For years, the storefront at 28 Charles Street in downtown Massillon has been the practice space of LUDWYG, an electronica band fronted by Billy Ludwig. On July 17, Massillon finally gets what’s coming to it: an independent, progressive art space. We recently sat down with Thirteenth Floor gallery owner Billy Ludwig to get the scoop on the gallery, the opening and some other super secret sneaky stuff. Ok, first things first: what floor is “Thirteenth Floor” on? [Laughing] You wouldn’t believe how often I’ve gotten that question. We’re street level. In fact, I’m pretty sure that there are no 13-story buildings in Massillon. I just liked the name. Thought so. Ok, tell us how this concept has come together. For a year now, I’ve been talking with [artist] Bili Kribbs and others about the arts scene in Massillon. We’ve both been wanting to do more. He’s been mobilizing the Massillon Artists Brigade. I decided to transform my storefront into the first true art gallery in Massillon. What do the neighbors think of your plans? We actually received a grant from the City of Massillon for $2,000 and, when you’re starting a business, $2,000 is like a million dollars. I think it’s pretty cool that the city is so supportive of the new gallery and the arts scene in Massillon. Basically, we’re the start of Mayor Cicchinelli’s plans to create a genuine arts area in Massillon. What can people expect from Thirteenth Floor? We want to put a lot of things in there that are different from other galleries. Contemporary art, mostly. And the gallery will double as a store. There are a ton of local artists who do unique pieces, T-shirts, leather jewelry, unique toys, even some who do marionettes. My vision for the gallery is for it to be a conglomerate of some of the concepts I’ve seen out of Columbus and even Vegas. Care to name names? To start, some local favorites: John Branham and Mike Skaggs from Shock Studios, Bili Kribbs, Scot Philips, Steve Ehret and Megan Mars. Some of my digital work through Impale Designs. Like I said, we’re going to have a bit of everything, especially multi-medium artists. Painters who also do toys. Stuff like that. What’s in store at the upcoming grand opening? The grand opening is July 17. Monster Energy Drink is sponsoring the event, so we’ll have some cool freebies. Scott Paris is performing. I don’t want to give too much away. I guess we’ll have to check it out to find out. Any idea yet about future exhibits? The plan is to have featured artists exhibiting in 30-day, themed art shows. On Aug. 13, Friday the 13th, we’re hosting “The Creature Show” with some bigger names from around Northeast Ohio. But this gallery isn’t just about local art. We’re going to feature artists from around town and around the country. We’re about broadening horizons. Tell us about the feel of the space? Big white walls at the moment! The space is very deep, very cavernous. And very old. The building was built in 1873 and it has a creepy, haunted history. A creepy, strange aura. Trust me. But that works for our vibe. Why Massillon? Why now? Yeah, well, I mean, somebody has to be first. I’m happy it’s me. We need more foot traffic downtown. I’m hoping that this will be a small start to supporting downtown Massillon. And I’m confident that this will be a successful endeavor. What’s next? My idea is to put on bigger events and have more stuff going on downtown. We need to bring in more businesses to help. More businesses like Art Bomb, Backlist Books, the Massillon Museum, Benders and the Lincoln Theatre. I want to work with the Theatre to do bigger and bigger events like the NIN screening. There’s a lot of opportunity in Massillon but I think people get bored. One of our biggest events is the Massillon car show. I think we can be more than that. I think there is a lot of opportunity to do new and different stuff that can get more people involved. A man with a plan, we like it! Like I told City Council, I want this stuff to be for Massillon but I also wanted to bring in people from Northeast Ohio to see what we’re doing down here. I have a plan for some super secret sneaky stuff that nobody in the state is doing. I really want to tell you about it, but for now, I won’t. Anything else we should know? Everyone wants their business to be unique. I mean business. I’m going to do something that other people aren’t, something different. For good or bad, we’re different. Odd. Sounds like we should respect the odd. More like ‘accept the oddities.” All I’ll say is that Massillon needs to get ready for extremely contemporary art. Well, Massillon, you’ve been warned. Gird your loins. For more information about Thirteenth Floor and the opening, visit www.13thfloorgallery.com. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. “I want people to look at my art and actually think about something.” “It’s all bullsh*t and it’s bad for you.” That is local Massillon artist Derek Zimmerman’s personal adage that he applies to both his personal life and the art that he creates. Most of the art that Derek makes deals with conspiracy theories that he believes in and any other crazy ideas that go through his head, most of them related to things like quantum physics and Drake equations. What matters most to Derek is that his art gets people thinking and questioning things again. “I want people to look at my art and actually think about something, to reinstate some thought because, in my opinion, that’s the biggest problem with people these days. It’s that they don’t question things anymore and they don’t think for themselves… I guess that’s what I’m trying to do.” Derek has been making art for as long as he can remember, ever since drawing dinosaurs on his math homework instead of doing the actual work back in first grade. Now he gets to do what he loves for a living, working as an artist and a graphic designer for a design shop in Massillon. Derek works in a number of different art styles because, as he says, “I always try to keep all my avenues open and try to keep working in everything, so I don’t get stale.” Stale is definitely not a word that describes Derek’s art at all- it’s unique and thought-provoking. For a idea of what Derek’s does and to find out a little bit more about him, visit his website: www.dwrex.com. A self-described “mish-mosh” of Derek’s art will be on display at Art Bomb Tattoos in downtown Massillon on July 24th. Come check out one of the area’s most talented artists.