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Do You Believe in Presto?

Magic gets a bad rap. From the pretentiousness of David Blaine to the dollar store mystery of Criss Angel, whether relegated to birthday parties or lounge acts, it has a hard time being cool. Yet magic is time-tested. Certainly magicians came before comedians, clowns, and rock and roll. If one perceives magic as stuck in [...]
Kevin J. Elliott



Magic gets a bad rap. From the pretentiousness of David Blaine to the dollar store mystery of Criss Angel, whether relegated to birthday parties or lounge acts, it has a hard time being cool. Yet magic is time-tested. Certainly magicians came before comedians, clowns, and rock and roll. If one perceives magic as stuck in an era of Houdini in chains or David Copperfield hiding the Statue of Liberty, you’re not paying attention in the slightest. In fact, the next wave of magical alchemy, illusions, card tricks, and full-blown spectacles, is experiencing a renaissance, and Columbus is right at the center.

Brandon Gerald has always believed.

For the Columbus magician who goes by the stage name Presto, rapidly become an integral part in the city’s rising scene, magic has never not been cool. Ever since seeing a magic show performed at his elementary school in fifth grade, the Fayetteville, North Carolina native has not stopped in his quest to master the art form.

“I learned from books,” he said. “My parents always encouraged reading, so when I found out there were books about magic, that’s all I ever read. I had always been into books about mysticism and outer space, but when I started with magic—it bit me hard. I immersed myself in it.”

Though Gerald’s study of magic became a lifelong goal, it was never something he considered as a career, instead picking up degrees in videography and business administration in Florida along the way. The transformation into Presto came completely by accident. Asked to work at Theater Magic one summer, a shop and performance space inside Universal Studios theme parks, Gerald was doing multiple scripted 12 minute shows a day, entertaining and enticing tourists to buy kits and tricks. As he became more comfortable going off-script, and crafting his persona, he knew he had a certain gift.

It was at Theater Magic that he became Presto and met Nick Locapo, who after moving to Columbus and founding the P3 Magic Theater along with Dan Harlan, prompted Gerald to do the same. In 2014, Presto packed up and joined the theater’s growing community.

Gerald’s acumen in spreading his love of the art form was a perfect fit for P3, where he not only performs during their regularly sold-out and free Tuesday night shows, but also has a hand in producing instructional videos and the worldwide broadcast of the theater’s celebrated Wednesday night lectures. It’s magic, both experiential and in the viral peripheral, pushing the fourth wall, showing both sides of the curtain astonishing and educating at the same time. As Presto, Gerald can fluctuate between the two, mastering old tricks alongside his once book-bound mentors like Tom Mullica and Harry Anderson, and bringing the freshness and spontaneity of his own brand of street magic (which you  can see on his website’s highlight reel) to the P3 stage.

“At first I preferred the energy of doing magic for people on the street and at parties,” says Gerald. “In becoming Presto, I wanted to bring that energy into the show. I rarely have a show scripted, it’s mostly just ad-libbing and bouncing off of the audience.”

Indeed, Presto’s vibe is infectious. It’s magic sometimes peppered with the profane and urbane, everyman comedy, and at times fueled by a few libations. At a recent show, after sets of comedy and indie rock, he headlines and  appears to be a couple of beers in when he promises to share with the audience how to perform the “disappearing bottle in the paper bag” trick. After finishing off a Budweiser, Presto assures the crowd that what he is holding is, in fact, a real beer bottle. Placing the bottle into the bag, it’s obvious he’s holding the base, and while turning it over, to show and empty bag, the last remaining drops drip to the laughter of the audience. Shrugging off the mistake, he then crumbles the bag into a ball and tosses it over his shoulder. In an instant, the laughter goes to awe, and then astonished applause. Add some sleight of hand, hypnosis, incredibly complex card tricks, and a Presto show becomes a performance that must be seen to be believed.

“My ultimate goal when I perform is to bring people into another reality—a place where anything is possible, so to speak. A place where the audience can forget about normal everyday stuff and experience something different for a change, because reality can be a bit boring at time if we’re honest with ourselves.”

For more information and a schedule of Presto’s upcoming shows visit

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Arts & Culture

How Bazaar: Popup arts fest shines a light on local creatives

Mike Thomas



While cultivating a newfound sense of personal fulfillment might be as simple as picking up a paint brush or instrument, earning a living through your art is a more complicated prospect. As longtime friends, collaborators, and Columbus art-scene hustlers Dustin Bennett and Zak Biggard will tell you, making it as an artist sometimes comes down to who you know.

Having met years ago as coworkers at a local printmaking shop, Bennett and Biggard have gone on to individual success with their own creative design firms. For Bennett, part of this work entails curating the art displayed at Clintonville’s Global Gallery, a cafe and art space that is committed to promoting fair trade handcrafted products from around the world.

When an exhibition Bennett was planning for the space fell through, he reached out to Biggard to fill the vacancy with his work. The resulting show was a hit, with Biggard selling several pieces in one of Global Gallery’s most successful exhibitions to date.

Biggard and Bennett outside of Global Gallery (Photo: Brian Kaiser)

His reputation with the venue established, Biggard approached Amy Palmer, Global Gallery’s manager, with an idea for a large-scale show. She gave him the thumbs up, and Biggard again partnered with Bennett to help bring his vision to light. The result is a show spanning three weekends in the month of August that the duo have dubbed Bazaar Ritual.

“The idea was a bazaar, this sort of Middle-Eastern marketplace where you walk in and it’s just a feast for the senses,” says Biggard. “All of these different sights, sounds, smells—everything packed together.”

As mutually beneficial as their collaborations had been, the Bennett and Biggard hope to open the doors of opportunity wide to other artists. Through this new exhibition/festival, the two aim to shed a light on creators who may not know how to navigate the sometimes complicated process of getting work into a conventional art show.


“Most of these people have never been involved in the gallery scene or never been able to show their work off,” Biggard explains. “They are just so excited to be a part of something, and the stuff I’ve been seeing from people, I just can’t wait to have everything together in one place.”

When the exhibitors do come together for the popup-style event on August 3rd, 17th, and 31st, they will bring with them works across a diverse range of media.

“We’ve got people who make jewelry, clothing, glass blowers, painters and performance artists,” says Biggard. “It’s really the diversity of the work that’s the theme.”

As diverse as the work on display in the show will be, the exhibitors themselves hail from various disparate walks of life—everyone from nurses to dog walkers, printmakers to salespeople, as Bennett explains. In addition to the work shown during the recurring weekend events, each artist in Bazaar Ritual will have the opportunity to display one piece in Global Gallery throughout the month of August. Artists will keep 100% of the proceeds sold throughout the month and during the weekend events.

Along with providing a platform, the Bennett and Biggard hope that Bazaar Ritual will serve as a networking hub where creatives can meet and form collaborations of their own. Response from artists interested in taking part has already been building organically, with those involved telling their friends, those friends bringing more friends, and so on.

In addition to the prospect of hanging out with artists and perusing the exhibitions, the organizers of Bazaar Ritual have a number of surprises in store for attendees. Food trucks will be on hand, as well as live local music on Global Gallery’s spacious patio.

Though Bennett and Bigard are working diligently to bring this fledgling event to fruition, the two seem calm in the lead up to the show. Their artist-first approach lends a communal feel to the event, with creatives joining forces to put on an organized yet laid-back experience that shirks the corporate mold of some traditional gallery settings.

“We’re trying to do what art is meant to do and bring people together,” says Bennett. “We’re trying to bring together as many friends and strangers as we can—motleys and misfits alike.”

Global Gallery is located at 3535 N High St, in Clintonville. You can visit Bazaar Ritual there from 1:00 PM to 8:00 PM on the 3rd, the 17th, and the 31st of August. For more information, check out @bazaarritual on Instagram.

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Arts & Culture

Arts Fest Preview: Kate Morgan, 2D mixed media artist





Kate Morgan began developing her ghostly, layered two-dimensional portraits after going back to school at the Columbus College of Art & Design in 2005. She already had some background in visual arts through her work in fashion and commercial photography, so the transition to drawing and painting was organic.

Morgan’s textured collages are inspired by folklore, mythology and a variety of artistic periods — especially Byzantine art. The 2011 Columbus Arts Festival Emerging Artist alum and 2019 exhibiting artist welcomes a wide array of complex themes into her pieces — including symbolic, cultural, historical and spiritual themes — while utilizing layers of vintage paper and original drawings to create visual depth and a sense of mystery.

Her pieces are purposely vague, leaning toward more minimalistic ideas to allow for wider interpretation by audiences. Largely her art depicts the female form, with as many layers and stories to tell as that of every human being. This is done with an eclectic assortment of materials — including sheet music, German Biblical pages, newspaper and maps — to add detail in both a topical and textural sense.


And yet, Morgan still continues to look for a challenge. From venturing away from her familiar blue hues to exploring different mediums like ceramics, her work knows no creative limits.

Morgan has exhibited at the Columbus Arts Festival nearly every year since 2011. She has gone on to win two jurors’ choice awards in the 2D category at the Columbus Arts Festival, as well as sell and have work juried at other major festivals across the country. In Columbus, her work can be seen as part of the Columbus Makes Art and Donatos Pizza collaborative mural “Every Piece Is Important” at the John Glenn Columbus International Airport.

Morgan has a BFA from CCAD and currently works out of her Franklinton studio in Columbus. Experience this stunning work first hand when you visit her at booth M572 on the Main Street Bridge during the Columbus Arts Festival from June 7-9 at the downtown riverfront.

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Arts & Culture

Be Square: Changes coming to arts community at 400 W Rich

Mike Thomas



If you haven’t visited the thriving arts community at 400 West Rich street in awhile, you might be surprised to see how much things have changed. Now, the minds behind the city’s hub for the arts are changing things up to better reflect the area’s evolution.

400 Square is the new collective moniker for the array of concepts that currently occupy the buildings on the 400 block of Rich street in Franklinton. The rebrand seeks to unify the community of artistic innovators who call the area developed by Urban Smart Growth their creative home.

Promo art for 400 Square by Anthony Damico

Spaces encompassed in the rebrand include Strongwater, The Vanderelli Room, and Chromedge Studios, and of course, the studios at 400 W. Rich. While the name may be changing, the group remains committed to providing and sustaining a thriving hub for creatives through education, resources, and entertainment opportunities in the area.


With the launch of 400 Square, Urban Smart Growth Director of Operations Seth Stout has led his team to develop new offerings for each of the growing spaces. Food and Beverage Director Lauren Conrath and Events Director Molly Blundred have taken the lead with changes to the Strongwater brand, while Community Director Stephanie McGlone and Art Director AJ Vanderelli are facilitating programming for all ages and abilities on the artist side.

Through all of the changes on the way, the staff at 400 Square are committed to bringing the public the same high quality of workshops, events, exhibitions, and more that have always been part of their unique creative community.

Stay tuned for more info—the new 400 Square officially rolls out during the weekend of Columbus Arts Fest 2019, June 7-9.

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