Connect with us

Arts & Culture

High Art on High

It would have been hard to imagine Columbus, a decade ago, being known for much of anything nationally—let alone making the list of fashion and design meccas. Leave it to that good old Midwestern staple—Halloween—to create a stage for the imagination of a growing city. Even after 10,000 attendees swelled the Short North on the [...]



It would have been hard to imagine Columbus, a decade ago, being known for much of anything nationally—let alone making the list of fashion and design meccas.

Leave it to that good old Midwestern staple—Halloween—to create a stage for the imagination of a growing city.

Even after 10,000 attendees swelled the Short North on the last night of October 2008, no one could have predicted how Highball Halloween would expand year-after-year. Especially that after a decade of existence it would be beckoning some of the best costume couture designers in the world to compete for its attention.

The Short North is not the funky enclave of offbeat characters it once once—which means Highball now carries the responsibility of maintaining the area’s weirdness and wonder—along with hosting a masquerade for 30,000.

There was a Highball before there was even a (614) Magazine. Which made us want to take off the mask, talking to some of the events’ inventors about what’s in store for this year, and how Halloween in Columbus hits a higher note every year.


Betsy Pandora, Executive Director, Short North Alliance

Executive Producer, HighBall Halloween

Back in 2008, community members came together to discuss ideas for events for the Short North Arts District. What emerged was HighBall Halloween. At the time, the District and Columbus were growing as areas for not only boutique fashion retail businesses, but also as a national center for a fashion and design workforce. Today, we tout the third largest fashion and design workforce, and HighBall Halloween celebrates their talents, our community, and the creativity in all of us.

By Alison Colvin

Charly Bauer, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream

Founding Father, HighBall Halloween

Stakeholders in the Short North had a brainstorming session for events and promotions that might lift the district’s exposure. We felt if  the creativity in Columbus’ fashion, art, design, and retail industries were to put its heads together to shine a light on ourselves, we could make a pretty fantastic street party.

We were also adamant it should be in the street—that closing High Street, and celebrating “the street” literally and figuratively would be spectacular. We had some voices saying, “Why not host it in Goodale Park?” Logistically easier, but a shortcut we didn’t want to take. We wanted HighBall to be unlike anything in Columbus.

Candi Watkins, Centerline Street Magic

Logistics Coordinator for HighBall Halloween

We were inspired by the idea that collectively, we could build a real couture fashion show out on the streets that brought the high fashion directly to the people; and was creative and inspirational to the community.

Nina West, Super Drag Queen

Highball Halloween Host

The event has obviously changed a bit and grown from its first year, but it really still has so much of the same elements. [Former Short North Executive Director] John Angelo really was the motivation and vision behind the event. He wanted to showcase the art and creativity and vibrancy of the Short North and Columbus and his brilliant mechanism was through Halloween. John wanted to celebrate the fabulous and the fashion of Halloween, which gave Highball its first real point of definition—fashion. The key elements, the elements that John saw as modes to expose and celebrate Columbus art and artists are still the pillars of the event.

Stephanie Stein, S2 Management

Costume Couture Coordinator

I received an invitation from Juli Rogers, Co-Owner of R Design and Printing, to this new event in the Short North Arts District featuring a couture costume contest and 10 fashion designers. I thought to myself, after working in the fashion industry in Columbus, Ohio for 20 years (at the time—it’s officially 30 years in November), how could an event like this be going on without my involvement? I jumped in feet-first and then with all the rest of my body. Not only providing the models needed, but helping to coordinate the lineup and show. 


Pandora: We have both an artistic advisory committee and a temporary team of partners and vendors that we hire on each year, all of whom support the creative process under the direction of myself and the SNA’s events and special projects coordinator, Melanie Kortyka. We let the community steer and dictate the themes and allow the artists, designers, performers, and other creative team members to execute that creative vision. The event gets to evolve as the community evolves. And the whole premise is that you, as an individual attendee, get to uniquely and creatively contribute to the event experience through your costume. That’s kind of the best part.


Pandora: I think the most noticeable changes to the event over time have been how we have been able to bring really high production quality and sophistication to the programming and planning. Believe it or not, HighBall Halloween isn’t actually what we all do all day, every day. As an organization, we work on programing to support our diverse community of small businesses, we keep the lights on, and we keep the streets clean. HighBall Halloween allows us to showcase the creativity of our community while generating additional resources to keep doing what we do to support the community. And being able to grow the event from something that was very grassroots and laborious to something more professionalized—but still authentic to those roots—has probably been the biggest change.

Shiree Houf

Five-Time Costume Couture Designer

I think it’s amazing how [Highball] has grown from a one-night event focused around the costume couture show to a two-night event that really gets to showcase more of Columbus’ artistic and musical talent, and also caters to a broader audience. I think it would be difficult to come to the event and not be incredibly entertained—there’s music, art, and the spectacles of the two together both onstage and off. It’s so cool to see just what the attendees come up with to wear!

Behind the Scenes

Melanie Kortyka, Events and Special Project Manager, Short North Alliance

Festival Director for HighBall Halloween

Each year, the Short North Alliance saves several items from HighBall Halloween and stores them in our garage. Few people know that the puppets and several past costumes are sitting in this storage next to our other event items that we use on a daily basis. It is pretty funny to open our garage storage with someone for the first time, and they are shocked to see six 15-foot puppets sitting next to our Ambassador’s golf cart and some holiday decorations.

Watkins: The planning; hours and hours it takes to prepare, budget, make equipment orders, design costumes and collections. Never seen are the people that gather designers and models, hike fences, put up and take down signs, build and take down stages, who stand there in all kinds of weather making the event run behind the scenes. The people who pick up trash and the police who keep it safe. None of this is visible to the public—nor should it be—but the end result is pure magic.

High Notes (on-stage or off)

By Randall Schieber

Pandora: Former Mayor Michael B. Coleman’s Blues Brothers Costume—which he wears each year, kind of as if it’s a brand new costume each year. Meeting Taylor Dayne before her sound check at HighBall Halloween 2014, while I was dressed as Slash from Guns n’ Roses and having to explain that yes, I was the lady in charge here.

Houf: A year that I attended but was not part of the couture show, one of the designers who competed and won created an all-pink Marie Antoinette-inspired costume, complete with a tea cup on top of the head. I remember how large, crazy, detailed, and just generally beautiful that piece was. It was the clear winner that year. When it entered the stage there was an audible gasp/awe from the whole audience. It is that kind of reaction from an audience I strive for as a Highball designer each year. That reaction makes you feel like you’ve clearly created something with an impact that garners a reaction and that, to me, is the whole point of creating as an artist: to affect. Offstage: one year there were two older men who went as “a couple of big boobs” literally with nips and all—not necessarily one of the most delightfully creative things I’ve seen, but completely memorable and still makes me smile.

West: Favorite costume? A couple did Mount Rushmore maybe in the first or second year and it was brilliant. OR The Richard Simmons exercise video and Deal-A-Meal group costume. That was pretty epic. Offstage? Watching all of the people behind the scenes getting ready. It is amazing. Truthfully my very favorite part is the public costume contest. I have more dishy stuff, but I am trying to hold on to the gig…

Kortyka: I noticed a costume in the crowd a few years ago where a group of people dressed up as if they were on a rollercoaster ride. They acted out choreographed movements to make it appear like they were going up and down hills and around curves. They stayed in character the whole night—it was fantastic. On stage: I really enjoy getting a sneak peek of the models lined up backstage before they are about to present each of the collections on stage to the public. The models and designers are typically nervous and have been working all day to pull everything together, however the reveal of each of the couture costumes really is incredible to see.

Bauer: Kevin Kerr’s award-winning costume and homage to his sister—the Pink Dress—from 2010. I wish I had a picture. That was his second time winning the Costume Couture Fashion Show, and he was an inspiration.

Watkins: The flying monkeys from the first event; the roller coaster group; the queen in her dais carried by four gold-painted men from one of the events right in front of Surly Girl on High; the guy in the wheelchair with a broken leg that looked like a jockey on a horse and sulky; Nina West swinging me off my feet at the stage up on Fifth Ave.


Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

Arts & Culture

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

614now Staff




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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

No mo’ FOMO

Missing out sucks. That's why our daily email is so important. You'll be up-to-date on the latest happenings and things to do in Cbus + be the first to snag our daily giveaways

Shop Now!

The Magazines