Angela Ward says she fell in love with 352 E. High St. the first time she set foot in the building.
So when she saw that the building, which she lives near, was being foreclosed, she knew she had to buy it and turn it into something meaningful for the community.
After tearing up overgrown ivy, repairing water damage within the house and a fixing it up, Ward transformed it into what is now Gallery on High. It first opened in April 2018.
“We named the building Gallery on High, and our agency we’ve created that exists inside the building is Beyond the Looking Glass,” Ward says.
Though Ward isn’t trained in art, she uses her background in public relations and television to create an engaging, attractive space. And, her love of upcycling and creating has helped her be open to offering a variety of options to be creative in her space.
“I don’t have a degree in art, but I know a lot of people who do, and we collaborate a lot,” says Ward.
Over the years, Beyond the Looking Glass has featured a variety of work from local artists and prides itself on featuring a rotating display of artwork done by Springfield High School students.
Though this was Ward’s initial thought of the direction she’d take her business in when she first opened, she’s branched out to do anything and everything that she finds intriguing.
“I had hard-set plans at the beginning, and they all fell through,” Ward says. “So, instead, I’ve kept a fluid business plan going. Overnight sometimes I’ve come up with new ideas, gone through inventory, figured out how to make the new idea work, and kept changing up the plan.”
The gallery is open for local artists to use for art shows. Ward says she has a vintage bar, vintage glassware and vintage China that pair well with the feel of the house and help create a neat atmosphere for a show.
Local arts and craft teachers are also welcome to use the gallery and studio spaces to host classes and events.
During the week, Ward spends much of her time hosting hands-on lessons at Beyond the Looking Glass for local community members with developmental disabilities. She also sometimes meets people at their homes or other locations if they’re not able to come to the gallery.
“I teach art therapy to developmental disabilities students,” she says. “I had a couple students that would be upset and scream about getting their hands dirty when they first came. Now, they’re giggling and having fun making concrete leaves using grout.”
When it comes to the developmental disabilities students Ward works with, she says she makes to sure let they try working with a variety of products on a variety of different projects so they can find something they feel good at and feel valuable doing.
On Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., studio has started featuring a popular $5 Art projects. Whether it’s poured paint on tiles, designing costume eye masks, or the recent squirt gun canvas painting, Ward attracts interest from people of all ages.
No reservations are required for $5 Art. Patrons can stop in at their convenience.
Ward’s hope is that more people learn about what her gallery of creativity has to offer and come give it a try. She says people often become frequent return customers once they visit and explore their creativity once.
In the future, Ward is planning on turning one of the rooms in the gallery into a recording studio that offers video and voice recording patrons can use for podcasts, YouTube videos and more.
“We’re evolving and changing everyday,” Ward says.