Sunday, August 17, 2008

Art al Fresco in the Short North PERFORMERS

The High Jinks stilt walkers were doing art attacks up and down the street during Art al Fresco. This included children who learned stilt walking. All of which were in brightly colored flowing costumes.

The above short video is of a "frozen people" performance on High Street. I believe it was done by Red Devil Productions, but not sure since they were roving around. The old man in the brown suit with his face to the wall didn't leave with the others, so maybe it as a statue.
ABOVE: are the Marion-Franklin Red Devil Production theatre group infront of Fabian Pizza.

Above is Anna of the Annadroids doing a long extended performance in the window of G & Co. She attracted quite a crowd that blocked one lane of High Street most of the time. She typed text on one of the screens to try and get people to do something, but they ignored the requests. Another Annadroid was on the sidewalk in front.

Art al Fresco in the Short North PICTURES

A new type of mid-month gallery hop was tried August 16, 2008 called "Art al Fresco". With all the new high-end bars and restaurants, it doesn't take a gallery hop to gridlock the street in the Short North and bring-out the foot traffic. Yet, the Wood Companies decided to spread artists and performers across the sidewalks on High Street to start another summer tradition. Dry, sunny weather probably was the main element in the success of this street fair. One of the most compelling sculptures was the bicyclists on the wall made of bubble wrap. Not sure who did this piece. A long brochure of the hundred or so artists was too daunting to track down the name of everyone.
Above: I know the above plastic bottle caps were arranged by Michelle Stitzlein. This is called "Recyclos".
The dead pacman was done by Rockford in front of Chase Bank celebrating an arcade celebrity. The Emporer's New Clothes was taking its namesake literally by allowing John Rapch to do body painting on the sidewalk infront of their clothing store. This, and all the performing artists were categorized with the theme "Peep Show". These performances took place from 6-10pm like the gallery hop.
Some of the outdoor displays were successful, some not so. The Fuse Factory, who try to put art and technology together, tried to do something with LED lights that got a big yawn. They invented taking LED lights and attaching a watch battery to each light that they call "Throwies". Then they pushed them onto a board like a thumb tack to form an image with lights. The box of lit throwies (UPPER LEFT)was more interesting. Ryan Agnew strung borrowed shirts across the balcony of the Greystone Apartment Building (UPPER RIGHT).

Renee McKitterick brings us a stump (ABOVE LOWER) made from bricks she calls "Nature vs Nuture" Bricks were a theme of other sidewalk sulptures. Several artists chose to make art during Art al Fresco. This mural size painting was done in Bricker Alley against the wall of Betty's. Three artists are named to be doing a mural somewhere close to this location: Ben LaPlaca, Clint Davidson, and Scott Williams. Whoever this is, they really got into it.

The Short Stop Teen Center provided a display that was a comment on out time. They filled the front of the old church building at High Street and East 3rd Avenue with those pesky "we buy houses" signs.

So, is Art al Fresco a good idea? It goes to show that any summer weekend will bring out people to the Short North. With so few galleries and most of them doing their own closed-off thing today, artists are finding it harder to get shown. The sidewalk, storefront windows, and sides of  buildings can give more artists a chance to express themselves. However, I don't think people walked into the shops so much.

This event was suppose to go from 3pm until midnight. The monthly gallery hops run 6- 10pm, but most people took Art al Fresco as an afternoon event. The al Fresco hoppers, as well as many of the artists were gone by dusk at 9 pm. This left pockets of people watching the later performances of dancers and the like. It was hard to see outside after dark unless you had power for lights. I don't know why they advertised it as going to midnight. Some of the galleries (and shops) listed were not even open. Let's do this as a 3pm til 9pm event and give the more popular performances a roomier place to perform.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Some Downtown Art

Yes, the Santa Maria is still at port. This stunning rig against the skyline has to be the most famnous public art in the downtown. It is a replica built in 1992 and still sells tickets for tours. They've kept it up nice. In the background you can see the new Broad Street Bridge from 1989 that opened with the Bicentennial of the first white settlement here, namely Franklinton on the west side of the river. This Bridge was suppose to hold four huge statues at its gates, but a proposal to cover the whole bridge with a stained glass version of Serpent Mound ruined the competition. Maybe more sensible artists will prevail someday.

Downtown has some surprising public art. The above piece at Broad and Front St. frames the electric signs at Broad and High while the new Palace Theatre electric sign flashes upcoming events in full color.
Much has been made about the new gavel in the fountain of the Supreme Court Building. It is a gleaming stainless steel symbol of justice. It joins other oversized public sculpture like the huge blue graduation cap over Town Street on the Franklin University campus.
What people don't realize is the fountain on the other side of the building has inspiring words. It makes for an interesting place to relax and enjoy splashing water overlooking the river in a true art deco public space from the 1930's. The inside of the building is a must see as well.
The parks run all along the river with upper and lower pathways. By the Federal Court Building are some interesting modernist pieces from the 20th century like the one above. That's the AEP Tower peeking out at the top. (It has a night time light show along the top of its skyscraper) Word of caution, these river parks are the home of the homeless. Expect to encounter sleeping people at any hour of the day.
Seagulls also love the river and its parks. The birds are adding their own artistic comments to the light posts along the river. Geese prefer to work on the sidewalks at river's edge.

Columbus has its downtown ruins. The old arch from the Union Station Arcade that lined High Street where the convention center is today is now featured in the Arena District at the front of a very long grass park. When the convention center was built in 1977 this center arch of the arcade was saved in a small pocket park until the Arena District began in 1999.
Interesting fact. The whole downtown art thing from the Short North to the river began when Battelle Memorial Institute built a convention center for Columbus. Battelle had unspent money from its Cold War research profits that needed to be spent for the public good to keep its non-profit status. They decided to build the Ohio Center (as it was called then) on the site of the old train station and hook it to Nationwide Insurance's new headquarters Tower going up. The arcade could have stayed, but they liked big parking lots instead which lost Columbus millions in Federal aid becaude the arcade was a National Monument.
Anyhow, people started art galleries and trendy shops near this new convention facility including Nationwide Insurance which gave a second floor lobby to non-profit art. Such scattered art galleries didn't work. The galleries got very few conventioneers to walk down the street. The Union Station Arcade would have been a perfect art gallery facility, but the creative community had to scramble for a Plan B instead. They wound up in the Yukon Building in the Short North and in a few storefronts to the north. Thus, the artists had to change the city all because this neo-classical arcade was wrongly demolished. Think about that when you see this arch.

Tearing Up Downtown... again.

In case you haven't been downtown lately, most everything from Broad Street south to Main Street and West of High Street to the river is a construction zone. Just because they can't figure out the City Center Mall building doesn't mean nothing is happening. There's a new courthouse going up in that empty city block across from the Great Southern Hotel. A big middle-class condo neighborhood is being built in the parking lots between Town and Rich Streets and behind the old High Street commercial buildings. Cranes abound, but don't expect any tall biuldings.
The old Lazarus department store building has its clothes off showing the old windows. OSU has a basement gallery in this new bureaucratic "green building". To get noticed they put the words "Quick Honey Stop The Car" in their windows. Of course, you can't stop the car, there is no parking left on the street or in the nearby lots. It's a construction zone, silly!
The new Main Street Bridge is a long way from done. The huge arche runs down the center of the bridge and the street will hang-out on either side. Right now, it frames an old railroad bridge perfectly. The Poseidon to the lower right is sinking pylons for a future pedestrian bridge.
Old Bicentennial Park is going to get one of the largest fountains in the country. As the 2012 Bicentennial of the City of Columbus approaches, this 1976 park with its cascading wading pools, bandstand, and geese will become our answer to Chicago's Grant Park. The new fountain will have a "wow" factor pumping lots of water sky high and along the river. Better look for a new spot to see the fireworks July 4th.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Franklin Park Conservatory Light Show

Another First for Columbus: the Franklin Park Conservatory's million dollar light show. California light artist James Turrell has given the old Palm House the most high-tech LED lighting installation in the world. Over 7,000 lights are able to light the front of the conservatory in any combination of colors through-out the night. At this time, the light show is a very, very slow changing display that takes an hour to recycle. It doesn't come on until dark and continues all night despite the fact that Franklin Park is not a park designed for darkness. To see it, you'll have to park and walk in a park that has few sidewalk lights.
The Franklin Park Conservatory was greatly expanded for the 1992 Ameriflora World's Fair. Most people thought the money was a waste for a conservatory that languished since 1895, but it was necessary if Columbus was to get a 1992 International Exhibition. We had to settle for a fourth tier world's fair even a second tier flower show for 1992. Then, Chicago backed-out of doing a world's fair leaving the big fair for Seville, Spain and a minor world's fair for Genoa, Italy (the one we could have gotten if Chicago would have kept still). Columbus had already committed to Ameriflora, the first international flower exhibit in North America. Fearing another Chicago fiasco, a big flower show was still scheduled for the Netherlands in 1992.
Yes, Columbus had problems with Ameriflora '92. It was one of the rainiest summers on record. The observation tower was never built. Attendence was sold based on the Ohio State Fair's 3 million per year figure, which turned out to be an exaggeration by a factor of two. Still, it was a fantastically magical show of the world's fawna and flora. People had no idea it would take a full day to see the entire 88 acre park and newly expanded conservatory.
Today, Franklin Park still has many of its Ameriflora landscape improvements. And, the conservatory is anything but a white elephant. Infact, it has continued to be expanded. Its most expensive expansion yet is scheduled in the next few years. A major American horticultural society will make its home here once the improvements are finished. The park around the building is a delight of formal and imformal gardens.

Water Fire on the Scioto River

A couple of years ago Columbus wanted to publicize the new North Bank Park. To do this some people brought in a weekly event from Providence, RI called "Water Fire" where floating bondfires are set on fire along the river. The first event in Columbus included dancers and street performers along with a huge procession of people and a large sound system. Weather and the OSU football schedule cancelled much of the first season of "Water Fire on the Mile" . This might have been a good thing as most people hadn't experienced a show. They didn't know it amounted to little beyond a chance to hang-out along the new river parks and watch a dozen bondfires after dark. The publicity machine kept claiming that the event would return and eventually stretch for a mile along the Scioto River downtown.

Well, it is back for 2008. Perhaps they couldn't find a buyer for the 15 bondfire rings. Parks and Recreation has adopted a more low-key version of Water Fire at the amphitheatre infront of COSI. The Scioto River is much bigger than the three tiny rivers Providence, RI uses for its very popular event. They light 100 bondfires across 1/2 mile. Columbus only musters 15 that look lost in the Scioto. How many fires would it take to do a whole mile of the Scioto River?

Nevertheless, good weather brought out a sizable crowd August 9th. The front of COSI is great with two dozen small water fountains and public restroom pavillions. A great panoramic view of downtown proved to be the main feature of the Water Fire experience. The new location reminded people of the laser shows from 20 years ago that were projected onto the Supreme Court building across the river. At that time, no improvements had been made to the riverfront nor the Central High School building (COSI today). The amphitheatre was grass and unkept trees blocked the views from the street level.

(above: the Marinova Condo Tower with the closed Town Street Bridge and the arche of the new Main Street Bridge)

Can't say that people will still come out for Water Fire the rest of the 2008 schedule, especially if there is any threat of rain. Many seemed dissapointed. Usually, the river is surrounded by festivals of some kind every weekend in the summer. The renovation of Civic Center Drive has made the Festivals move. This year, only one bridge crosses the river as the Town Street bridge had to be closed before the new Main Street arche bridge is finished.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

August,2008 Gallery Hop: perfect weather

The August, 2008 gallery hop will go down in history, as having the most perfect weather for strolling along High Street. Not too hot, no wind, little humidity, and not too sunny. This hop was dominated by sidewalk musicians and solicitors, but not the poltician type. Above: Anna and the Annadroids, a dance troup, passed out cards in white face and with poise: .The August Gallery Hop seemed to have a few themes. Two of the themes were pets and cheap grab bags of art. The above Chicken vending machine in front of Tigertree was an example. You put a quarter in the slot and the chicken spun around and shot out a yellow egg with a small art piece inside. I got a small button of an animal picture. Next to the chicken were belly dancers promoting the Karavan gift shop (see below). Several door down was Waldo's gallery and hair salon with a group of models posing in the window. They were apparently in support of pets because one of them had a dog collar and leash (I don't know what that was about).
At the Gypsy Cafe a small rock band was playing on the sidewalk and a graffiti sign was available to express yourself.

RoyGBiv Gallery (above left) had its usual type of show of experimental 3-D displays and social commentary phtography. Kiaca Gallery (above right) is an African American art gallery with some excellent work.
The Lindsay Gallery, a folk art gallery, utilized the sidewalk and nice weather with a folk musician and his plywood case.

Paradise Garage, a clothing and bicycle shop that had a DJ spinning some tight dancable tracks. Paradise Garage has the latest fashionable bicycles and accessories including those new one-speeds and collapsible bikes. Also, those deep-dipping frame bikes and other cool bikes for women. All of which seem worth considering with the price of gas today. But, don't think the clothing is what Lance Armstrong wears. The clothes are hip stuff both men and women walk around in without a bicycle.

Christianity was a big theme this gallery hop. In a window next to G& Co. an artist painted in front of a poster for Christ (above). There were several churches setting up tables and handing out flyers, supposedly churches seeking less mainstream members. The Mahan Gallery had a Christian booth on the sidewalk infront with a banner across the storefront. The Mahan was showing two artists that seemed to be one, Andrew Schell and Rollin Beamish. Small essences of paintings were included with either painted graphics on the wall or on top of layered reliefs that often glowed with passing silhouettes to give the fealing of something passing by a window. Via Colori is coming back for another year. The yearly chalk art festival will take place around Goodale Park on September 13 and 14th. This was a national franchise that came to Columbus in 2003 when I-670 was redone under High Street and the freeway as well as "the Cap" bridge over it was an empty plaza. The Short North Business Association sponsored Via Colori as a great way to show-off a freeway renovation before automobiles and trucks started zooming past. In subsequent years it has moved to the streets around Goodale Park where 200 artists do a 4'x4' or 6'x6' chalk painting in the most relaxing of street festivals imaginable. Apparently, the Columbus Via Colori is now the top one in the country.
The Rivet Gallery had Sheetghosts artwork on its wall and small plastic ghosts toys. Outside was a Sheetghost mascot with musicians that didn't seem to really play much. Also in the North Short North near 5th and High was a packed DJ happening at the Milk Bar clothing shop and another packed event at Stained Skin Tattoo. The High Five bar had flashing words on its otherwise picture window storefront telling you there was a party going on. This section of the North Short North is getting a bunch of new condos.

For some reason, people like to show off their cars during gallery hop. As everyone who has come down High Street from OSU to visit the gallery hop knows, it is bumper to bumper traffic for hours. This only encourages people to think it is an automobile parade. Granted, you don't want to be caught dead in your '92 Taurus south of Third Avenue with all the V-12 Mercedes and Cadillac SUVs on your tail. Still, people need to take it easy on filling-up the street with their "rides" with gas so high priced. Saw a couple of 1920's cars and a VW beetle made into a panel truck. Then there were the 6 figure cars, most of which were parked in the best parking spots.