The Realm

—showcase of the fantastic—

The Realm was a gothic art gallery that Joseph Vargo and Christine Filipak designed, built and operated in 1997. It unfortunately closed in 1998, due to the building owner having heating and structural problems. It was the first and only "night gallery" of its kind in the area. The opening hours were from 6pm to midnight. The construction was a "labor of love" that took about 9 months to complete. Over 4,000 square feet were converted from a dirty warehouse to a museum-quality gallery.
     The construction consisted of faux stone columns and "broken" hanging walls that were hand-sculpted and painted by Joseph and Christine. Together with the building owner they refinished the wood floor, which was originally scarred and covered in grime. Some tricky lighting effects were used to hide the rather rough looking ceiling. Gargoyles and angel sconces were added to the columns, and window arches were constructed to turn the plain warehouse windows into a view from a castle tower, especially striking since this space was located on the top floor of a 4-story building.
     October 10, 1997 marked the Grand Opening, which featured the artwork of Joseph Vargo. The showing was attended by several hundred creatures of the night. Other artists that were presented throughout the year included Eric Muss-Barnes, David Alexy, James Pipik, L.A. Williams and Ruth Thompson, as well as Christine Filipak.

The Realm: Showcase of the Fantastic

Article by Melissa Hetzel, Cleveland TAB Magazine, October 1997

Raven-tressed temptresses in long, flowing black dresses gaze calmly with knowing, long-lashed eyes at some prey across the columned room. A hooded man guards the door and nods a silent allowance into the gates. A trench-coated, sinister fellow enters walking with a cane and attracts the attention of them all. And this was just the clientele at the Fridav, October 10, opening of The Realm, the city's first gothic art gallery. It's perfect timing for the opening, as autumn drains the green from the leaves so that a light breeze makes a moodier, more crackly rustle as you walk up the streetlight spotted sidewalk to the warehouse. On the fourth floor resides the gallery of dark ambiance"dark" as in moody, not "dark: bring a ftashlight." Low lighting and stately columns accent the room, but it is still cozy enough to take the October chill out of the bones. Displayed throughout is the nearly 100-piece collection of fantasy artwork by gallery founder, Joseph Vargo. The artwork tells stories of mysticism and seduction. "Lector" depicts a maiden gazing lovingly up at a statue of a man "Visitation" is the cold steely gaze of an alien. "Alien Thinker" seems to be a blending of the medieval and alien worlds with the rather Shakespearean depiction of the alien ("Alas, poor Yorick..."). Artist, Joseph Vargo and graphic designer, Christine Filipak dreamed up The Realm sometime last November in hopes of offering a home to fantasy artists who've had difficulty finding wallspace in Cleveland's public eye. Now The Realm has become a reality. Filipak said, thanks to the friends and long lost friends who seemed to come "crawling out of the woodwork to help" with the necessary renovation of the space.
      Opening night proved to be well-received by many artists who came to check out potential space for their work, according to Vargo, who wants to spotlight the talent of a variety of artists in upcoming showsideally featuring 10 works by 10 different artists utilizing a common theme, with a completely different feel for each show. The Realm will also feature gothic poetry readings, acoustic performances of local bands, and gothic industrial CD listening parties. Oh yes, The Realrn's gift shop provides wicked browsing for those with an appetite to trip the goth fantastic. And if you really want a novel way to spend your Halloween, Vargo and Filipak invite all who are Halloween-enthused to show up costumed on All Hallow's Eve.