Behind the Leap

Karen Simonian, Advancement Projects Manager

Dec 14, 2016


At North Carolina’s Black Mountain College, the inspiration for our current exhibition Leap Before You Look, risk was the name of the game. The whole venture involved financial risk. The artists who studied and taught there took audacious creative risks. Becoming a racially integrated campus—in the South, in the ’40s—was, you guessed it, a risk.

Like Black Mountain, the Wex has always welcomed and encouraged risk in all its forms—creative, cultural, social, intellectual, and beyond. Throughout the Wex’s 27-year history, our equally adventuresome members have been along for the (sometimes wild) ride, all the while helping make the whole thing go.

With all of this in mind, our “Take the Leap” membership acquisition campaign began to take shape, riffing off the show’s title. We pulled a diverse range of new and longtime members into the effort to tell their stories, and to get their pictures taken with silly string and shiny objects. Boy, were they ever game. Herein are a few interview outtakes and add-ons, plus photos and behind-the-scenes footage.

On the town (and on the road): Jessica Burton—whose exuberant, leaping image adorns the walkway just outside the Wex entrance—came to Columbus from Texas three years ago to work for fashion retailer Express. An explorer at heart, she became a Wex member soon after and is now co-chair of the GenWex Advisory Council for young professionals. During her travels, she appreciates the reciprocal free admission she gets at museums around the world with just a flash of her Wex member card.

“How cool is it that if you're traveling and have some spare time, you can plan a museum visit and have a fun experience, just as you would at the Wex!” In addition, she says, “I have always been wowed by the jazz artists and programming that the Wex brings to Columbus.”

She also enjoys exhibition openings: “Celebrating the unveiling of a new exhibition at the Wex is always a great time. It's fun to see people throughout the community come out and enjoy previewing the exhibition while mingling over food, drinks, and conversations. One of my favorites!” The Wex “has been such a fantastic part to my life here. What I like most about supporting the Wex is that I am able to be involved and give back to a community and organization that has already given so much to me.”


A Family Affair: Kate, Ted, and Will Bauer have been members since 2013—or, in Will’s case, since birth. The Upper Arlington couple met at a pre-party for the first Off the Grid fundraising bash in 2010, and Kate remembers well how the evening unfolded later at the Wex.

“The Hood Internet came in from Chicago and we danced the night away. We got separated at one point during the evening and kept missing one another, so our mutual friend ran interference, texting us both when we came by looking for one another. So Off the Grid, for me, is something truly special….It’s the best time you’ll ever have in the coolest venue imaginable.”

On the day of their engagement, they went on an Ohio State “history walk,” beginning with a stop right in front of the Wex entrance where that fateful text occurred. Now that they’re parents, Kate and Ted love the Zoom: Family Film Festival—and other opportunities at the Wex to have fun with Will.

“I could go on about the programming for all ages,” Kate says. “I encourage every person to take advantage of this amazing gem in our city, one that we are beyond lucky to have.”


The “whoa” factor: German Village couple Tim Morbitzer and Giancarlo Miranda, Wex members since 1994, recall why they were first drawn to the Wex.

“We travel a lot—primarily for fun,” Morbitzer says. “We used to find ourselves in these major cities looking at the arts and cultural offerings and we'd say, ‘Wow, if we lived here we'd do all of this.’ Then we realized that we actually have a ton of similar programming here with the Wexner Center.” He adds, “It’s not unusual for the Wex to have someone associated with the piece—director, actor, artist—in attendance or lecturing along with the presentation. That's pretty huge, and we are fortunate to have a resource that rich and that deep right here in Columbus, and so accessible.”

They are most looking forward to Off the Grid. “I wish we could say something to make us sound more sophisticated, but we love that event. We've gone almost every year since it started.” As for other programming, “We have seen movies at the Wexner Center that have blown us away.” Some of the best films they’ve seen over the years have been the member-only screenings. “And one of our favorite things to do is choose a movie at the Wexner Center that we know little about, make an evening of it, and walk away saying to each other, ‘What was that?!’ To us, that's the sign of a great film. The same applies to the Wexner's live performances. A ‘WHOA’ during or after a performance means we've had a memorable experience.”

And one more thing: “We always make sure to hit the Wexner Center Store for holiday shopping because they have things you can't get anyplace else in the area—so the discount certainly helps!”


Wex members Jeff Smith & Vijaya Iyer

Everything and more: Jeff Smith and Vijaya Iyer, members since 1999, are creative partners behind the best-selling Bone graphic-novel juggernaut (it’s being made into a movie) and Cartoon Crossroads Columbus. The German Village residents enjoy a wide range of Wex offerings with their membership.

When asked why they first became members, Iyer says, “Honestly, it may have been the bookstore. It’s an amazing shop!” Smith notes that they both “love seeing movies by master filmmakers, like Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo in high definition. It’s the way you should do it! Watching great movies that we usually view on a small TV up on a real screen with an audience is a revelation.”

And among his favorite events was the 2008 exhibition Andy Warhol: Other Voices, Other Rooms. “I’m a pop culture nut, and Warhol understood it before anybody else. The Wex exhibit had everything I ever wanted to see, and much more.” Iyer loved the 2014 exhibition Modern Cartoonist, focusing on graphic novelist Daniel Clowes. “Not only is Dan’s work seminal to the alt/underground movement in comics,” she says, “but the Wex really showed its commitment to comics as a living art form.”

Footnote: The photographer for this campaign, Nathan C. Ward, became a member this fall, too. It’s never too late to take your own leap and join us, if you haven’t already. Or consider entering our Black Mountain-themed Instagram contest this month to win a membership. Or, consider a gift membership for a friend or family member you think might enjoy free gallery admission, member discounts, exclusive access, and first dibs on tickets. After all, ‘tis the season to pay it—leap it?—forward.

Photography by Nathan C. Ward. Videography by Erica Anderson, Creative Services Director at the Wex.