Sunday, June 29, 2008

Comfest 2008: Fun in the Muddy Grass

This year's Community Festival was continuing trends started in the past few years. The crowd just keeps growing. This is spilling out into the Park Street clubs and High Street shops. Parking lots close to the festival are taking advantage charging $10.00 when an extra block walk to the Arena District found plenty of $5.00 lots. Local visual artists seem less and less represented in the booths. Several booths closed early or due to the weather or technical problems. Food and drink are available only after waiting in a long line. Unlike the 1980's, music and performers are filling up 6 stages. Somehow, Michelle Shocked not only took a "Bozo" (main) stage spot, she also ran a music workshop on Sunday. Is Comfest attracting national acts now?
Rain struck Comfest 2008 all three days. Above, you can see the water around the Goodale Statue which blocked a major sidewalk across the park. One water puddle became a mud fest for little kids and big kids alike. The solar tent, a stage lit by solar energy, couldn't muster much lighting for the band Sweet & Lonesome (above top).
This didn't stop Comfest's usual crazyness. Topless girls painted each other and a golf cart went way beyond the art cars on display with its own decorations. People come dressed to impressed, but in a casual summer way.
High-Jinks stilt dancers entertained. The art stage was particularly at the mercy of the weather. The sidewalk was just as good.
Local amateur burlesque revivalists the Ooh-La-Las brought the art stage to life Saturday night. The final girl pretended to be drunk and totally ungraceful for a bunch of laughs. It was all in good fun as this new form of burlesque is just a tease for the audience and an ego booster for the women performers.

Friday, June 27, 2008

20 Year Ago Today: Comfest 1988

The Community Festival (Comfest) was much different in 1988 than it is today. Like the first Comfest it had only one stage. The arts tent was still a couple years away. During the afternoon bands played to a thin crowd (above left), but the crowd came out for the evening shows. In the early 1980's Comfest moved from campus to the Short North to this huge empty lot where Riverside Methodist Hospital once stood (known as the White Cross Hospital). The United Commercial Travellers had bought this empty field and adjoining parking lot and rented it out cheap. It stood as the unofficial parking lot for the early gallery hops but was taken over by the construction of the Victorian Gates Apartments in 1994. Comfest had to step it up to what it is today when they were forced to rent out Goodale Park, but back in 1988 it was still a small festival you could still call "community" and expect to see people you knew.
Comfest of the late 1980's had the concessions and booths along Park Street. In 1988 they experimented with carnival rides. The ferris wheel above still didn't have its buckets installed by 8:47 pm. Yet, the wheel was together and running by nightfall that same night.
Clowns and funny hats gave it a carnival feel. Artists and performers other than bands weren't organized as part of the schedule. There wasn't much opportunity for dancers or poets. The crowd was a mix of people and never as crowded as today. First of all, the field was rough with rocks, holes, and not pleasant to sit on. Goodale Park was available, but not officially part of the festival. Many relaxed in the park and listened to the music at a distance.
Facilities were crude, but not unlike all the Comfests up until then. In late 1980's they thought they had to get a headline act to bring people out. On the right you see Country Joe McDonald of Woodstock fame rounding out the evening. The woman to the right of him had been doing sign language on stage all day. This picture tells a thousand words about how shaky Comfest was in 1988. People saw it as a hippy holdover that needed to cater to any and all audience it could.
This is not to say the festival wasn't effective. Many High Street shops started as booths at Comfest and many bands introduced themselves here. When Comfest was forced to rent out Goodale Park in 1993 they realized that getting more of the bands that play live in bars around town (bands of all variety) would bring more people. More people would be good for concessions and booths that pay the tab. The idea worked wonders, almost too good. People come from all over the state and nation. The festival is too big for the park and surrounding streets, but where could it move to and still be a "community" festival?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Nice Buildings Downtown

Yes, this is Broad Street, but not far from High Street. There are some gems that seem to have come in under radar that make East Broad Street a pleasant walk. Above is the new State Teacher's Retirement building which seems to have all the new post-modern flair going for it. Every side of this building looks different. Notice the shades along the windows. The architectural features around the front steps are also exciting, just try to not touch the shiney features. Ther has been much fanfair about the Seneca Apartments (above). It has sit empty for years when the Ohio EPA left for the Lazarus Building on High Street. It probably sat empty for years before that after it stopped being the Seneca Hotel. It was a proud early 20th century hotel at Grant and Broad Street with lots of character. It's four 10 story towers stick up from what I understand is an impressive lobby. They want to rent luxury apartments to art students and college faculty in the area. More likely, Grant Hospital workers and downtown office workers will move in.
Where did this come from? No, you aren't seeing things. Someone didn't build a neo-classical museum next to the Midland Insurance skyscraper. This is the original Veterans Memorial Auditorium that was turned into the original C.O.S.I. science museum in the 1960's. Both institutions moved to the other side of the river to newer facilities. While this building was the Center of Science and Industry there was an ugly modern glass front covering the columns where a space capsule and other things hung.
As you can see, this Veterans Memmorial Auditorium was built in 1904, before either world war. The front has been well preserved and the quality of the building is something that would be expensive to produce today. Alas, it has been brought back to life only to hold county offices, far from the other county offices. Wouldn't this make a great museum? I mean, a local history or art museum as it is a short walk to the Columbus Museum of Art. Oh yeh, you could call C.O.S.I. a museum (more like a childrens' education and play center). During C.O.S.I.'s time here the original Wendy's opened across the street and made some decent money off those bus loads of kids. Now, all of that is gone and a new future can take place.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Downtown's New Gay Street

In case you aren't aware, Gay Street in Downtown Columbus is going through a transition. Though not the original name of the street, the street north of Broad Street has been called Gay Street since Columbus was laid out in 1812-1816. The downtown portion runs roughly from City Hall to the Columbus College of Art & Design. There are some pieces of the street farther East. It was a minor commercial street off of the major retail section of N. High Street. In the early 1970's Ohio Bell built it's skyscraper at Gay and Fourth Street . Since then, it has been in decline until the last few years. Now it is becoming a major condo center and cafe strip.
The Edwards Companies has taken a couple of blocks of parking lots and a few scattered buildings and are transforming it into a low-rise condo project under the title of NEIGHBORHOOD LAUNCH (.com). I don't like to see wood construction in the downtown, but made this is what is needed for the next 20 years. The buildings are very attractive and they give the impression of an old, old neighborhood that was saved from the skyscraper boom. Below, you see what has been finished so far. Note that Gay Street now has a traffic island down the middle with trees and traffic running both ways.

Above you see the condos known as Carlysle's Watch in front of the former Ohio Bell skyscraper. An odd name, but a stunning modern design made from an old telephone switching building. The sidewalk of Gay St. has lost its shoppers from the past, but it is now wide enough to sport sidewalk seating for a few cafe's.
The old Buckeye Saving & Loan building has been transformed into a Residence Inn hotel. Where are you going to get columns like that anyplace else? People and jobs (and people with jobs) are taking back this part of downtown.

Oh yeh, the Neighborhood Launch development will come right up against the Faith Mission homeless shelter once it is built-out. It seems like something will have to give with the clash of people of different economic class. Panhandling has returned to its Reagan Era levels once again. City Counsel is trying to figure out a way to keep the panhandlers from chasing away retail customers. With downtown pretty much empty of retail, it seems like these new developments are being put into some else's claimed territory, especially after business hours. Walking around downtown after M-F 9-5 seems to be a game of staying away from anyone else on the street less they demand money from you. Downtown needs more jobs! A wider variety of jobs.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

June, 2008 Gallery Hop: Humid & Crowded

(click on images to enlarge)
The June, 2008 Short North Gallery Hop was typical for a June Hop. The visual arts mostly take a backseat. It was an event to see and be seen, to push certain agendas, and to check-out the shops rather than the galleries. High Street got very crowded as there were other events going on flwoing into the Short North. Park Street bars, behind the North Market, were having their annual rock music festival. The downtown Arts Festival was in its 2nd of 3 days with a large tent concert stage in the warehouse section east of the convention center. At Fourth and High St. was an annual gay and lesbian street party as well.

Live Mannequins in the window of G&Co. turned some heads. Looks like Anna and her Androids who used to dance at Emack and Bolio's which closed two months ago. The girls had some great abs whoever they were.
Tricycle rickshaws were up and down the street giving rides and advice. The Park Street Festival advertised on the back. The drivers worked for tips.
Artists were painting and doing chalk art in the courtyard by the Cap. Via Colori is coming back this year as a weekend event with a hundred or more artists doing works on the streets around Goodale Park.
RoyGBiv Gallery had two performance/installation artists also working during the gallery hop. On the dark and empty side was a girl drawing endless curves on the white walls. On the lighted and cluttered gallery were a man and a woman reciting things and looking like they would be living in the gallery window for a while. Only a few people could observe what these two were doing at any one time.

The North Short North seems to be losing art galleries, or any thought as to what started the First Saturday Openings in the first place. Panhandlers now work their trade north of First Avenue during the hops. It would only take a few more closings to dismiss the entire Short North for quality fine art. Rivet Gallery is showing great new art and toys made by artists, but they are blocks away from the next available gallery. (Their current show is by Doktor A who had some mechanical figures in addition to wall paintings.)

The Garden Theatre building still sits empty, there's a new development going up by the York Masonic Lodge, and The Jackson might just begin to go up (going on 10 years now). So, spaces may be made available for galleries in the future. Mostly, the North Short North is being swallowed by trendy and lifestyle stores. The question is, do these other shops and restaurants really make money? Aren't these hard businesses to make a profit with? And where are the gallery people?

2008 ART Festival at C.C.A.D.

with construction of the Main Street Bridge and the rest of riverfront the 2008 Columbus Art Festival was moved to the campus of the Columbus College of Art & Design. Infact, the Art Festival will take place here through 2011. Technically, they are saying it was held in the DISCOVER DISTRICT (eastern part of downtown). The 300 booths barely spilled-out beyond the C.C.A.D. campus. The music stage was in the Columbus State Community College parking lot along with corporate displays of cars and the like. Then there were jaunts to Thurber House and the other Discovery District places mapped out. The Columbus Museum of Art was free during the festival!
But, for the most part is was a C.C.A.D. art festival, which worked surprisingly well. Better care could be used in the placement of the Beer Booths and other bottleknecks. The hot sticky weather didn't fare well for the food vendors like those along Cleveland Ave. above. Attendance seemed to be lighter than at the normal site along the river by COSI and the bridges.
As for the art, the annual art festivals is one of the nation's largest... for arts and crafts artists. 90% is mostly just a display of the artist's mastery of technique. The art is safe, non-challenging, and mostly not made by Columbus artists. There are some outstanding gems and crowd pleasers, but most people can just keep walk past most booths, as they usually do.
C.C.A.D. has grown tremendously since Denny Griffith took over as Dean. The above new building for the design department is much like those recently built at The Ohio State University. There's a fancy coffee cafe in the lobby and impressive architecture overlooking a commons. The past Dean had taken C.C.A.D. from a sleepy old art school in two small buildings with classes in the art museum to one with modern functional college buildings and neighboring old buildings converted into studios and dorms.
Denny Griffith has taken the art school to the next level with many new buildings. Two new projects include another 5 story dormitory and the old BYERS Car Dealership building at Broad and Cleveland Ave. which will allow C.C.A.D. students to not have to take their artwork home everyday. This is much like at O.S.U. and studio programs at other large universities. Next year's Art Festival should be even more comfortable in this Discovery District.

Friday, June 06, 2008

20 Years Ago Today: Gallery Hop June, 1988

(click on pistures to enlarge)
Gallery HOP June, 1988 was an exciting event full of discoveries. TOP ROW:> The North Short North was humming both day and night. BIASHARA was a retro shop showing tons of old ties. ATLANTIS always had a new set of mannequins in the window at King & High, this month they turned their backs. The Geoffery Taber Gallery was showing large paintings made of aggregate. SECOND ROW:>Chris Mohler had covered Doo Wac Gallery (& Hair Salon) with paintings and his metal sculpture (1st & 2nd picture) he's the tall person bending over in the middle photo. >Ruth Cruse brought her folk paintings up from Kentucky for a show in ARTreach's East Gallery while Art Weeks (real name) showed in the West Gallery. THIRD ROW:> The left picture is the winodw of The Third Dimension that was briefly in the Ideal Bldg where Loot is now. The smiling girl in the middle is Deborah Cline (Justice?) who was showing her constructions made out of old electronic trash (right photo). BOTTOM ROW:> The Ideal Bldg also had a Ft. Hayes Student Show (high school for art). Flyers started appearing on posts to go see shows at locations beyong the Short North. Finally, the late Roberta Kuhn had started wearing jumpsuits with nametags in her gallery in the Ideal Bldg (Russell St. entrance). The Roberta Kuhn Gallery continued the showing of artists and serving collectors that the (first) Spangler Cummings Gallery started. After Roberta passed away, the (second) Spangler Cumming Gallery took over this space.

There was also frivolous things on the street at 1988 gallery hops: A Charlie Chaplin roamed the sidewalks switching people's hats. Mac's Pub had a bag piper wlaking back and forth playing his heart out. The middle picture shows the GLASS ART gallery at Russell & High Street that became known as the Riley Hawk Gallery that was a major attraction for years until Riley parted ways with the Hawks. Today, we has Sherrie Hawks gallery in the Short North and Hawk Gallery on Main Street downtown showing world class glass art.

20 Years Ago Today: Short North, June, 1988

There were different signs gracing the Short North in June, 1988 from today. ABOVE FROM TOP LEFT:> JUKE was a stylish retro furnishing shop in the block north of Buttle Ave. >Portraits by Jeni was in the Body Shop. >Ritchey's @ 714, the collector's paradise, was at Lincoln Ave & High St.,>THE LIGHT SHOW was on the upper floor of the Body Shop bringing us the first glimpses of rope lighting. >Danlyn Galleries was in a former bank office (complete with vault) between what is now Mahan Gallery & G&Co. >UNICEF Center was where the Marcie Evans Gallery is now, but with a bricked-up front. It had been in the Short North since the 1970's, first in the Yukon Bldg. then it followed ARTreach to the Lincoln Ave. strip
MORE SIGNS of JUNE, 1988: FROM TOP LEFT: >Suite A (barbershop) and the Silvershadow Gallerie were in the basement of the Greystone Apartment's southern wing. >Avant Garde was a hair salon/gallery in the Joyce Bldg. where Max the Salon is now. >IN THE IDEAL BUILDING (think Lemongrass today) Design Retrospective Ideal Gallery, Arthur Anderson & Co. (before Enron), and the Nicholae Gallerie that showed well-known artists. >The Spirit Art Gallery (and I think also) Gallery-on-High were where Dr. MoJo is today. It was both art studio and art gallery on a low budget. >RIGSBY's (the only surviving of all these businesses) and Fergus-Jean Gallery (Sherrie Gallerie today) were in the Carriage House development. The Artful Gardener was in that small house along Lincoln Ave.