Open Door art exhibition celebrates life, work of Wallace Peck

Wallace Peck, smiling and sitting in front of a dark blue canvas that he is sketching on.

Drawing and painting make Wallace Peck happy. His art makes other people happy, too. Sometimes so much so that they laugh and cry.

Peck notices this, of course. But he’s more likely to take the emotional reactions in stride than to puzzle over them. Peck just enjoys basking in the connections between him, his viewers and his work.

“I like drawing and I like people looking at my drawings,” he says with a grin. “That’s what I do for a living.”

Peck has long been one of the most prolific and successful artists at Open Door Art Studio & Gallery, a day program that provides creative support services and representation to artists with disabilities throughout central Ohio.

The studio is hosting what it calls his “diamond jubilee” exhibition from Sept. 16 to Oct. 6, celebrating both Peck’s 60th birthday and his talent. An opening reception is set for 5 to 7 p.m. Sept. 16 at the studio, 1050 Goodale Blvd.

“He definitely has his own style,” Tabitha Lower, program coordinator at Open Door studio, said of the distinctive portraits – generally people and animals – that Peck favors. “It’s joyful.”

His art has been featured on a Short North mural, in a solo exhibition at the Lindsay Gallery, at the Columbus Arts Festival and as inspiration for former Ohio First Lady Karen Kasich, who chose Peck’s work to kick off an Ohio artist spotlight program at the governor’s residence in 2013.

Duff Lindsay, whose Lindsay Gallery specializes in self-taught and folk art, said “consistency of vision” is an important hallmark of Peck’s work.

“I’ll be honest: There are plenty of art-school grads who have no consistency of vision. They’re all over the place,” Lindsay said. “Wallace knows what his vision is. It’s a view of how he reacts to the way the person is, and it’s consistent. You know a Wallace Peck when you see it.”

Peck struggled mightily on the way to stability and success, enduring years of loneliness and poor health after everyone in his immediate family passed away. He eventually found friendship and a sense of belonging at Gladden House, a Franklinton nonprofit whose staff provided Peck with the drawing materials that seemed to soothe him.

They also helped him on a path to new services, a safe and supported home, and a cherished place at Open Door.

Peck looks forward to his art exhibitions and receptions. “I like having people looking at them and seeing how famous I am,” he said of his art. He also loves listening to music, fishing outings and relaxing at home, where he likes to take a break from creating.

“People often make the mistake of thinking that the work of self-taught artists is random, and it can be,” Lindsay said. “But Wallace knows who he is as an artist.”