Ramesh Malhotra: From mining the earth to a quest for meaning

First impression – walking into the headquarters of Coal Network Inc. in Mason, Ohio – is that whoever is in charge here loves art. Many corporate headquarters have the obligatory bland abstractions, sometimes large ones meant to telegraph the importance of the company and the vision of its board and CEO. Occasionally, a company will have rich and interesting original art, but this is rare.

In this corporate headquarters, owned by entrepreneur Ramesh Malhotra, all the hallways are filled with lovely paintings, most of them done in oil – gentle interiors, some with a contemplative figure, serene landscapes, including our landmark Roebling Bridge. Who is so passionate about art to amass such a personal collection of original art? Apparently, the man in charge.

Ramesh Malhotra
Ramesh Malhotra

Ramesh Malhotra is president of Malhotra Group, an investment management company that provides strategic, investment, capital and business management services to a family of companies ranging from coal, oil and gas to industrial innovation and product development, real estate management and – more recently – the visual arts.

Malhotra was born to a Hindu family in Lahore, in what was then a part of India. After the partition of that country in 1947, his family moved to the Himalayas, in far northwest India, where he grew up. Malhotra received a master’s degree in geology from Punjab University and worked as a geologist for the state government. In 1967, he left India to work toward a postgraduate diploma in mining and prospecting from Montanuniversität Leoben in Austria. 

Malhotra came to the United States in 1968, where he earned his master’s in earth and space science from Stony Brook University in New York and an MBA from Michigan Tech. He pursued additional postgraduate studies at Columbia University in mineral economics. 

Girl in the Polka Dot Dress by David Mueller
“Girl in the Polka Dot Dress” by David Mueller

Upon completing his extensive education, Malhotra began working for Freeman United Coal in 1974 as assistant vice-president. In 1981, he became president of NERCO, an American mining company that eventually grew to sales of $920 million before being acquired by another firm. After six years there, he left to start his own business. 

Building on his experience, Malhota started Coal Network Inc. in 1987 in Mason. Coal Network is a coal brokerage firm with five regional sales offices, plus a terminal in Catlettsburg, Ky. As he became acquainted with Greater Cincinnati, Malhotra soon saw that the region is rich in the creative arts. He and his wife, Christine, became active in the arts starting in 1991 and were instrumental in the creation of the Mason Art Association. As he made connections, Ramesh met numerous local artists whom he supported and commissioned to paint images for his collection. 

“Ramesh facilitated the beginning of a dream for me at the perfect time to begin down that path,” said artist David Mueller. Malhotra’s support “enabled me, far sooner than I could have imagined, the means and a safe space to start. My leap of faith and the courage it took to give this pursuit my all was elevated by Ramesh’s vision and generosity. I was able to jump.” 

His appetite for art and its connection to the spiritual led the Malhotras to collect more than 900 paintings. Needing a way to share this collection with the public, they opened the Museum of Spiritual Art in Franklin, Ohio, in a nearly 200 year-old mansion. The works are by local artists and from others across the globe. ​The idea behind the museum is to display art from Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism, depicting spirituality from various perspectives.

“Santa Maria Della Salute” by Roger Heuck

Malhotra had begun exploring spirituality more fully starting in the early 1990s, the result of a powerful epiphany that made him question his life motivations up to that time. Both he and his wife were searching for greater meaning in their lives, but each went their own path. Christine was raised in the Episcopal Church, but later converted to Judaism and is an active member of Rockdale Temple.

Ramesh visited spiritual centers in his native India and throughout the world while reading numerous works on religion and spirituality. His spiritual exploration culminated in his writing two books: “Spiritual Wisdom” – a culmination of the experiences and knowledge he has gained – and “ In Search of Absolute Truth.” (Both books are available on Amazon.) He is writing a third. Proceeds from the sale of his books go to various charitable organizations.

In 2011, Malhotra raised funds to build a school near his childhood home in the Himalayas. In 2016, the Vivekanand Vidya Niketan School opened, to teach fundamentals of higher knowledge to area children and foster their appreciation of Indian heritage and culture. The building also houses a clinic and a social gathering space. This project reflects Malhota’s personal approach to spiritual understanding, which he calls the Spirituality Circle. It is based on the Buddhist principle of the true path to sanctity or Nirvana and is related to Karma, Dharma and Dakshna. For Malhotra, the Spirituality Circle mirrors this with a focus on three aspects of life: service, support and sacrifice.

"City View" by Greg Storer
“City View” by Greg Storer

One peek into his office gives you an understanding of Malhotra’s worldview. Upon entering, you see a small bronze statue of a miner panning for gold in the wild west. Near his desk is a bronze statue of a Greek Orthodox priest, which Malhotra says reminds him of his spiritual duties during the workday. So he has the material aspect in the old gold miner as you enter his office, and spirituality represented by the priest beside him.

In 2021, Malhotra suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed. He is now significantly recovered, but recalled a vision that occurred that had a powerful impact on his thinking. He described “emanating scarves, or waves and a vision of flowers on a white carpet that I walked on toward a temple.” He referred to this as his ”second birth,” conveying that “everything is back, my vision, my memories and I am grateful to God to give me a second chance.” 

This powerful experience of suffering a stroke, the vision during his paralysis and the return of his faculties – all these have contributed to his present efforts to create opportunities for artists, the arts in particular, and other charities as well.

Roman Cafe by Melinda Morrison, Oil-on-Panel-8x8
“Roman Cafe” by Melinda Morrison

An event in early March will kick off Malhotra’s initiative to sell off a significant portion of his art collection and use the majority of the revenue to support the careers and opportunities of area artists. This ongoing divestiture is being managed by artist/musician K. William Semrad, who is also helping to identify nonprofit organizations with whom to partner in art-related events, making sure the organization receives a portion of the proceeds in return.

“An Evening of Art for Working Artists” will take place at the new ARTclectic Gallery, just off of I-71 at Stewart Avenue. The event will feature a silent auction including oil paintings from The Museum of Spiritual Art Fine Art Gallery by local artists such as Chuck Marshall, David Mueller, Melinda Morrison, K. William Semrad, Patrick Romelli and Larry Rudeloch. Bidding starts at 6 p.m. and ends at 8 p.m. Guests may enjoy gourmet food and wine.

A percentage of the proceeds will support Movers & Makers magazine’s nonprofit visual art coverage.


‘An Evening of Art for Working Artists’

Saturday, March 4, 6-9 p.m.
ARTclectic Gallery, 6249 Stewart Ave., Silverton 

RSVP: 513-622-9081 or mosa@artenclave.com

View the artwork: www.spiritualitycircle.com/an-evening-of-art-for-working-artists

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