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Gallery Talk: To What Red Hell, 20 Years Past the Demolition of the Ohio Pen

Join us for a free, member event and conversation about the Ohio Penitentiary at Angela Meleca Gallery on Tuesday, October 23 from 7-8:30 p.m. Angela Meleca Gallery is pleased to present To What Red Hell, 20 Years Past the Demolition of the Ohio Pen, curated by Jason Simon. The exhibition title, To What Red Hell, is taken from the short story by Chester Himes published in Esquire in 1934, after he survived the 1930 fire in the Pen that killed 322 prisoners and wounded hundreds of others.

Tuesday, October 23 7-8:30pm

Join us for a conversation involving those who remember the Pen as we consider the loss of a disturbing landmark and the context of difficult history. This is a free event for Columbus Landmarks members, includes wine & cheese. Capacity is limited – please register in advance.

Despite opposition from Columbus Landmarks (“Pen Pals”) and others, the vast 1834 Ohio Penitentiary was demolished in 1998. The Arena District occupies the site today and there is little evidence or reminder of the two dozen structures that imprisoned more than 5,000 inmates at its peak in our downtown.

The Ohio Penitentiary was the setting for both grim realities and urban legends. What went on behind these 19th century stone walls went unobserved by those who passed by…and only imagined by others. It was said that ghostly shadows of those who died by the hangman’s noose could be observed on the walls, that lights in Columbus dimmed when the electric chair claimed the life of Dr. Snook, and that the old hollow tree outside the prison wall, the site of an early Indian massacre, howled on occasion in agony and remembrance. But old horrors cannot be compared to what really happened when reform movements failed, and the painful decades that followed. To What Red Hell explores the realities of the Pen through the interpretation of several artists including Leni D. Anderson, Mary Jo Bole, Moyra Davey, Richard Fletcher, Chester Himes, Bill Horrigan, Masumi Hyashi, William E. Jones, Logan Rollins & the 511 Jazz Ensemble and Jason Simon.

Event Details


Angela Meleca Gallery
144 East State Street
Columbus, OH 43215
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