Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Liz Burgess Retires, Ginko Gallery & Studio To Close

Abe Frato
Liz Burgess and her coworker Mari Kuroda run Ginko Gallery and Studio.

Liz Burgess, OC ’73, has announced that Ginko Gallery & Studio of downtown Oberlin will close. She is retiring in part due to several stressful years during the COVID-19 pandemic and the death of the building’s landlord, Pat Stetson.

“I’ve been toying with [closing] for a couple years,” Burgess said. “It’s getting to be too much for me as I get older.”

Burgess and two fellow artist friends, Kathleen Van Meter and Sharon Denslow, opened Ginko’s as a place to display and sell their artwork. Over time, they added other local artists’ work and later became the primary place in town to purchase art supplies. After Denslow passed away and Van Meter left, Burgess became the sole owner.

“Recovery from the pandemic has been very slow and hard,” Burgess said. “There was quite a while when we had little to no income and still had expenses. It took a toll on the business.”

Ginko’s was a favorite among College students and community members not only for the art, but for the kittens that Burgess fostered in the back of the store. She worked with Community Action to Save Strays to find homes for feral kittens in the Oberlin area. During the winter months, Burgess gets a break from fostering due to fewer cats being born. This coincides with the closing of Ginko’s, so there are no cats currently being fostered at the store.

“I’ll still bottle babies at home, but not to the extent that we’ve done here,” Burgess said. “I’m sad that I won’t have that… place for the kittens to be socialized or for the students to come relax with [them].”

Ginko’s showcased local artists, both individuals and members of small studios. 

“Our philosophy was — the person who had the creative idea [needed] their hands in the making,” Burgess said. “It’s difficult for individual artists to compete with people who have large studios or big companies [making their work].”

Burgess enjoyed showcasing creativity from the Ohio community and selling  local art. However, because  Oberlin is a college town, there were many more opportunities for Ginko’s to receive art from a diverse range of artists outside of the Oberlin area.

“Most of the artists are community folks, but there are people with a college connection,” Burgess said. “[We’ve] had artists from all over the country… because people had relatives here or they graduated from here. We’ve had Oberlin students… show their work as well.”

College first-year Zoë Holland has been making pottery for about three years and began selling her art at Ginko’s two months ago. She sold pieces made in the Pottery Co-op and from her Winter Term individual project. Now that Ginko’s is closing, she will sell her remaining pieces and new work in the College’s Maker’s Markets and other events.

“I started selling [at Ginko’s] and then realized they were closing within two months… I took all my stuff back and sold as much as I could at Crafting Change,” Holland said. 

Holland met Burgess as a customer first. On her first day in Oberlin, she went to Ginko’s to ask about underglazes. Burgess invited her to come back if she ever wanted to sell her art through the shop.

Everything at Ginko’s will be on sale for at least two weeks, and there is no definitive closing date yet. Discounted items do not impact the artist’s commission made off their art. 

“I know a bunch of folks who get their drawing and painting utensils there,” Holland said. “And I think the loss of the cats is very sad to many people. Liz was very lovely.”

Burgess plans for organizations within the Oberlin community to make use of any unsold art supplies.

“[Ben Franklin’s] Krista Long is interested in a smaller art supply department within her store. … All of the essentials could be there,” Burgess said. “Some of the art supplies can be donated to the Oberlin High School art department, [Firelands Association for the Visual Arts], or to another nonprofit.”

Burgess will still be involved in the Oberlin community through nonprofits such as CATSS, the Oberlin Community Land Trust, and Kendal Northern Ohio. 

College third-year Haze Doleys has been a Ginko’s customer since she arrived at Oberlin. She has fond memories of conversations with Burgess, playing with cats, and buying art for herself and friends. 

“Ginko’s has been a wonderful part of my Oberlin journey, … and I’m heartbroken to see it go,” Doleys said in an email to the Review. “It makes me wonder what the next Oberlin small business to [close] will be.”

Pat Stetson, who passed away in 2023, left the Ginko’s building in her estate. At this time, it is unknown what will occupy 19 South Main St. next.

“Pat Stetson and her husband, Bill, have been really important in keeping small independent businesses in downtown Oberlin, which I think is essential to the character of Oberlin,” Burgess said. “I’m hoping that someone else comes in who has another small independent business.”

Ginko Gallery & Studio contributed to the thriving downtown community in Oberlin. College students and community members alike will miss the artwork, supplies, and the kittens.

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