BalletMet’s Friday night’s headline performance at 8:30 p.m. at the Arts Festival is sure to be a highlight of weekend. One of the nation’s top 20 largest professional companies, BalletMet consists of dancers hailing from across the nation and the world and boasts a premiere academy for aspiring professional dancers, one that’s been recognized as an institution of local and national stature.
BalletMet has brought incredible dance to theaters in Central Ohio
and beyond and their commitment to bringing dance to the Columbus
community, especially in underserved areas, is unparalleled.
in-school programs to theater field trips, scholarships and free
performances, the company is dedicated to making dance accessible to
all. More than 10,000 children attend the company’s Morning at the
Ballet field trip performances each year. And thanks to a grant from
PNC Arts Alive, BalletMet’s second company, BalletMet 2, has
performed at free events at the King Arts Complex, Franklin Park
Conservatory and more, throughout the 2018-19 season.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY
to the free performance at the Arts Festival BalletMet will perform
at Dance on Dakota on Friday, May 10, from 5 to 8 p.m. in
Franklinton. This performance is also free.
Dakota, co-hosted by Franklinton Arts District, is part of a
weekend-long block party in Franklinton and features free food and
drink and a collaborative performance with TRANSIT ARTS. The event
will take place at Dakota Ave. and Town St.
Columbus Arts Festival performance will include a mixed repertoire of
shorter pieces from its past productions and will be preceded by
music from DJ Donnie M. of Damn Girl.
these performances capture your interest, the company recently
announced its 2019-20 season, which includes ALICE,
based on the later stories of Alice’s
Adventures in Wonderland author
Lewis Carroll, Twisted 3, a
collaboration with the Columbus Symphony and Opera Columbus, and, of
course, The Nutcracker.
Near the end of “Tunes in My Room,” a song by local rapper Elijah Banks, samples of a affirmations from social media personality Amber Wagner kick in. “You are still surrounded by an abundance of love, you have joy around you, God is with you,” Wagner passionately evokes. “You gon’ be alright.” Though Banks proclaims sophomore album Spin as a love story, much like Wagner’s declaration, through nine tracks filled with soulful aptitude, Banks finds that self-love is the ultimate destination.
“On my first album [Progress, Not Perfection], I wanted to show people all the different routes that I could take,” Banks said. “Over time, I’ve realized that my true roots lie in what makes people feel good, [which is] self-love; that’s what this album is about. When you start loving yourself, you are forced to recognize and notice what isn’t for you.”
Born into a military family, Banks drew different perspectives of music through his upbringing in Germany, New Jersey and Atlanta before ultimately settling in Ohio. Being in the midst of trap-rap culture during his time in Atlanta, he says that if you’re looking for hollow autotuned rap, Spin probably won’t be the ideal soundscape. In fact, not fitting into mainstream standards is helping Banks weed out who his music isn’t for.
“At first, I wanted to aim for a more pop-driven record that could get lots of spins on radio and push myself out more in a regional manner,” he said. “Each song showcases a situation right before it spins out of control.”
Yet, Spin doesn’t sound as chaotic as Banks seems to
lead on. In fact, it’s quite relatable, with intricate spoken
word amidst a gentle piano (“Kev’s Interlude”), the all-too-
common frustrations of working a full-time gig (“4 AM”),
and anxiously wading through mall crowds (“Zooming
Thru”). With an emotive songwriting process, Banks shares
that his ideas are often spur-of-the-moment and generally
based on production.
“Sometimes I’ll roll through 20 to 30 beats a day until I find one that matches my mood. Once I choose the beat that I like, I generally work on the rhythm and tones that I want to get across. Then, the focus on the lyrics comes,” Banks says. “I try to talk through relatable subjects with a pop culture modern twist. If you listen to “Zooming Thru,” the song is about my card getting declined at a high fashion store. I like to play with eye catching themes and turn them into great songs.”
While a remainder of songs that didn’t make the cut on Spin will be featured on an impending project titled Elijah Banks & Friends, the rapper values collaborating with fellow Columbus-based artists to stay grounded. Part of 14-member collective Rawest4mation, a group of artists that uplift community arts culture, Banks aspires to one day run an indie label.
With a structural team in place, Banks credits Spin executive producer Kevin Kesicki with piano instrumentation and the cohesive flow of the album, alongside DJ B Redi, Banks’ official DJ. With plans of one day throwing niche cultural events, Banks hopes to eventually test his walk on the runway, having previously modeled for local streetwear brand Good Behavior. Nearly two years after making a splash at Breakaway Festival, Banks is preparing to showcase his diverse instrumentation and creative material at his next show on Valentine’s Day in New York City, backed by his band The Balance. Though his music is leading Banks to spaces outside of Columbus, he says that these performances would be nearly impossible without hometown support.
“I asked myself at the end of last year what  holds for me,” he
said. “Many people say [Columbus doesn’t] have talent but honestly, I
truly believe you have everything you need for the things to bubble, minus
one thing: We need to cross support and take our consumers seriously.”
Though 2020 has just started, with an intentional feel-good sound on Spin, Banks has his sights set on finishing the year more consistent than he’s begun. It’ll be exciting to hear.
Elijah Banks’ music is available on Spotify. Follow him on
Twitter @elijahwonbanks and Instagram @elijahbanksmusic.
In the art world, there’s a commonly held misconception that the best work deals exclusively with the biggest and most define able topics: love, death, and thought.
Printmaker Christine Abbott debunks this idea with her recent work in “Visible Ink”, a group show featuring members of the Phoenix Rising Printmaking Cooperative, now on display at the OSU Faculty Club. Abbott’s quiet, often formal work depicts lush, flattened interior scenes without people. While they depict everyday scenes, they somehow keep us coming back for more, to explore the delicate coloring and formal layers of each piece, or to ruminate on the idea of house and home.
Phoenix Rising, which has been active in Columbus for more than 20 years, offers members printmaking materials and equipment to create with. The non-profit organization also holds printmaking workshops for the Columbus community, as well as one-on-one lessons, making it a resource for artists of all skill levels
(614) sat down with Abbott to discuss her recent work and what it’s
like as an active member of a printmaking co-op.
Can you start by talking about your own work in the show?
2017 marked a return to printmaking for me, but the imagery for
this series, the interior scenes that are in “Visible Ink” actually
started in St. Louis [after Abbott completed an MFA program at
The year that I lived in St. Louis, I lived in a carriage house and cleaned [the owner’s] home in exchange for living over their garage in a nice part of town. So I got to know the family pretty well, and obviously cleaned their house frequently. I found that being in the same space daily inspired me to explore those spaces in my own work. And so when I had kids and was at home all the time, your home is a metaphor in a lot of ways; there are so many layers of meaning.
What do you want people to take from your work in the show?
My goal as an artist when I make work is to create an entry point where anyone can connect with it. The cookies are kind of on the shelf, if you will, but the more time you spend with the imagery and the body of work, the more you discover and engage with.
For me, I want an immediate entry point, I want something to grab me right away, but then I also want there to be more compiled than that. It’s a balancing act, but it’s an intuitive one.
You use silk-screen for one of your pieces in the show. What attracted you to working in that format?
First of all, it’s great for color, and the formal qualities of my work are
really important to me.
Also, there’s a physicality to screen printing that I love. With silk-
screening you’re working with a squeegee, and the paint is thick. It’s like
yogurt. The whole time you’ve got this goopy ink and you’re trying to get
something that’s slick and at to even out. But what that means is that the
bigger the piece you’re working on, the bigger the squeegee you use, and
the more physical it becomes.
Screen printing has this incredibly rich history as well, but it’s not
something people always understand is a part of their everyday life as
well. It creates the shirts we wear, the signage we see all the time.
Visible Ink is a group show, which is a pretty unique format. How does that work?
There are just over 30 pieces from 17 different artists. Part of the advantage of being a Phoenix Rising member is that you’re working side by side with great artists like Anne Cushman, and you can
pitch a group show. Before I became a member they had a show at the
Zanesville Museum of Art, and it’s really great for that as a part of what
you’re doing professionally.
How else has being part of a co-op benefitted your work and practice?
First of all, there’s a natural flow of ideas between co-op members. You can get feedback on your work and technical help too. Plus, you’re exhibiting your work with other people, so you’re naturally developing relationships as you show together and work together. I think it’s very organic.
If I were to move to another city, it’s definitely something I would do. I used to rent a studio space and while that was helpful, it’s not as relationship building as being part of a cooperative. I tell this to my students; I encourage them if they ever move to a city, I’d join a co-op for the professional association and the opportunity to exhibit under the group name as well.
Another reason why I like print- making co-op is the fact that you work with shared gear and equipment. Most people don’t own their own printmaking press; they’re heavy and costly. That collaboration is part of image making; it’s part of printmaking.
Visible Ink, the Phoenix Rising Printmaking Cooperative’s group exhibition, is on display at the OSU Faculty Club, 181 S Oval Drive, through February 21. To learn more, visit phoenixrisingprintmaking.org.
Each January, we feature the movers and shakers of the city in in-depth, in-person interviews that dig into their backgrounds, their plans, and what ties them to the capital city. While our interview issue subjects are all Columbus-based, their stories are universal. So settle in, cozy up, and give yourself some you-time. You’ll want to read every word.
Saeed Jones has traveled across the country promoting his new memoir and chosen Columbus for his own next chapter.
Author and new Columbus transplant Saeed Jones finally has a break after wrapping up his 16-city tour to promote his new memoir How We Fight for Our Lives. It’s a book that isn’t solely about his past, but is designed as an earnest conversation with readers. The book succeeds Jones’ previous poetry collections and a stint as Executive Editor of Culture at BuzzFeed, and is already receiving numerous honors and highly- publicized acclaim.
“It took a long time to write the book, almost a decade. So,
I had a lot of time to think about writing it [being] one thing,
but when you publish it, it becomes something different. I tried
not to think so much about other people and the audience, but
I think I trusted that if I could write to myself sincerely [and]
candidly, that would be a bridge for other people,” he said.
“It’s like you’re encountering someone when they just had a
transformative experience. Something that’s really important for
me in my writing is the cost of silence and the ways we silence
ourselves. I think it’s powerful—as a writer, with the fortune I’ve
had in my career—for people to be like, ‘I’m going through it’, and
for me to be one more person who goes, ‘Me too.’”
Though some authors intend to tell their stories later in life, Jones wanted to focus his story on the time period from his upbringing in Texas through his mid-twenties to capture a specific ethos that informed his narrative. Concerned that segments of his life would become deemed irrelevant to readers, he found the immediacy of the news sparked him to publish the book sooner than later. Soon after Jones considered writing in detail about the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, which shifted the LGBTQ+ conversation, the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting occurred.
“Whenever I would get a little hard on myself about the
book’s intentions, it felt like America would go, ‘We gotta do
this now,’” Jones said. ”Everything’s not perfect but a lot has
changed from 1998. [While writing,] I was like, ‘I don’t know if
it’ll be a perfect book, but it’s gonna be the book that I want and
After his mother’s passing in 2011, Jones is attentive to
their relationship in How We Fight for Our Lives, endearingly
dedicating the book to her even after a moment of uncertainty
that occurred when he came out. In spite of having a vibrant
relationship with his mother, Jones jokes that the two weren’t
able to naturally discuss sexuality. Promoting the memoir before
Thanksgiving, Jones mentions that some LGBTQ+ readers
confided in him about their own awkward conversations
“Sure, it’s important for us to write about clear and present danger, whether that’s police brutality, homophobic or
racially-driven violence, [but] I think that it’s also important
for us to pay attention to the more subtle hurts that come to
define us. Sometimes those hurts are a result of failings; loved
ones who just can’t support us because they’re like ‘I don’t get
it’ and they kind of give up,” he said. “My mom was working two
jobs, so a lot of times she was just tired. She was like, ‘Sorry, we
can’t have a heartfelt conversation today, I gotta go to my second
job.’ That had an impact on me, and I know that has an impact
on a lot of other people in those moments. In any meaningful,
long-lasting relationships—certainly family relationships—it
is going to be complicated. If you don’t have multiple colors in
how you’re thinking about that relationship, the truth is that
something is being deadened, something is being intentionally
or unintentionally ignored or silenced.”
An avid reader of works by Margaret Atwood and Audre
Lorde, Jones recognizes a similar urgency from his memoir
through his influence James Baldwin, admitting to reading his
1956 novel Giovanni’s Room repeatedly, revisiting it at different
points of his life to gain a new perspective. Identifying with
different characters each time, Jones focused essentially on
Baldwin’s deconstruction of queerness and social dynamics,
which intersected American politics with racial identity.
“[Baldwin] wasn’t going to pretend that there was this monolithic
Blackness. He wasn’t just going to pretend that there weren’t
Black men—who he was advocating for in terms of civil rights—
who weren’t homophobic. He was like ‘We’re gonna do all this
together’” Jones said. “He’s drawing from his background in
Christianity, but he’s changed; he’s not practicing his faith in the
same way. He [was] just doing a very good job of showing how
we’re in flux and that it’s natural and better to embrace that. I
feel like that set me up to start paying attention.”
Habitually enthusiastic about settling in Columbus (or what
he calls “the promised land”), Jones speaks gleefully about The
Great Migration and Ohio boasting essential Black authors—Paul
Laurence Dunbar, Jacqueline Woodson, Hanif Abdurraqib and
Toni Morrison. While he notes that Black authors have thrived
in Ohio through a formidable writing scene, in How We Fight for
Our Lives, Jones touches keenly on the fragility of Black life. Days
prior to our conversation marked the one-year anniversary of
the death of 16-year-old Julius Tate, who was shot by Columbus
police during a sting operation.
“If we’re able to villainize people we have wronged—and
Julius was certainly wronged—it eases the rhetoric of brushing
the wrong aside,” Jones said. “It happens so often and so much
of our culture grooms all of us to move on. I’m not the one to
say what justice for Julius and for Black people impacted by that
violence looks like, but I would love to hear it. I have no interest
in telling people to be quiet. I’m a writer, so I think a lot about
editing and revision, and how you polish and the drafts you don’t
want people to see. Cities are text, too.”
While Columbus continues to be a work in progress through
systematic tensions, Jones is embracing the city’s tangible
LGBTQ+ scene after residing in New York City, Atlanta, and
San Francisco. In support of the Black Queer & Intersectional
Collective, he attended the Columbus March for Black Trans
Women in November, where he felt a sense of cohesiveness within
the city. “I feel like the march was a great example of waking me
up—unsurprisingly, it’s easier for cisgender gay men to live and
feel embraced here than Black trans women in Columbus,” Jones
said. “The stakes are high, but it feels possible. Here it feels like,
‘start reading up, go to that march, talk to people,’ as opposed to
‘here’s the finished story.’”
With a story far from over, Jones reveals that his next life work is to write about joy to balance the scales with his past struggle within How We Fight for Our Lives. Avidly writing about pain and loss, he vows to dabble into more written frameworks outside of his comfort zone. “I feel like I’ve written about myself so damn much, maybe learning to write in other forms—fiction—would be fun. I want to learn more, I feel that’s when I’m most alive, when I’m learning and realizing that I’m learning,” he said. “That’s when I feel fully present as a person, not when I think I know the beginning, middle and end.”
Follow Saeed Jones on Twitter and Instagram at @theferocity.