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Let’s keep it real: while a necessary component of a strong civic plan, convention centers aren’t typically the source of excitement in a city. Even in Columbus, where Peter Eisenman’s off-kilter, colorful menagerie of brick and glass changed the face of a vanilla cityscape in the 90s, the building’s interior, mostly invisible to the average [...]



Let’s keep it real: while a necessary component of a strong civic plan, convention centers aren’t typically the source of excitement in a city.

Even in Columbus, where Peter Eisenman’s off-kilter, colorful menagerie of brick and glass changed the face of a vanilla cityscape in the 90s, the building’s interior, mostly invisible to the average resident, has lacked much flavor—local or otherwise.

Today, as Columbus continues to refresh its wallpaper, CCAD’s Mathew Mohr has not only contributed to the center’s offerings—but put “us” back in Columbus.

His contribution is “As We Are,” a 14-foot, 3-D universal human head made of ultra-bright LED ribbons, the housing and the canvas for 3-D photo booth that displays a rotating slideshow of what is now thousands of visitors.

The ultimate selfie machine? Yeah, “As We Are” can lay claim to that, sure. But it’s much, much more. Not only is it Mohr’s vision to showcase Columbus’s openness and diversity (the algorithm for photos selected runs on reverse skin-tone), but it’s his ultimate goal to spark a a thread about public art and its interaction with the capital city.

(614) stepped inside the booth with Mohr to capture a portrait of the artist’s vision for a new way for Columbus to see “us.”

Since people are comparing this to something like Chicago’s The Bean and other city’s landmark photo ops, this is the perfect time to broach one of my favorite subjects: Is Columbus sort of preoccupied with its image? Is that something that you thought about when concepting this?

Preoccupied seems a bit strong, but Columbus has achieved quite a bit as a result of its positive attitude. I’ve noticed that people are proud of what others accomplish instead of speaking about themselves. After bashing my head against the sidewalk for 10 years working in New York City and accomplishing some, but not nearly what I’d hoped, I have to say I’ve grown to like the rah-rah spirit of Columbus. Even with its many challenges, it’s a culture of yes. For “As We Are”, there were far too many variables in play as I developed the concept for the sculpture. I dare say, the momentum of the city played a part.

Other pieces of large-scale art in Columbus have been mentioned along with your new addition. Do you have outdoor public art in the city that you are fond of?

I’m challenged in a great way by Todd Slaughter’s work. My family and I live up in Dublin and his “Watch House” is a great example of fundamental appeal with conceptual levels layered in. Malcolm Cochran’s “Field of Corn” made me laugh at first, but the history supports the concept very well and every time I pass the field, it engages me through rhythm and form. Public art needs to be enough of a mental burr to provoke thought in more than one way and as a result, entrench itself as a memorable icon of the community it represents. A very tall order. Columbus has some very good examples and I hope there will be many more to come.

I think I can ask this without hurting feelings, but does it make “As We Are” extra special that it gives a human, local element to such a building, that in many cases has a faceless, transient feel?

No hurt feelings! Actually, quite an opportunity to champion the whole renovation. As I understand it, the Board of the Greater Columbus Convention Center were very aware that even though the beauty of Eisenman’s architecture made the building unique, the interior needed more warmth and soul. There are just over 200 original works of art by local artists throughout the center and the color palette and materials used in the renovation make everything feel less institutional and more comfortable. The atrium and new addition are stunning but what most excites me is the art. The thought of being in the same collection with Aminah Robinson, Denny Griffith as well as so many of my peers is thrilling and heartwarming. “As We Are” may be the the largest piece in the collection, but considering the whole of the work throughout the building, it blends right in with a welcoming message of engagement through ideas.

I also love that in a time where we are debating monuments, something like this not only remains current, but also serves a diversity function. Can you elaborate on how faces are selected by the piece?

Turbulent times for sure. The builders, the Board and my team worked on “As We Are” for two years so we couldn’t have seen all of this coming. It’s not a political piece—it takes a humanist approach. After your portrait is displayed, it goes into a database with every other portrait made inside the camera booth. If no one is using the booth, the sculpture displays portraits randomly based on an equal representation of skin tone.

Along those lines, does the current climate in which it has been unveiled take on a new synergy with your artist statement?

Public monuments elevate significant people and events; some individuals need to be recognized for the truth of their deeds and should no longer be elevated in our culture. In my opinion, these monuments need to be preserved and presented in a context that considers perspectives on how we continue to evolve as a culture and species.

“As We Are” is intentionally monumental. It elevates every individual who magnifies their presence through the booth. All are welcome to participate. In seeing someone from another culture displayed on such a large scale, it is my hope that observers consider who that person is and the life they’ve lead.

With a design professor as its architect, I can’t help but take a nuanced view of technology from it, and a personal challenge to prove that selfies and Instagram should not just be dismissed as millennial narcissism. Am I onto something there? Putting it more informally, I love that people will stop and look at a random person’s face with wonder, even though self-portraits are near constant in our social feeds.

I’m all about new technology in service of communication. It has an amazing ability to amplify meaning through interaction and you are absolutely correct about social media. It is a seismic shift in our culture and this piece asks questions about identity and presence. By far, most people react with delight. Some are not comfortable having their picture taken and some find it very strange. We are glued to our feeds but considering how well humans read faces, it’s no wonder. Thousands of years of portraiture point to something deep within us that finds social media endlessly fascinating and complex.

“As We Are” makes portraits in the same way that a painting or a photo is an artist’s representation of their subject. They are edited interpretations, removing some information and recontextualizing identity. In this instance, technology is part of the form and an automated system to which I’m drawing a parallel with social media. There is narcissism, drama, achievement, the whole ball of wax but what I’m commenting on is the evolution toward acceptance.

And finally: I heard tell of the sculpture at some points facing High Street—at night! When will that happen, and what fun and weird stories do you expect to come from that?

You heard correctly! It will very soon rotate to light up High Street at night, bright enough that it will be quite a spectacle. Seeing what happens is impossible to predict and that’s part of the fun.

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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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