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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 [...]
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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 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

SoHud Collective provides fresh, stylish open-air experience

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The fear of ever going back inside of a building that’s not your home has become a general widespread worry. Open-air markets and garage sales are going to be a hot commodity this summer, and one new company has already taken a proactive and stylish approach to fill that need for consumers.

SoHud Collective is one of the first Columbus-based companies to corner this emerging market. The boutique pop-up shop, founded on the principle of friendships formed around fashion, art, and plants, hosted their first event on Saturday, May 23. 

And oh yeah, free lemonade.

An assortment of deep vintage finds at an incredibly reasonable price will leave you walking away with at least one purchase. The first installment took place on the corner of Hudson and Summit, across the street from Evolved Body Art.

The idea of a pop-up shop at this corner may be a new idea, but the format has been around for ages. Why SoHud Collective is important right now boils down to the consumers’ desire for an out-of-house experience and the employees’ obvious shared compassion for each other and thrifting.

“Fashion has been the glue to our friendship,” said the SoHud Collective, made up of Taylor, Connor, and Hayden. “We thrift together, we borrow each other’s clothing, and we send each other pictures of our outfits before we leave the house.”

A company formed on friendships in the SoHud region, the group behind this passion project has a specific goal in mind when passing down their used goods: keep the SoHud community stylin’. 

“Some of us have lost our jobs due to Covid-19, and this was a great way to keep our spirits up and redirect our attention to something that truly fulfills us,” the SoHud Collective said.

The items featured in the monthly pop-ups are passed down from an assortment of thrifting havens. Closets. Basements. Other thrift stores. Grandmas.

From shoes to shirts, Atari systems to board games, SoHud Collective is elevating the thrifting experience in the time of coronavirus.

“Currently, our focus is on elevating our display and merchandising technique to really give the people an experience and a fierce outfit and home decor to create that perfect photo for Instagram, the SoHud Collective said.”

SoHud Collective would like to thank Evolved for letting it use its parking lot for May’s edition of the pop-up. With a goal to have an installment of SoHud Collective once a month, the pop-up shop will return to the same location on June 27 (11 a.m. until 7 p.m.) and 28 (11 a.m. until 4 p.m.). 

A charity table where all proceeds will go to clothing the homeless LGBTQ youth in Columbus will be present as well. 

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Loop Daddy invades Columbus with first-ever drive-in tour

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The return of live music is going to be one of the trickiest industries to transition back into business as usual, if that will ever be the case. We’ve seen people getting creative, building concert stages within their own homes via live streaming. Some have participated in virtual festivals, probably the sector of live music to take the biggest hit.

But when an industry made up of innovative creatives always trying to come up with the next big idea is faced with incredible hardships, they respond with quick-witted imaginative solutions.

One of the first trends that popped up in the revolution of bringing back live music was the implementation of drive-in lots. Luckily for Columbus, the darling of the internet DJ scene Marc Rebillet aka Loop Daddy will be taking his first-ever drive-in tour through the Buckeye state in mid-June.

Captivating audiences with his participatory DJ scratching and immature antics, extremely goofy sex appeal, and sleazy porno stache, Rebillet was an act poised for a breakout summer before the pandemic shut music concert venues down. If you have access to a car, though, you’ll still have a chance to catch the wild virtual sensation.

On June 14, Rebillet will be pulling up to the South Drive-In for the third stop of his Drive-In Concert Tour. Rebillet will also be showcasing short films as part of his drive-in experience.

As far as sound is going for these events, a lot of drive-ins are opting to go the radio transmission route to encourage people to stay inside of their vehicles.

A very few grouping of tickets remain, which include three-person and four-person car passes. Tickets are running $40 per head (plus additional fees), which seems to be the average across the new wave of drive-in concerts. Two-people/one-car tickets have already sold out.

If you don’t want to miss out on this unique opportunity, act right now. Tickets can be purchased at:

https://nightout.com/events/marc-rebillet-drive-in-tour-columbus-ohio-south-drive-in-presented-by-hotbox/tickets.

Social distancing guidelines are outlined at the point of purchase.

The South Drive-In is located at 3050 S. High St. Doors open at 8 p.m. with the show beginning at 9 p.m. Attendees need to arrive before 8:45 p.m. A portion of ticket sales will be donated to the Coronavirus Relief Fund.

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Live music allowed again in restaurants and bars: how will these establishments respond?

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A major step forward in the return of live music in Ohio took place over the weekend. The Ohio coronavirus guidelines were updated to reflect the new COVID-19 Dine Safe Ohio Order.

The order outlining the guidelines on live music in restaurant and bars is as follows:

Musicians and bands may perform in restaurants and bars as long as the individuals who are performing maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from all other people including, but not limited to, fellow performers and restaurant and bar patrons and staff.

DJ's are included along with musicians and bands in the order.

Something that was on the mind of a lot of musicians with the reopening of restaurants and the indefinite closing of large venues was how restaurants and bars were going to respond to the immediate venue demand. Places like Woodlands Tavern that already have an infrastructure for live music will have no problem complying with the updated order, but will restaurants and bars that depended on jukeboxes before pivot to a live music model?

With a lot more space available in restaurants due to capacity cuts, does this leave more room for a live music set up? Or will restaurants have to get rid of even more tables if they want to make room for a performer?

The thought of live music in a venue setting is alone enough to get excited about. How these places that now have the ability to host live music execute freeing up space for a band to set up or a DJ to bring his rig in while practicing social distancing is what makes this situation a tricky one.

Not being able to get down in a MojoFlo Soul Train line will be pretty tough, but it’s a tradeoff we’ll have to accept for the return of live music.

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