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Lift Every Voice

Produced by the vibrations of the vocal cords, fueled by air from the lungs, the human voice is capable of incredible volume, range, and power. Through this instrument we can feel an expanded sense of ourselves, our sound moving outward into space during a wild karaoke sesh. Or we can feel deeply close to one [...]
Laura Dachenbach

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Produced by the vibrations of the vocal cords, fueled by air from the lungs, the human voice is capable of incredible volume, range, and power. Through this instrument we can feel an expanded sense of ourselves, our sound moving outward into space during a wild karaoke sesh. Or we can feel deeply close to one another as we blend harmonies, pretending to be Pentatonix singing “Hallelujah.”

Singing is an undeniably a unique physiological experience, and for those who can’t help but sing, Central Ohio has plentiful opportunities to make that experience not just a source of personal fulfillment, but a mission in life as well.

Illuminati

Illuminati

As the Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus began to grow, they began to receive requests from churches who not only loved the beautiful CGMC sound, but also wanted to become welcoming spaces for the LGBT community. The group began Illuminati (Latin for “the enlightened ones”) as an outreach, sacred music ensemble.

“I do believe that music has a power to build a bridge,” said Ken Harned, the director of Illuminati, which sings monthly at various houses of worship in the Central Ohio area as part of their services. “The connection with music is universal and sometimes it can have profound implications of somebody’s view of people who are LGBT.”

The gay choral movement began in the 1980s as a social safe space, and as a way for members to respond and care for each other during the HIV/AIDS crisis. Today Illuminati is a spiritual and musical home for men of many religious backgrounds, some of which have been personally hurtful.

“A lot of us—we weren’t welcome in our churches,” said Harned.  “[It’s] healing for some of our people to have their religion back and be able to worship as who they really are, and not have to hide in the closet.”

While Illuminati provides a sense of belonging, the group is continually aware of the effect their presence has on people who hear their music, particularly within the walls of a sacred space.

“They can see the good in who we are. They can see that we sing great music…that we worship the same way they do,” said Harned. “The more [LGBT] people they know, the less afraid they seem to be. And we hope our music tells our story and connects with an audience on a different level.”

Vocal Resistance

When a video from the Women’s March on Washington of a pop-up choir singing “Quiet” with MILCK went viral on Facebook in January of 2017, some commenters suggested bringing the idea to Columbus. Marlene Hartzler, the choir director at North Unitarian Universalist Church who was following the thread, stepped up to organize a rehearsal.

“So we just met. And I think the first time we met there were 35 people who showed up. And we thought: Oh my goodness. We have something here.”

Hartzler and her singers had found a place to channel their emotional and political energy. “Singing builds people up,” explained Hartzler. “It fires us up for the work ahead without draining us.”

Over the past year, Vocal Resistance has sung for town halls, meetings, the March for Science, a solidarity vigil for a woman facing deportation, and opened for the Silence is Death art exhibit at The Vanderelli Room, singing songs such as “America the Beautiful,” “I’m Gonna Walk it with You,” and “Imagine.” Their journey has been one to support each other, to spread empathy, and to change the face of political dissent.

The entire time, Hartzler has held the image of the Singing Revolution in Estonia in her mind. During the late 1980s, Estonians, occupied by the Soviet Union and forbidden by the government to sing their folk songs, gathered by the thousands in public squares to join in traditional Estonian song.

“I thought that was such a beautiful vision of nonviolent protest, of people joining arm in arm and singing instead of shouting,” said Hartzler. “And what a positive, creative force that brings a little bit of beauty in the world.”

Columbus Threshold Choir

Columbus Threshold Choir

For many years, Beatrice Haghiri had let singing get away from her. In 2007, she attended a regional gathering of seventy Threshold Choir singers in Yellow Springs, Ohio. She purchased a CD of the music, songs written to comfort those on “the threshold”—the sick and dying.

“I’d sing a little bit and cry a little bit. After a few months I stopped crying, and it just seemed like this was what my voice was meant to do.”

Shortly afterward, Haghiri, an intensive care nurse, became the leader of the Columbus Threshold Choir, a women’s ensemble that sends out small groups of 2 to 4 singers to be with those in the process of dying. Haghiri describes the music as not unlike a lullaby, providing a similar sense of serenity and soothing. Most of the songs are written by Threshold Choir members around the world.

Although the singing is gentle, the effect of the music is powerful—not just because of the vulnerability of the moment, but because of how singing seems to function as a therapeutic instrument.

“There have been lots of studies that have shown that for people who have Alzheimer’s or significant dementia, singing songs that they remember from when they were young can help unlock that door of the mind and can give them comfort,” says Haghiri. “So I think that it’s almost an innate thing. It’s a visceral experience.”

Death is stigmatized, yet Haghiri and the Threshold Choir singers see a special opportunity to be present at a most important moment of life: the dying moment.

“It’s the honesty of what that time represents. It’s the truth of the love that’s shared between people. We feel honored to be there. We feel that someone has invited us into a very sacred time and space.”

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Arts & Culture

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

Mike Thomas

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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.

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“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

614now

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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.

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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

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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.

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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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