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He's been making all of his art out of a studio in the West End for years, which we toured recently (pictured). / Image: Phil Armstrong, Cincinnati Refined // Published: 11.8.20

Artist Spencer Van Der Zee Started "Fence Gallery" in His Backyard

If you’ve taken a walk through Norwood recently, you may have happened upon an open-air art gallery—Fence Gallery. As in, art, being displayed on an actual fence. Queen City artist Spencer van der Zee started Fence Gallery in his backyard this spring as a way to bring color and cheer to his neighbors. Since then, the project has continued to grow.

Cincinnati Refined were recently treated to a tour of Van der Zee’s studio in the West End. He’s been making art in this space for several years.

Van der Zee is a self-taught artist, and his pieces range from drawings to paintings to mixed media works. All are bright and colorful, vibrant, with lots of movement and repeated motifs. He paints images from dreams and captures the surreal and humorous of the everyday. Melding aspects of folk art and street art, his works both entertain and challenge the viewer. Of his work, Van der Zee says, “people either love it or hate it—there’s no in-between.”

Fence Gallery, Van der Zee says, was started, “in response to the COVID-19 quarantine. I started displaying paintings on the fence in my backyard. The show changes every day, and the gallery serves friends and neighbors on an afternoon walk, as well as online visitors from around the world.” The works at Fence Gallery change daily, so each time you visit you’ll see something new.

Van der Zee plans to continue the project indefinitely. And new Fence Galleries may soon be popping up all over Cincinnati—Van der Zee has won a grant from Wave Pool Gallery and is workshopping a concept that would have Fence Galleries in neighborhoods all over the city, where residents could display their own art. In addition to Fence Gallery t-shirts, you can also buy Van der Zee’s work at Covington’s eclectic new shop, Earth to Kentucky.

Check out the gallery to see Van der Zee’s work and his cool-as-hell studio space, and for more of Fence Gallery, hit up Instagram.

NOTE: To respect his privacy, the specific address of the gallery itself is omitted intentionally from this article. Reach out to the artist through Instagram if you'd like to see Fence Gallery in person.