The first thing I noticed at check-in at the Moxy Short North Hotel was the Experience Columbus Visitor Guide (www.experiencecolumbus.com) whose cover featured a same-sex couple with their adorable little girl. It was a level of representation I had seldom seen in mainstream tourism promotion and one that made me feel instantly welcomed.
The city of scarlet and gray, the colors of their beloved The Ohio State University, brings a pop of rainbow to the American Midwest. As one of the largest festivals in the region, Columbus Pride (www.columbuspride.org) attracts more than 700,000 people every June. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has postponed the festivities till October.
Columbus is a young city with an entrepreneurial spirit. According to the U.S. Census Bureau findings released in 2019, Columbus was the only Midwestern city to make the Top 15 Fastest Growing Cities list. The result has brought a revitalization of neighborhoods, a renaissance of culture, and a reinhabiting of the city center.
ART & CULTURE
In March, 2020, the Columbus Museum of Art (480 E. Broad St. Tel: 614- 221-6801. www.columbusmuseum.org) brought home their groundbreaking exhibition “Art After Stonewall,” showcasing more than 250 individual works created since the Stonewall Uprising. Though Stonewall is credited with launching the LGBTQ rights movement in the United States, curator Daniel Marcus feels its effect on the art world deserves more recognition. “Our exhibition looks at two decades of the entanglement of contemporary art, queer culture and politics,” said Marcus. “It’s a massive show interested in the ways artists engaged social movements and the social revolution initiated by Stonewall in 1969.” From that temporary exhibit, the museum has acquired several pieces that will be integrated into their permanent collection.
The first art museum to open in Ohio, the Columbus Museum of Art has traditionally focused on nineteenth and twentieth century art. With a $37-million renovation project completed in 2017, the museum has expanded both its blueprint and programming. In April 2019, it launched the Center for Arts and Social Engagement (CASE), organizing art and conversation around complex issues in our society. After tackling how “Isolation” affects us in ways that are personal, social, and political in its inaugural year—a theme that might bear revisiting after our COVID-19 quarantine experience—2020 will explore the theme of “Justice.”
One mile away, in the emerging Franklinton neighborhood, the National Veterans Memorial and Museum (300 W. Broad St . Tel : 614-362-2800. www.nationalvmm.org) does justice to American veterans from the Revolutionary War to present-day conflicts. The only museum in the country dedicated to honoring veterans opened in October 2018, with a focus on the human experience, not the wars fought. As the city’s newest landmark, the 50,000 square-foot museum has transformed the waterfront of the Scioto River. Built as intersecting conwhat’shappening in… COLUMBUS, OHIO by Ivan Quintanilla crete bands of concentric circles, the museum’s layers stack to a rooftop sanctuary with expansive views of the river and the Downtown skyline.
Just a ten-minute walk away, a 100-yearold warehouse has been converted into a co-working space for local artists. The 400 West Rich (www.400westrich.com) building is home to galleries, studios, and performance groups. The concept of “local” is highly revered here, according to Mikey Thomas, the director of Movement Activities (www.movementactivities.com), an alternative movement training center specializing in aerial dance and fitness, which was one of the first tenants in the complex eight years ago. “All of our instructors are local. That’s really important to me. We have the best right here and we want Columbus people utilized,” said Thomas. In addition to aerial training and performance, Movement Activities collaborates with other artists on special workshops as diverse as the population they serve. One queer-crowd favorite is the Strings Attached Ukulele Gatherings (www.facebook.com/groups/StringsAttachedUke), one-hour classes that teach participants of all levels to play the ukulele in a group sing-a-long.
Every first and third Wednesday of the month, the artists of 400 West Rich open their studio doors for Welcome Wednesday, with demos and artist interactions. The entire neighborhood gets involved every second Friday of each month for Franklinton Fridays (www.franklintonartsdistrict.com), with gallery openings, live performances, and special programming throughout the district.
The Short North neighborhood joins in the artistic spirit on the first Saturday of each month with the Short North Gallery Hop (https://shortnorth.org/arts-galleries/galleryhop). From 4P.M.-9P.M., galleries, non-traditional exhibit spaces, bars, and restaurants welcome art lovers to meander around the central LGBTQ hood of Columbus. But you don’t need an event to enjoy art here. Any time of the year, the Art Makes Columbus (www.columbusmakesart.com/public-art) database will guide you through the public art and murals that bring artistry to the city streets.
If nature is your primary inspiration, head to Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens (1777 E. Broad St. Tel: 614-715-8000. www.fpconservatory.org), located two miles from Downtown. The 13- acre facility has been connecting Columbus residents to their land since 1895. In May 2018, the Conservatory opened their Children’s Garden, a 2-acre immersive experience that includes a canopy walk 13 feet in the air, nine different installations from local artists, and opportunities for children to plant their own garden.
New York. Los Angeles. Columbus? Fashionistas, flaunt your style! Not only are major retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch and Express headquartered in Columbus, but fashion programs at The Ohio State University and Columbus College of Art and Design infuse the city with fresh talent every year. With the third largest concentration of fashion designers in the country (behind New York City and Los Angeles), Columbus forms a chic bridge between the fashionable coasts.