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Meet the Staff: Cat Sheridan

Meet the Staff: Cat Sheridan, Riffe Gallery Director

The Ohio Arts Council (OAC) has added a new member once again! Meet Cat Sheridan, Riffe Gallery director. Cat has had many roles in the arts throughout her career, including being an artist herself. She loves how art can create community and foster conversation and is excited to support Ohio artists. Get to know more about Cat by reading the Q&A below!

Ohio Arts Council Riffe Gallery Director Cat SheridanQ. What is your first memory relating to the arts?
My parents were great about introducing me and my siblings to the arts in Columbus. As a relatively big family, some of the most affordable family experiences were going to art events. Probably the first arts experience in Columbus that is particularly memorable for me is tagging along with my sister and brothers at Columbus College of Art and Design’s (CCAD) Saturday morning art classes scholarship competition. I wasn't “participating,” but I sat in the corner, made a drawing, and then was selected to receive a scholarship.

I was part of Saturday morning classes at CCAD from first through 12th grade. Every Saturday, other kids were sleeping in and watching Saturday morning cartoons, but my family was heading downtown, all going to our separate classes and enjoying the arts. It was just super special because all four of us went through classes and have these rich memories tying us to the arts.

My parents really valued the life lessons of persistence and practice that the arts instill. Not everything will be perfect; as such, you keep on working, trying, experimenting, and growing. I wouldn't be the human that I am today without those experiences!

Ohio Arts Council Riffe Gallery Director Cat Sheridan at an Ohio Art League gallery exhibitionQ. What are some of the experiences that have led you to the Ohio Arts Council?
I did the Saturday classes and then I ended up going to college at CCAD. I dabbled in nearly all the fine art disciplines and had a minor in art history. When I graduated, I wasn't quite ready to pursue art full-time, and I found myself in arts administration with the Worthington Arts Council. It was a little by luck—I thought that I was signing up to be a mentor for high school artists, but then ended up interviewing for the arts coordinator job. I was incredibly fortunate to be able to work for a couple of years to help their capital campaign creating the McConnell Arts Center. That job helped me discover that not only can you be an artist and a creative, but you can support other artists and creatives and really enrich your community through arts administration. At that point, I was also teaching Saturday morning art classes while working at the Worthington Arts Council.

Eventually, CCAD recruited me back to work for the college in admissions. I traveled all over the country telling people about my experiences at CCAD. Then, due to my experience in Saturday classes and work with the Worthington Arts Council, I was recruited to be the manager of the continuing education department and eventually director. I led all their nondegree programs (including Saturday classes), and that was amazing. Talk about full circle—from Saturday classes student to assistant teacher, then to teacher and to director of the program. I stayed there for nearly a decade and got to work with so many amazing artists and staff members. I still see so many of the students that came through our programs in the community. Most recently, I worked in the private sector at L Brands helping them open stores all over the world. While I enjoyed my time in the corporate world, I am very excited to be working in the arts again.

Q. What do you like to do outside of the OAC?Ohio Arts Council Riffe Gallery director Cat Sheridan and her partner.
My partner and I are both artists and arts advocates, so you’ll catch us making, consuming, and supporting the arts at all turns. We also have a big extended family—11 nieces and nephews—so, holiday and family gatherings are a big and fun. Most of my time is in the arts, even outside of work. Much of my community of friends are artists or appreciators, so I go out and I support the arts, going to the shows, getting a ticket for an exhibition or a show that's coming through. It’s all about the arts! Otherwise, it’s reading a book or bingeing on some sci-fi fantasy or other fun series.

Q. What does art mean to you?
Art is life! It reflects who we are, what we are, and how we are experiencing this world right now. On the fluffy side, people say, ‘Imagine a day without art,’ and I’d venture to say it's not possible! You would have no furniture to sit on, no music to listen to, no cars to drive, no clothing to wear—you would have nothing!

Of course, you have very apparent art in galleries and museums, hanging in frames or on pedestals and things like that. Artists who are in those spaces are responding to the everyday, whether it's to reflect what they find beautiful or to have social commentary or to explore an idea. Folks that say, “Oh, I'm not really into the arts.” Well, I’d counter that and say that they just don't know it. They haven't had the opportunity to have the conversations that then help them understand the impact of art in our life. So, I see it everywhere, and I especially appreciate it when it creates meaningful conversation and fosters community. I also love the intimacy of art and that it can be a very personal experience and at the very same time have a widespread impact. Art is transformative.

Q. What’s a typical day like as Riffe Gallery director?
It changes day to day, but every day I come in ready to react, plan, and support! Whether it's through opening the doors of the gallery, having a great conversation with a patron, or working to develop the next show.

Ohio Arts Council Riffe Gallery Director Cat Sheridan and her partner in front of a sidewalk chalk drawingQ. What inspires you artistically?
I have two veins of art that I pursue personally. One is more meditative, and it's typically ceramics. I'll make things that are usually functional. I enjoy the very meticulous process-heavy aspects of hand building. You can think about it like sewing—it’s similar in that I'll develop patterns to create forms like boxes, mugs, etc.—but my fabric is, of course, clay.

The other vein, my conceptual work, doesn't have a particular material or format that it takes. It could be ceramics or installation, painting or drawing—really anything. It’s more about trying to convey an idea for an opportunity to garner conversation. A lot of it is social commentary that requires the viewer to explore the content with conversations and questions to get after the meaning. Sometimes the concept is very apparent to the viewer and sometimes it's not, and both of those experiences are okay. Again, the most important bit to me is that the viewer engages with the work and has the opportunity for greater dialogue or connection with a fellow viewer.

Q. What are you most excited about as the new Riffe Gallery director?
Definitely the opportunity to support artists and expand awareness of the phenomenal artists that we have in Ohio. I'm thrilled to get to learn more about artists all over the state. I know Columbus very well, but I can’t wait to expand my knowledge. Ohio is “rife” with creativity—pun intended! Also, I get to be on a team of 18 wonderful arts-loving people! I enjoy building new relationships and creating community, and it excites me to no end to be able to develop that with the OAC team.

The Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Gallery showcases the work of Ohio's artists and the collections of the state's museums and galleries. The Riffe Gallery is located in the Vern Riffe Center for Government and the Arts, across from the Statehouse on High Street in Downtown Columbus. Like the Riffe Gallery on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter.

The Ohio Arts Council is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Connect with the OAC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website at


Article by Beth Graham, 2018-19 Social Media and Special Events Fellow
Photos courtesy of Cat Sheridan

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