Sunday, September 21, 2008

This Is Independent Festival 2008

The first art festival in the bubbling Gay Street strip happened Saturday, September 20th. Called "This Is Independent" it was one of two art festivals downtown that weekend and was mostly ignored by the local media. Yet, great weather and a sizable crowd made it a memorable laid-back affair to showcase the great downtown buildings being transformed by creative people a block from the statehouse. This used to be part of the main shopping area for Columbus with a few old bank building with tall decorative lobbies. Stone buildings with classical columns abound. There's a new 12 story hotel right in the center of the block and many recent updates, like a rain water garden to filter run-off from the street, make this a comfortable place to hang-out. 
Yet, this first try at a festival suffered from the same attitude as the Short North's first Art al Fresco in August. Many people treated it as an afternoon event. Most of the artists had left their booths long before nightfall. Those that stayed found that lighting was lacking unless you brought your own. But the entertainment continued on into the night on two outdoor stages and a couple of indoor ones.
Half of the festival was in Pearl Alley where a mural was being painted, but other murals are part of a small nightlife and bar scene that has kept century old pubs going in the center of downtown. The crowd were mostly young artsy types that probably either go to C.C.A.D. or live downtown. Mainstream people had the Riverfront Art Festival along the river at COSI that featured the last Fire Walk on the Mile.
Sky Lab art gallery is on the Fifth Floor of an old loft style building which included a 4th Floor gallery and an active group of people shouting out of the window to the festival below. 
The Vault is an old bank with an amazing lobby that was used for a few concerts during the festival. The front lobby had a sky painted ceiling while the main lobby must have 20 foot ceilings and colored lighting that could have held hundreds of people. The Vault itself was mostly empty but for a handful of paintings.
There was a big break between daylight and late night activity. It seemed like two different events. The best performances were inside the  Due Amici restaurant, which seemed to short change the street fair as the two outdoor stages seemed to spend most of their time tearing down and setting up for the next band. But then, if it was raining the indoor stages would have won the day.
Mayor Coleman was seen checking out the festival. The deli and coffeeshop on the corner of High & Gay was giving out free espresso shots to promote themselves, their expert coffee roaster, and a local creamery. All in all, this is a festival we hope will return and grow. Try to spend the whole day if  Couchfire organizes this again.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Gallery Hop Sept, 2008: Great Weather, small crowd

With two gallery hops per months now in August and September (Art el Fresco on second Saturday in August and Via Colori on second Saturday in September function almost like the First Saturday Gallery Hops) the normal crowd seemed to be getting an overdose and the September Hop is taking a beating. Of course, Oktoberfest was downtown and the OSU/OU game kept campus a lively place for intoxication and red jerseys. Even Obama just sent a cut-out of himself (above) part of an annoying voter registration drive the spread along the entire two miles of the Short North. The mannequins at The Emperor's New Clothes (above right) took the place of real people to watch.
Art on Pick-up Trucks is becoming a new trend, what with the shrinking of indoor art displays. Waldo's wasn't open and the new coffeeshops and restaurants aren't changing their wall art. Above is art from the James Coleman Gallery of Upper Arlington that specializes in Disney inspired fine art. The dude in white is one of the street performers from Art el Fresco coming back for another street event.
The Franklinton Art District had a pick-up of working artists trying to promote their neighborhood for art. I don't know if there is enough commercial real estate on the Near Westside to do a gallery district. Maybe they can take over the Graham Ford property now that it is closing.
New Shops and moves: A new Yoga athletic wear shop opened in the Dakota Condo Building called lululemon.
They must like dogs as there was a water bowl on the sidewalk out front. A couple of shops moved to new storefronts like What The Rock which is now across from the Garden Theatre. It's old "tiny" space has a giftshop in it. Gallerie ZonaCoraZon has finally closed after opening in August and the death of its owner in April.

Sidewalks seems to be on everyone's mind including the many musicians found in every corner of the gallery hop. String musicians were everywhere, perhaps because the Columbus Symphony has disappeared for now. Art is essentially a social event, whether the visual arts or music. They call it "supporting" the arts. It isn't something people are buying. They want most to mingle with people richer than they are. It's about the audience. Provide a top notch social experience and people will buy paintings and join the Symphony. Maybe Ohio is too much into making products to sell and not seeing the service the arts are really about.
Sidewalks were also filled with booths and plants that made it slow to get around. Some sidewalks need to be fixed, like between 1st and 2nd Avenue on the East side of High Street.
Anyways, yes there are some galleries showing new work this September. The Mahan Gallery gave the space over to Maya Huyak to bring some day-glo colors to the Short North. In typical fashion, the art seemed to be produced in the gallery special for the event. RoyGBiv had small colorful abstract painting as well that seemed to be painted at the gallery. Yet, Rob Thompson's colorful squares looked small, event for RoyGBiv's space. Likewise, the video art by Mark Vanfleet also at RoyGBiv could have used a smaller gallery. 
The best of show has to go to the Ohio Art League's reliefs by Jules Knowlton. They seemed to be inspired by graffiti and motorcycle chrome. The reliefs were of two types, the type you see above that looked like strange motorcycle pipes on some, then another style which had just drops looking like chess pawns sticking out from the painting. You really can appreciate an artist who put lots of hours into his work, even if it is shown at a non-profit gallery.
 blackOther artists who put in the hours include the collages by Tom Kennaugh at the Lindsay Gallery where he filled his pictures with magazine cut-out, but traced around them with marker to hide the collage-ish look. Also, Tom Bartel's heads at Sherrie Gallerie shared a theme with Sam Drumgoole  at the Kiaca Gallery of making expressive human heads. Drumgoole made his of glass, but they looked like african wood sculpture. Then there was Renate Burgyan-Feckler who offered up bronze scultpure pieces of great detail at the Sharon Weiss Gallery. You can see some of her work at  
Phia Salon is trying to pick up where Waldo's left off. It certainly is a more exciting hair salon right now with fashionable young women hanging around inside. Most people are put-off to venture inside as the art has only small slits of wall space between the mirrors and shelves. This artist was all about clear glass beer bottles, some of which were turned inside out made by the artist on wall reliefs. Didn't understand the red plastic cups on the table on the sidewalk.
The North Short North is more of a hip campus party scene. The Milk Bar (above) is a clothing store at 5th and High and their DJ was cranking it hour after hour. Foot traffic is increasing in this area more for bar hopping than art and shop hopping. This is the last downscale section left, and it may not last much longer.