Ursus gallery closing
Loyal customers couldn't offset slow economy
After more than nine years in business at 2814 Fishinger Road in Upper Arlington, Diane Maute will close her gift gallery, Ursus, Sept. 1.
Maute, an Upper Arlington resident who started the business driven by a love of art and her desire to provide affordable exhibition space for artists, said last week a loyal customer base couldn't overcome the economy and a lack of foot traffic in the Scioto View shopping center.
"It was just the economic times," she said. "It was the challenge of having limited cash flow and trying to figure out, 'How do you advertise? How do you get the word out?' "
Opened in spring 2004, Ursus has been an eclectic gallery designed to provide shoppers with access to everything from paintings and pottery to clothing, jewelry and other accessories at a wide variety of price points, Maute said.
She also sought to support artists, many from Upper Arlington and surrounding communities, by providing an affordable venue for them to exhibit and sell their creations.
"I took a one-time $25 fee from my artists, period, and I didn't make them work here," she said. "I wanted to be in Arlington because we didn't have something like this. I wanted to support artists, I wanted people to be able to afford it and I wanted it to be fun. I succeeded."
As of last week, Maute planned to clear out her artist inventory by the end of August, and she has until Sept. 30 to leave her space.
While she prepares the gallery for closing, it will operate from 2 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays.
After that, she said, she plans to stay connected to the art world and continue to serve as a conduit for people to find and buy art through her website, www.ursusartspace.com.
"People can shoot me an email any time, and I'll be e-blasting people," she said.
Lynette Santoro-Au, Upper Arlington's cultural arts manager, frequently worked with Maute to connect with artists and organize public art galleries.
"I spent a lot of time in this wonderful store over the years and we collaborated on projects benefitting local and regional artists," Santoro-Au said. "Ursus was a wonderful art space celebrating creativity and I will miss it.
"Many of the artists that showed there also showed in our Concourse Gallery and at the Upper Arlington Labor Day Arts Festival. It's so important to make art accessible and Ursus made it its mission to do so by nurturing emerging and established artists and giving them a platform to showcase their talents," she said. "Ursus was a unique space in Upper Arlington; there are no other galleries like it."
Jacqueline Miller, a loyal Ursus customer for the past seven years, also was saddened by the news.
She said she enjoyed shopping at Ursus because it featured high-end fine art, jewelry and clothing, as well as low-priced items that were handmade, often by local artists.
"The disappointment is because there are so few places in Columbus where you can buy original art on a daily basis," Miller said. "The greatest aspect of Ursus was the variety of artwork. There was always something for everyone at every price point."
Miller said she struck up a friendship with Maute over the years, primarily because of the store owner's effervescent personality and her personal touch with customers and artists.
For her part, Maute said she'll miss the store and being able to buy and sell art, support a range of artists and expose art newcomers to original work.
She's also isn't sure if she'll be able to take her store pet -- a Lionhead rabbit named Ferocious, which inhabited a hand-painted, cageless "art space" -- home to her husband and three dogs, or if she'll need to find a new home for her.
But despite those worries, she said she's looking back fondly on her business venture.
"I truly feel it was an amazing place," Maute said. "There were amazing things that happened between people here."
In leaving, Maute also encouraged people in Upper Arlington and elsewhere to support locally owned, small businesses run by people who love their communities and the people they serve.
"When you see small, local (stores) that you're not sure what they are ... stop in and see what they're about," she said. "It's sad to lose them.
"Explore the little things that aren't Target. Explore the restaurants that aren't Applebee's. If we don't support the people who are pursuing their dreams and, like me, risking their shirts, they won't be around any more."