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Roped In: 2018 Quarter Horse Congress

The mid-’60s were some of the last days in Columbus before the highway system sliced apart urban communities, and the sneaky fingers of suburban sprawl started to inch their way across the rural landscape of central Ohio. A seed of an idea was being planted in the heart of it all: One of the greatest [...]
Jeni Ruisch



The mid-’60s were some of the last days in Columbus before the highway system sliced apart urban communities, and the sneaky fingers of suburban sprawl started to inch their way across the rural landscape of central Ohio. A seed of an idea was being planted in the heart of it all: One of the greatest horse shows the world has ever seen.

The American Quarter Horse Congress, held at the Ohio State Fairgrounds, is a tradition that stretches back into the mid-20th century, and has grown to become the largest single-breed horse show in the world. It’s one of the largest annual events in the city, which people at large seem to know the least about.

The agile Quarter Horse has the temperament and power to pull off ranching duties by working in tandem with their handler through reign, leg, and voice commands. Their name comes from the straight quarter mile stretches they would race over since their development in colonial times, soundly beating other breeds. Fast forward several hundred years, and the Quarter Horse had a love affair with the American west. The quintessential cowboy of old was often seen on a Quarter Horse, cutting through herds of cattle, roping, and trick riding.

Though Americans came to rely on horses less and less as time wore on and properties became smaller, spaghetti westerns still filled silver screens. John Wayne strode across open landscapes, punching out drunkards, and swooping damsels in distress onto his horse. The image of an unrestricted, masculine cowboy loomed large in the American psyche and pop culture. As farming communities dwindled, those who made their business on the backs of hoofstock doubled down on tradition. They wore their grandfather’s hats, literally and figuratively.

The sprawling family ranches that remain are empires built on handshakes. Like any subculture, they have their own lingo, dress, and sets of norms that may go against the modern grain. But that’s just how they like it.

Bedazzled dressage queens with jewel-encrusted jackets and perfectly curled hair perch atop their horses as they parade through pageants on horseback. Trick riders show off their hard-learned skills in competitions that have broken down ancient and dangerous ranching techniques, and given them a point system. The arena walls are a structured environment in which to showcase and literally spotlight the skills that can only be learned through having a daily interaction with the animals and activities valued by the congress and its culture.

And value it they do. Horses are big business. The rows of stalls in the fairground barns are transformed during the month-long congress. Facades of buildings are constructed over the entryways to the designated rows reserved by ranchers who travel with their animals from all over the continent for the event. Pop-up homes and offices are literally drywalled and painted and furnished to create a home for a family, or an office for business deals.

Everywhere you walk, people will lock eyes across the way and holler for someone they know, running over to embrace or shake hands. This is a tradition where fiends are made and kept over years and generations and decades.

After the bull riding competition one night, people pour onto the arena’s dirt floor to mingle with the bull riders. The thrilling whiplash spectacle of mountainous animals versus fighters and riders has concluded. The bulls trot back to their stalls, and the riders come out to mingle with the crowd, folk heroes that you can touch and talk to. They sign hats for little boys and young women drape their arms around them for photo ops and slipped numbers. These young men embody the old American cowboy ideal. (And they’re always young. The retirement age for bull riding hovers well below 30—should they reach that age after escaping serious injury or even death in the arena.) The ‘aw, shucks’ attitudes somehow mesh with a hint of bravado that swells under their button-up shirts. Their shoulders bear the weight and pride of an ancient human need to conquer the natural world, and do a little dance with danger.

Hats cast a striking shadow here, and dirtied work boots are traded for goin’ out boots when the day is over and the horses are put up for the night. There’s an entertainment circuit here for the after-hours crowd. There are multiple bars, and each year’s congress hosts a concert series of local and national acts. This is a business trip and a reunion and a proving ground. Every year for a month, just north of our ever-evolving downtown, Columbus hosts a spectacle thousands of people and animals strong that links us directly to a hidden but still strong industry, and an idealized vision of what we once were.

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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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