3 Door Studios Invigorates Town’s Art Scene

Peter Meckel, Staff Writer

You can find the 3 Door Studios art collective located in the old, Victorian-style house on 121 South Main Street. In the year since renovation began, 3 Door’s five resident artists have transformed the house from a dilapidated party center into an attractive workshop, boasting four individual art studios and a community gallery. The interior walls are painted bright, inviting colors, and found-art sculptures decorate the first floor; the atmosphere is inviting and the creativity in the air is almost palpable.

The residents of 3 Door hail from diverse backgrounds, each with their own story to tell. Haley Heidemann, who comes from a lumber farm in Elyria, is someone whose contribution to the art scene you already know: she is in charge of finding local artists to exhibit their work on the red brick walls of Oberlin’s beloved bar.

Working alongside Heidemann at 3 Doors are Robin Stranahan, who studied art at the Kansas City Art Institute; Rich Thompson, a multi-media artist from Chicago; and James Peake, OC ’06, who now serves as the Education Outreach Coordinator for FAVA.

The four artists met through the art scene in Oberlin and became close friends, and they started the collective after deciding that they were dissatisfied working alone. Peake, after experiencing art collectives during a trip to Asia, was particularly inspired by the potential of bringing artists together. While Thompson and Peake were initially more focused on developing a communal work space ¬— a “man cave,” they called it — Heidemann and Stranahan saw potential for a bridge between different factions in Oberlin. Who says that students and local artists have to be separate?

After spending an inordinate amount of time in the state office dealing with the city of Oberlin’s complicated commercial versus residential zoning policy — an attempt by the city to preserve its historical buildings — the four artists were finally able to begin renovating the neglected property. What was once a mess of weeds and debris on South Main Street, has now been reworked into a house including a lovely backyard, complete with a vegetable garden and a painted projection screen for community movie nights.

In its first year, 3 Door Studios has been as much a venue as an art gallery. The art exhibits are also potlucks, with live music, wine and food. Last Valentine’s Day the studio hosted a crafts workshop, and earlier this month it held an experimental music night, drawing a crowd of people from as far away as Cleveland. Every Wednesday a yoga class is offered, and a fermentation workshop will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on Sept. 29.

The 3 Door Studios artists believe in making a positive difference in the community; their own contribution is to help the city realize the potential of its burgeoning art scene. “We feel strongly that we’ve been laying the groundwork,” Peake said. “[Now] that we are the glue for showcasing all the local artists that have always existed here anyways.”

3 Door Studios will be celebrating their one-year anniversary on Oct. 15 at 8 p.m. The main event of the evening will be an exhibition on artwork by the five resident artists.