Sunday, May 31, 2009

National Road doing the Art District Thing

Dissecting High Street with great force is the 180 year old National Road which enters eastern Columbus on Main Street, turns north on Drexel and proceeds out west on Broad Street. Today it crosses High Street with a wide swipe lined with skyscrapers and elegant mansions. Even the public buildings along East Broad Street are classical, inspiring buildings. The National Road reached Columbus about the same time as the canal and it didn't stretch too far west of Ohio before railroads started to be built.
Now the attention for new arts districts in Columbus is turning to the National Road route. Nowhere is this more needed than the Franklinton area west of downtown. Franklinton predates Columbus by a generation, but it is in the flood plain of the Scioto River and development has been modest over the years. A group of artists put on an arts event Saturday May 30, 2009 for a few hours around the famous Florentine Restaurant. A Franklinton neighborhood design office (Franklinton Development Association) is just across the street from here as well as Tommy's Diner, a favorite comfort food eatery. W. Broad Street and Martin Avenue.
Presented with the title "Go West", this 5 hour art event was done in three empty storefronts that had been made into galleries along with the design association offices. One was very clean and nice and a former check cashing place. Another was a modern storefront with its exposed ceiling painted black and the walls done for a gallery. But the most artsy gallery was in an old brick storefront and apartment building still early in its renovation (pix above and below). You walked into a dark, doorless opening into a large space with baloons, a large mural, and lit only by christmas lights. DJ style music pumped through a large stereo. Most of the art was upstairs in about three rooms that were finished enough to allow visitors. However, you had to walk up steep stairs with makeshift railing and saw nothing but unattached doors covering most of the rooms. One room was blacklighted with a collection of images. The most unique one was done by Dina Sherman of an outline of a dove done by ten foot strings (above) that crossed the room to a hat of some sort.
This gallery in a brick building undergoing renovation was a hotbed of mural painting outside (above). People didn't spend much time inside and mostly "hung-out" on the street almost as if they were being paid. Maybe people just loved standing by colorful murals. Most of the inside art was safe and not of high quality or interest. But some was obviously done by people with an art degree. Yet, there was wall and window space for much more work.
The bottom picture below was taken in front of the more modern storefront that had an empty
front parking lot where people could stand and enjoy the day. The restaurants had full parking lots, but onstreet parking was not a problem. Will events like this grow in Franklinton or is it an uphill struggle? We will see.

Out on the EAST side of the National Road is Bexley and Capitol University, one of three or four private colleges in metro Columbus that have developed an upscale for the campus area. Called Bexley Square, it is where the National Road turned north off of Main Street and many wealthy people built grand homes during most of the 20th century. There is only a small group of shops including a small strip mall, but three major art galleries have been able to find space near top restaurants. Bexley's Monk (below) is in the strip mall serving top drawer meals.

The Hammond Harkins Galleries (with red sculpture: above) is an old line Columbus gallery showing mature artists from the region. It is right on Main Street between the two more famous landmarks of Graeter's Soda Shop and the Drexel movie Theatre (below). The movie theatre and soda shop have been restored to detail. They let you know that architecture can create a positive emotion.
Just north of Main Street on Drexel Avenue are two more galleries as high of quality as Hammond Harkins. Both had openings on Friday evening May 29th. There is no "gallery hopping" here. People dedicate themselves for floor space at whichever gallery they got the invitation from. You get the sense that most visitors to the openings have spent thousands there.
The most interesting gallery is the newer Art Access Gallery which sells art not unfamiliar to the Short North. Curtis Goldstein had his large painterly canvases of scenes around Columbus (above, lower picture). He was joined by another painter of Columbus scenes and another who did the same with uptown New York. Maturity comes to mind when comparing the Bexley art scene verses art on High Street. Don't expect the art to be too daring.

Of course, the National Road is also where you find the Columbus Museum of Art and the Columbus College of Art and Design. This coming weekend will see the three day art festival around these institutions. The art museum is wrapping up their Egyptian art show just as the COSI Science Museum (also on the National Road, even Franklinton) is beginning a show on Egypt. Like its almost two centuries of history, the National Road goes in and out of favor from time to time. Originally it didn't switch over from Main Street to Broad Street until the center of downtown. East Main between downtown and Bexley is very run-down today with a few very old institutional buildings, but mostly boarded-up buildings. That section is not likely to be associated with art anytime soon.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Road Trip North

High Street is sometimes thought as a street that begins at the south pole and runs to the north pole. Well... almost. It depends on what route you think High Street follows out of the Columbus metro area. Going north out of the Short North the scenery changes dramatically.
The first stop is that area not claimed by the Short North (arches) or campus. It is anchored by a Kroger's supermarket which was once state of the art when it first opened in the 1980's. Today, plans are underway to update the Kroger's more fitting with the Short North. In the area are many storefronts that played an important role in the early gallery hops. Fat Lip Tattoo parlor is the newest offering in the space once occupied by Mothra's Wrapped In Black clothing store. Mothra's would have art and musical acts during gallery hop in the late 1980's. Fat Lip's owner is also featuring local art on the wall and a place to hang-out.

Just a little bit south of Fat Lip is Black Sheep Skateboard shop that used to be in the Short North at the Greystoen Apartments. They have now expanded into a full-blown shop in the former Mr. Brown's night club that fostered the punk/new-wave music scene in the late 70's and early 80's. More recently have been various hip fashion chains from other cities. Looks like a new building will be going in soon.

As you cross into the OSU campus section of High Street you reach the new mid-rise development called South Campus Gateway. It has a designed courtyard of bars like McFadden's which leads to the parking garage. It also has graffiti on (still) empty storefronts that seem to be officially sanctioned.
More and more of these up-scale campus storefronts are finding stores like Five Brother's hamburgers and Insta-Juice. It's the place for $5.00 sandwiches and smoothies of all varieties. We'll skip campus High Street for this trip as it needs many posts all to its own. Campus used to be the center of culture and what's new until the Short North arrived. We'll also skip the north campus and Old North Columbus area as the street is under such construction.
Just beyond the High Street Construction is Olentangy Village which has an old world look and dates back to the end of the street car era. Street cars would turn around here and an amusement park was built at Arcadia and High St. Much to our good luck today, the amusement park was changed into an apartment complex with quaint storefronts and colonial charm.
North of here is the long neighborhood of Clintonville which has many interesting shops. There is Lucky13 Hair Salon, various art and framing shops, and Pace High Carry-out which is famous for its wide selection of beers and wine. Also at Pace and High St. are two new shops like Whollycraft! that cateres to the young crafts makers in town. It is a good place to find artistmade stuffed animals. Red Rover consignment Shop reminds one of the early Short North that was full of such shops.
Moving further north past Beechwold with its new urban infill storefronts and Graceland Shopping Center that has been changed dramatically in recent years (a huge new exercise palace with postmodern design is going in at the extreme end of Graceland).

North of Graceland you come to Worthington, a city founded in 1803. It was designed to look like a New England town. This style has continued over the decades but some buildings downtown are actually from the early 1800's. The Worthington Inn (above right) continues in business as a great restaurant like its stage couch days.
Downtown Worthington is a group of colorful shops of wide variety from art to flowers to ice cream to even practical things like banks and hardware.
The center of town is a square made into parkland that is used for a great art festival and concerts in the summer. Christmas lighting is also a great tradition in Worthington. Above right is the historic Masonic Lodge that was built in 1820 as home to the fourth New England Lodge in the country.

North of Worhtington is the fastest growing section of Ohio known as Southern Delaware County. It is a huge area in constant construction. A new Kroger's Marketplace is joining other hyper marketplaces along High Street. Franklin University has a branch in a new office building. There seems to be a branch of the Delaware County Bank every mile. Columbus State has a huge new campus being constructed that seemed to include a huge solarized building (above two pictures).

Further north you bypass Delaware and Marion that have interesting downtowns. There is also Delaware State Park with its long reservoir. Following Route 23 near Upper Sandusky is the new route 30 freeway that flows onto Rte 23 for a while. A three level bridge was built that seems unnecessary (above picture). Route 30 will soon be four lanes clean across Ohio, bringing some Turnpike traffic south to hungry towns.
Route 23 actually turns off of the freeway (which joins I-75 to go to Toledo and Detroit). The two lane route 23 is near some interesting features, though. Above is one of two trash hills viewable from route 23. They are mostly East Coast construction trash that has been shipped here by train and made into 100 foot high landfills. This one is just south of Fostoria. Future ski areas?
Ohio is an energy state. Above you can see evidence of this with a wind generator (above left) at a marina dealership, an ethonal plant (center), and an old oil well in a field. Findlay was once a center of the oil and gas industry. One can continue onto Toledo with its art museum and new high-level bridge. It is one of the centers of the solar energy industry.
But where does High Street really go when it goes north. The original road was the Columbus to Sandusky Pike that left Route 23 at Waldo and made a bee-line to Sandusky. So, let's check-out the Lake Erie islands near Sandusky. The North Shore.
Catawba Island is the official name for the penninsula that sticks out around Sandusky Bay. It is a colorful tourist place with some rock cliffs (above right). The main thing here are second homes in the form of trailors, cottages, and condos. One wonders why Catawba Island wasn't made into a major city like San Francisco or Tampa.
But the Lake and boating culture pulls you in on the Erie Shore. There are ferries to the various islands, including Put n Bay on middle bass island.
The main feature of Put n Bay is the Perry's Monument (that is now closed for renovations). It commemorates Commodore Perry's victory of the British during the War of 1812, but it also functions as a great tourist observation tower.
If you stay on dry land there is also the very old Marblehead Lighthouse (below) at the eastern extreme of Catawba island. Most of this eastern part is a quarry but there is also Johnson Island that had a civil war prison camp and still has a Confederate Cemetery. Johnson Island is reachable by car across a half mile causeway.
Of course, the main attraction around Sandusky Bay is Cedar Point (above) the rollercoaster capital of the world. Cedar Point is the second oldest American amusement park still running. It was almost torn-down in the early 1950's until Disneyland inspired the owners. The location is a long penninsula sticking out into Sandusky Bay with water on all sides.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

May Gallery Hop: Too Loud Musicians

The May, 2009 Gallery Hop was much too noisy due to the dozen or so loud musical groups that lined the street. One of the most entertaining was the above band infront of Phia Salon that was promoting a variety of things including the Ohio Rollergirls. Yes, the weather turned-out to be perfect and people busted-out the skates and scooters. Motomojo was heavily promoting their unique transportation vehicles including a motorcycle with a rounded roof driving down the street.
As I said, a variety of things were being promoted in unusual ways. An orange hair girl infront of Phia salon was promoting a toss game to get money off of salon treatments on her butt.
The Milk Bar was doing a fashion show, but also had Scion giving interested people rides in a new Scion automobile. DJ's and bands were offered-up at various shops along the way. The loudest by far was at least not an amplified musical group. That was a drum corps at Buttles and High which was featured in a past gallery hop blog post, but now the kids have new equipment and a much tighter sound.
The crowd was large and fashionable. It was a great day to stroll with your friends.

Fresh flowers, new outdoor sculpture and furniture, and various unusual vehicles kept the eyes busy even without the art galleries.
New establishments are coming this year, opening as fast as they can. The above former B.J. Snappers is being entirely transformed at Lincoln and High into Level Dining Lounge. Unfortunately, all this construction makes it hard to walk. Not just Level (above), but Bollinger Tower and the Jackson have taken away the sidewalk on High Street. East First Avenue is also blocked for utility repair.
The corner shop in the Body Shop has reopened as Undone, a lingerie shop that saw a steady stream of female shoppers inside and male gawkers outside when models appeared in the window during the hop. Waldo's had a realistic artist of paintings of tattooed models with many of the models dressed to the 9's and hanging out during the hop.
A carving artist demonstrated his trade in the courtyard between the Cap and the Terra Gallery.

Say it ain't so! Gourmet "sliders" at Rosendale's Details Windebar and Lounge ! Small hamburgers like White Castle has been making since the 1920's are again the craze. There is even a "slider machine" being hawked on late night TV.
"Share The Road" so says the bicyclists of Columbus. (us walkers say "Share the Sidewalk" to those same bicyclists, but that's another story.) There was a big push for bicycles during the May gallery Hop. This display at Victorian Gate Apartments featured a cut-out of Mayor Coleman on a bicycle. There was some new bike route openeing or something.
Paradise Garage featured the most stylish bicycles including this DELIVERY bike in orange. This is how I want my groceries delivered.
Then there was a number of bicycles and whells painted all blue or orange in displays across the gallery hop like this one infront of Haiku. More of theses were chained in alleys and sign posts.

May 2009 Gallery Hop: Art

It is hard to concentrate on the artwork at the gallery hops with so much nice weather and other activity. There was a new small gallery guide of 16 major Short North galleries available. RoyGBiv (above) had their usual show of more than one installation artist. This month it was 3 artists with one displaying unusual things found in office planters.
Sherrie Gallerie had Curtis Benzle, a former CCAD professor, showing many porcelain vessels and lighting covers. Mahan Gallery 2 artists who do paintings together similar to David Salle. Lindsay Gallery had folk artists doing relief sculptures of baseball players and the like out of wood.
The Franklinton Arts District brought a mural painter to High Street to advertise their May 30th art event on West Broad St. between Martin and Hawkes Avenues. They are trying to make the bottoms into an arts district. Go to for more information.
LemonTree had the most up-to-the-minute art display. A Swine Flue Art Show in their storefront window shows what a dozen local artists would do to decorate those facemasks we all are about to start wearing in public. (click on above picture to enlarge) Sharon Bell went the farthest with idea shaping the facemask into a pig's face.
Terra Gallery continues to find interesting pieces to decorate your office. Jeff Margolin did these clay vessels and small sculpture that looked like detailed carvings out of rock.
Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD) students took-over the empty building on Fourth Avenue East of High Street with another collection of installation pieces. Outside was a plot of grass that seemed to have a decomposing body in it with flashlights (above). Inside was a variety of works on three floors including the dark basement that lite-up when someone screams loud enough. If you needed to see, just scream loud and long. Upstairs had a fishtank pumping water to various handmade glass vessels where tomato plants grew. There was also the bed with candles and some other displays.

Gallery 83 at 83 W. 1st Ave. in the front of an old apartment building was featured in an earlier blog post. This month they had a group of artists hanging-out like the galleries in the 80's. The downstairs gallery is where most of the art hangs, but they also were found outside and upstairs where hot dogs were grilling. They were promoting a lifecasting event May 8th at the Continent on Busch Blvd.
The outdoor piece being painted by horned people seemed to say something about the raw nature of Gallery 83. The interior of the lower gallery is anything but slick (see below). Infact, it goes all the way to disturbing.