Is For Everyone
Springfield's artistic renaissance extends beyond individual studios to large scale public art. The arts scene is, according to Blevins, “... kind of exploding.” For example, visitors to Springfield will see a mural of musician John Legend on the side of the State Theater, a flapper girl’s mural is a block north, a mural of vibraphonist Johnny Lytle and more. Mike McDorman, CEO of the Greater Springfield Partnership, and his wife Jerri are behind some of the public art installations, having formed a committee to bring more murals to Springfield after a trip they took to New York.
Lauren Houser, director of Project Jericho, a non-profit arts organization, told the Hub, “When art is a part of that space, it adds value to the place. It brings people together and connects people. I love the way it unites people. We’re fortunate to have community and civic leaders that believe that art belongs in the revitalization of downtown.”