LeSo Art Gallery opens first show Sept. 29Written by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
Inside a mostly bright red building in East Toledo, Amber LeFever and Adam Soboleski are putting the final touches on their new venue, the LeSo Art Gallery.
The gallery, 1527 Starr Ave., is set to have its first show, 7-9 p.m. Sept. 29. The venue, which will have a space for classes, has been on LeFever’s and Soboleski’s minds since October 2010.
“I noticed so many old and abandoned buildings and it was just so sad. It felt like they were left to die and so I kind of started brainstorming on what I would do if I had an old building,” said LeFever, an art teacher at Imagine Clay Avenue Community School.
The Starr Avenue building that LeFever and Soboleski picked was built in 1903. In the 1930s and ’40s, it served as the neighborhood hangout Circle Bar, also the last stop on the trolley line. Eventually, it was a Marco’s Pizza headquarters and then an insurance agency.
LeFever and Soboleski originally had trouble getting a bank to sign on because of the building’s commercial designation.
“Without even asking so much as our name, it was, ‘No, no, no, no,’” LeFever said. After four and a half months, the pair was able to secure funds and move forward.
Then came the intensive revamping process. “When we first saw it, it was an insurance company so there was like carpet on the walls,” said Soboleski, who works at Home Depot. Under two layers of ceiling, he and LeFever discovered the original tin ceiling that LeFever then brushed with silver paint.
“I wanted to bring [the building] back to what it was, what its history was,” LeFever said.
The two, who live in an apartment above the gallery, have done all the construction work themselves.
“I’ve become a master drywaller,” LeFever said with a laugh. The pair also painted the outside themselves with Soboleski holding LeFever by the legs from the roof because she didn’t want to get on a ladder.
Still, the process has not been all fun.
“I’ve burned through a couple friends,” Soboleski said. “It’s just day in and day out. You don’t ever walk away from it.”
He and LeFever met as students at Bowling Green State University and became close when he helped her in ceramics, his focus.
LeFever focuses on painting and art education. She plans to teach all ages and all skills at LeSo. Professional workshops will also be featured.
She and Soboleski are still trying to pinpoint exactly what type of classes will be offered.
“There’s a lot of options at this point. When you come into something like this, you’re very directional and when you come in with it, you realize there’s that wave that you go with,” Soboleski said.
LeFever said she hopes that children in the area come to the classes, especially since so many schools have cut their art classes. She also emphasized that the gallery is a safe space.
“As soon you say East Side, people are like, ‘Oh no!’ like it’s a Third World country over here and it’s not. We actually live in a wonderful neighborhood,” she said.
LeSo’s first show will be a group one. Artists can apply to display their work in the show at www.lesogallery.com by Sept. 8.
“We definitely want it to be community-based. We really want to celebrate what Toledo has to offer,” LeFever said.
The pair is looking forward to celebrating all their hard work in late September when the gallery is open.
“It just kind of became an idea, an obsession and we made it a reality,” LeFever said.
“It’ll be nice when all the tools are out [of here] and we open a bottle of wine and eat some cheese and crackers,” Soboleski said.