My Top Ten Cool, Artsy Things in Columbus

This week, I saw these girl-centered street art pieces all over the place by Stephanie Rond, a Columbus native. (Source: the-toast.net)

My hometown, Columbus, is growing and changing all the time. I feel like I’m always just scratching the surface when I visit. I cannot BELIEVE how artsy and fabulous Columbus has become. Every time I come here, I hardly recognize it. And yet it remains a hidden gem, forever stuck with the “cow town “label.

Columbus has always had a quirky, unruly side to it. Increasingly, outsiders are becoming aware of our growing national sports scene and all the quirky and beautiful neighborhoods in Columbus, from Clintonville and Worthington in the North, to the Shortnorth Arts District and the historic German Village further South. There is just too much to write about if I tried to include everything I love about artsy, foodie, LGBT-friendly, politically-raucous, alternative Columbus. (Ever heard of Jeni’s ice cream?)

This is just a rundown of some cool events and places I learned about during this visit.

 The Columbus Idea Foundry

ideafoundry

I visited this amazing, up-and-coming space yesterday. One of the makers here, Matthew Hatcher, treated us to an impromptu tour of the space, ostensibly the largest “makerspace” in the world. The neighborhood is called “The Bottoms,” and the building was once a shoe factory, but now it houses some of the most sophisticated and innovatice technology invented in recent years. For the price of a few classes and a membership fee, you can use their many high-tech tools to create art, products and prototypes, or dabble in more traditional crafts such as wood-turning and blacksmithing.

400 Hundred West Rich

(Source: 400 West Rich website)

This beautifully preserved and restored space is home to over 100 local artists, crafters, performers and designers. Take classes, see exhibits, or just visit the 400 West Rich farmers market.

Tasha Lewis “Swarm” at the Franklin Park Conservatory 

TashaLouis

This thought-provoking and beautiful installation is part of the 20th annual “Blooms and Butterflies” exhibition at the conservatory.  You can hear Tasha talk about how she created these butterflies using cyanotype printing techniques on fabric in this interview on the local cultural show, Broad and High.

Erick Swenson at the CCAD Canzani Center

Source: jamescohan.com

Erick Swenson’s work was featured at the 2004 Whitney Biennial and now occupies a place in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Dallas Museum of Art, and the Saatchi Collection in London. Swenson uses his arresting sculptures and installations to “create scenes of haunting, verisimilitudinous perfection… Cast in resin, the sculptures don’t exude the expected revulsion or gore, but rather a beatific reverence.” The show also features work by artists Inka Essenhigh and Diana al-Hadid.

The Canzani Center is the happening gallery at my old art school, the Columbus College of Art and Design. In recent years, like much else in Columbus, the school has expanded and grown to occupy a greater niche in the cultural life of the city.

Wholly Craft 

Wholly Craft on High Street sells some of the cutest, coolest t-shirts I've ever seen. Not just celebrating Ohio and Columbus, but all that is ironically popular, too.
Wholly Craft on High Street sells some of the cutest, coolest t-shirts I’ve ever seen. Not just celebrating Ohio and Columbus, but all that is ironically popular, too. (Source: whollycraft.com)

It is difficult to get out of this lovely shop without breaking the bank. It is so hipster, it’s metahipster. Buy gifts for all the coolest people in your life, from babybibs made from old concert tees to to screen-printed shirts glibly referencing pop-culture touchstones. Much of the inventory is handcrafted by local artisans, from hand-printed tea towels to beautiful, laser-cut jewelry. If Etsy was a physical place you could visit, it would look like this store. The store also offers classes in various crafts like sewing and knitting.

Farmer’s Markets Galore

Clintonville Farmer’s Market, featuring fresh produce, hormone-free meats and cheeses, fresh-baked bread and handmade beeswax candles, and essential oils. (Source: clintonvillefarmersmarket.com)

Visit one of the many, many farmer’s markets here (and there are actual farms in Ohio where the stuff comes from.) To search for an Ohio farmer’s market near you, visit the Ohio Proud website.

CD102.5 Alternative Music Station

The Griswolds play in the CD102.5 Big Room. (Source: 102.5 Facebook Page)

I have driven to Columbus from the East Coast countless times. From Baltimore and Washington through the West Virginia mountains there is a deafening absence of good radio stations. I bide my time until about an hour out from Columbus when I can tune into CD102.5 FM. This station has been a fixture in Columbus since 1990! Every time I find it on the dial, I discover new musical artists. Not only do they play original music at all hours of the day, the station’s team of old-school radio DJs play live music on air from “The Big Room” and interview musicians from all over the world. The CD102.5 truck is ubiquitous at Columbus local events and they are constant sponsor of musical and cultural events in the city.  The website is more than an online address, but a community bulletin board for those “in the know.”

Arch City Tavern

(Source: archcitytavern.com)

This one is for the foodies. After reading all the reviews for this place, I couldn’t help trying it. I was amazed by the food and the cocktails. Try an Old Fashioned #2, the Truffled Fries, or the Fig Pizza. My husband also said his burger was the best he’d ever tasted! There are scads of wonderful eateries popping up all over Columbus as well as old standbys. There is even an huge food truck festival downtown in the summer.

The Bill Watterson Collection at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library

The (now concluded) “Exploring Calvin and Hobbes” exhibit at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library at Ohio State University. (Source: Billy Ireland Cartoon Library website)

Unfortunately, the “Exploring Calvin and Hobbes” exhibit at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library is now over. I’m kicking myself for having missed it. But never fear. If you are a true devotee of the mischievous Calvin and his tiger friend, you may request individual holdings, including original artwork, in the reading room. Search the catalog and contact the library staff at cartoons@osu.edu before you visit.

And check out this rare interview with Bill Watterson.

The Scioto Mile

(Source: sciotomile.com)

I will end with one of the most impressive and ambitious projects in Columbus, the beautification and restoration of the riverfront. Columbus, FINALLY got wise that it has a RIVERFRONT! For years it was a fairly dead place except when it came alive during certain events like Red, White, and Boom! and the Jazz and Ribs Festival. Now, thanks to new, wide walking paths and public fountains in Bicentenniel Park, it is becoming a community meeting spot. Also, over the next few years, the river, which was dammed for a hundred years and known for its chocolatey-brown color, is being restored to its naturally flowing state. Check out the website for all of the art and musical events going on by the river!

Well, I hope you enjoyed my little bit of cheerleading for my home town. I’m on my way back to Germany on Saturday… these trips home are always too short!!

However, I’m looking forward to getting back to the studio, fresh and newly inspired!

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