By EMMALEE C. TORISK
For months, Kristina Rule had driven past Metamorphosis Gallery going to and from her job at Astro Shapes in the city’s downtown.
Finally, stopped at the traffic light in front of the State Street building one day, Rule plugged the gallery’s phone number into her cellphone. She gave its director, Becky Jasinski, a call shortly afterward.
“I had just started painting, and it looked like I had some talent I didn’t know I had,” said Rule, who lives in Boardman. “I was curious to see what was going on at the gallery.”
What Rule found at Metamor-phosis was a welcoming, ever- expanding community of like-minded artists of which she’s been a member since November. The monthly $35 membership fee grants her 24-hour access to the gallery’s studio space.
“It feels good to be in the company of other artists,” said Rule, who usually stops by Metamorphosis twice each week. “You need this constant reaffirmation that what you’re doing is good, that it is worthy of someone looking at. The gallery helped do that.”
Involvement is not limited to members, Jasinski said, adding that the space is open regularly to the community. Visitors are encouraged to bring their pencils, paints, clay, journals and the like during Open Studio events, which are on Thursday and Saturday evenings.
Although Rule became a member of the gallery to concentrate on her painting — landscapes inspired by photos she’s taken — she’s also started to attend Open Mic nights on Mondays, and subsequently has delved back into her writing.
“So many people today are on their computers and phones all the time,” Rule said. “At [Open Mic nights], you get to know someone on a completely deeper level and really connect to others. Some of that is missing anymore, and I really like that.”
When Jasinski used last year’s tax refund to start Metamorphosis, her vision involved creating a space where everyday people could openly create their art, whatever it might be. The gallery opened in August.
“So many people are hung up. ‘I can’t start my art because I have to clean my dining room. I can’t start my art because I’ll have to clean up when I’m done. I can’t start my art because I have to pay bills or do laundry,’” Jasinski said. “This is your respite from that.”
Just a few years ago, Jasinski — a self-proclaimed “artist at heart” — also had been pushing her art aside. She was “just kind of plodding along, being a businesswoman, paying the bills.”
Jasinski’s art concentrates on addiction, particularly the cycle of enablement and love. Much of it is inspired by her younger sister, Jessica, who died of a drug overdose at age 25 in 2010.
In her sister’s memory, Jasinski eventually would like to see Metamorphosis become a nonprofit that not only supports art and creativity in the community, but also uses them as a springboard for those with employment barriers, such as autism or recent enrollment in addiction- recovery programs.
“Metamorphosis is a term for transformation. It’s used when a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly,” Jasinski said. Through the gallery, “I’m hoping to transform people, transform lives.”