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Decade in Review: Arts & Entertainment

Linda Lee Baird

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We’ve always known we live in an arts city. The Short North has been holding its monthly Gallery Hop for 35 years now, and the neighborhood has been synonymous with art for as long as its younger residents can remember. But in the 2010s, we’ve witnessed the creativity associated with that neighborhood boil over, spilling across the city and sprouting a new arts district in Franklinton.

The opening of the Gravity project this year represented something new for Columbus: a mixed-use development that put art created by local artists at the center of its design. It didn’t happen in isolation, either. Gravity is walking distance from the Columbus Idea Foundry, another city institution that came up during the 2010s, providing space for makers to make, well, just about anything. Turning an old shoe factory into a creative workspace was not only an impressive act of preservation in a city that generally likes its buildings shiny and new, but also an engaging way to inspire and train the next generation of artists.

The explosion of art happened outside of these neighborhoods as well. In addition to the opening of a new wing in the Columbus Art Museum, the museum also opened the Pizzuti Collection in the Short North, extending its reach beyond Broad Street.

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This was the decade that the talents of Columbusites—those born and raised here, and those who have chosen to call this place home—have been recognized well beyond the boundaries of our city and state. Here are a few of the people and moments in arts and entertainment that put Columbus on the national map during the 2010s, helping us rightly claim our space as a creative and cultural hub.

Fashion Week Columbus

The rest of the country may have been surprised when Columbus started making waves as the third-largest fashion city outside of New York and Los Angeles in 2012. But the designers and industry professionals working here probably weren’t. As the longtime home of Victoria’s Secret, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Express, the city’s reputation as a leader of retail fashion is well-established.

What came into focus during this decade, however, is Columbus’ burgeoning reputation as a home to higher end designers. Fashion Week Columbus, organized by Thomas McClure, Founder and Executive Director of the Columbus Fashion Council, helped to put us on the map. McClure said he founded Fashion Week Columbus as a non-pro t organization “to provide a platform for local fashion designers and to provide scholarships for fashion design students.” This support helped solidify Columbus as a designers’ town.

“Because of Fashion Week Columbus and the Columbus Fashion Council, many of our designers have been able to kickstart their fashion design careers, making a living by doing what they love without moving to NYC or LA,” McClure said.

Over the past decade, other fashion events have sprung up across town. Going into 2020, it’s clear that the Columbus fashion scene shows no sign of slowing down—see the longevity of events like Highball if you have any doubt.

Maggie Smith’s Good Bones

You don’t often hear the term “viral poem,” but then again, you don’t often get to read poems like local writer Maggie Smith’s Good Bones. The poem’s message, ending with a challenge to readers—This place could be beautiful, right? You could make this place beautiful.—resonated during a turbulent year, so much so that the BBC and Public Radio International called it the “Official Poem of 2016.” Since its publication, it’s popped up across cultural genres, including a reading on the CBS show Madam Secretary, as well as inspiring a song by The Mountain Goats.

Nina West

You might as well call 2019 The Year of Nina West. Not only did she serve as the Grand Marshall of the Columbus Pride Parade, West also represented Columbus on RuPaul’s Drag Race, winning the title of Miss Congeniality and placing sixth overall. If that wasn’t enough, she became the first person ever to walk the red carpet at the Emmys in full drag, and released a music video in support of HIV testing. Rumor has it she’ll be back on Celebrity Drag Race and starring in a show for Opera Columbus in 2020, giving us plenty to look forward to in the new year.

Festival Farewell

While the city’s art scene exploded during the 2010s, a few of our favorite festivals wrapped up for the final time during the decade. These include Independents’ Day, the Fashion Meets Music Festival, Alternative Fashion Week, and the PromoWest Fest. Luckily, the creativity and talent these festivals cultivated continues to grow.

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Arts & Culture

Watch: “World’s largest mural” in Short North is more than meets the eye

Regina Fox

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At a glance, "The Journey AR Mural" adorning the Graduate Columbus hotel in Short North is stunning. Look a little harder, and it actually comes to life.

Standing at over 107 feet tall and over 11,000 square feet of augmented reality, "The Journey AR Mural," is the world's largest AR mural, offering technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user's view of the real world, thus providing a composite view.

The gaily-painted snapdragons, hibiscus, Easter lilies, and hummingbirds bloom and fly when viewed through the Journey AR Mural app (free for iPhone and Android). Watch the murals come to life in the video below.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B7PRvBxpBkI/

Los Angeles-based artists Ryan Sarfati and Eric Skotnes (going by “Yanoe” and “Zoueh," respectively) are the creatives behind the project.

In an interview with Short North Arts District, Skotnes revealed he was inspired to take on the project after learning that Columbus is home to the second largest population of Somali immigrants in the country—he hopes the murals symbolize strength and prosperity for its viewers.

To learn more about The Journey AR Mural, visit shortnorth.org.

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Arts & Culture

Undercover: Unique music festival showcases Columbus music talent this weekend

Mike Thomas

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Since beginning in 2018, Columbus Covers Columbus (CCC) has grown into a signature event in the thriving local music scene. Now in its third year, this unique festival is centered on the concept of local musicians playing sets comprised entirely of music from other local acts.

CCC is the brainchild of Columbus music promoter Tony Casa, who wanted to create a showcase for a supportive community of local artists to share their mutual admiration for each other's music.

As entertaining as the event is for spectators, CCC doubles as a valuable networking opportunity for local entertainers and creatives.

"There are great local merchants, games, and tons of networking opportunities for everyone in the community," says Casa. "This isn’t just a great show, it’s like a proper festival—but in the winter."

Since its inception, the event has expanded to include stand-up comedy, poetry readings, burlesque performances, live podcast recordings, and more, all in the spirit of promoting and celebrating the Columbus creative community.

CCC will take place from January 17-19 at Classics Victory Live at 543 S High St. The event is 18+, with tickets available at the door for $10. For more info including a full list of artists and vendors, visit Columbus Covers Columbus on Facebook.

Cover photo by Catherine Lindsay photography.

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Arts & Culture

Columbus band snarls is bursting with promise on debut LP

Mike Thomas

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As the decade that birthed the fidget spinner and basically nothing else of note drew to a close, music blogs large and small dedicated astonishing amounts of digital ink to their inevitable “album/song/artist of the decade” rankings.

Usually restrained to a totally undaunting 100 items, these lists surveyed the topography of a ten year span that saw the legacy of rock music as we know it (straight, male, and horny) continue its gradual and unceremonious slide into irrelevance.

From relative newcomers like Courtney Barnett, Snail Mail, and Julien Baker, to established voices such as the Breeders, St. Vincent, and Sleater-Kinney, rock music in the 2010s was revitalized by female artists who enjoyed a larger portion of the spotlight in this decade than ever before.

Columbus-based alt-rockers snarls are firmly situated on this new wave, but the rapid success the group has enjoyed since forming in 2017 is entirely due to their own hard work and astonishing creative powers. Consisting of Chlo White on guitar and lead vocals, Riley Dean on bass and vocals, and sibling duo Mick and Max Martinez on guitar and drums respectively, snarls is the capital city’s contribution to the future of rock—and they won’t be contained to the 614 for long.

Photos: Brian Kaiser

Originating in the local DIY scene, snarls got their start playing house shows, eventually moving on to established venues throughout the city. The group’s sound incorporates influences from ‘90s grunge, to the emo stylings of bands like American Football, to the pop sensibilities of Halsey and Kesha. The result, as White puts it, is music that coalesces into a “melting pot of teenage angst.”

In the summer of 2019, snarls was propelled to a new level of notoriety when the video for the group’s single, “Walk in the Woods”—a glittering anthem of unrequited love sung over chorused-out guitars and with a hook more infectious than meningitis—premiered on the music blog Stereogum. The track also made the cut for the site’s “100 Favorite Songs of 2019” roundup.

“We didn’t even have a tripod, the camera was set on like four books and the backdrops kept fucking falling,” White recalls of filming the video, which the group self-produced.

“That song not only has given us more streaming, but has brought us so much press and cool shows,” Mick says of the track, which has accrued almost 40,000 streams on Spotify at the time of this writing. “I don’t think the Sleater-Kinney thing would ever have happened if that song wasn’t out. It’s crazy that just that one song alone has brought us so much opportunity.”

The Sleater-Kinney thing? That would be snarls opening for the legendary Pacific Northwest rockers at the Newport Music Hall on their recent tour stop in Columbus. While it was easily the biggest show in the young group’s career thus far in terms of profile and audience size, the members of snarls were up to the challenge.

“For me, it’s easy to switch between playing a house venue and playing the Newport,” Dean says confidently of the band’s milestone moment. “It’s still just a stage. It’s still just people watching me play my music. One’s just bigger.”

If the release of the group’s breakthrough single is any indication of snarls’ trajectory, it’s safe to assume big things are on the horizon. “Walk in the Woods” is just a taste of the group’s first full-length LP, titled Burst, which is planned for a Spring 2020 release. To help achieve their artistic vision for the album, snarls tapped Jon Fintel of Relay Recording to handle production duties.

“Jon has played a really important role,” Mick says of Fintel’s contributions to the recording process. “Not only does everything sound high-quality because of him, but even when we brought demos to him, it was like ‘let’s scrap this song because it doesn’t quite fit in, and I know that you guys can do something better.’ And then we wrote one of our favorite songs.”

For established fans, the description that snarls teases for their new release should come as no surprise: expect a long emotional arc cast across tracks that alternate between “perfect for dancing,” and others better suited to crying. For snarls, the completion of the recording provides a profound sense of accomplishment.

“I make a lot of art. I’m always making a photo, or doodling, or writing. But this is one of my—our—finer- crafted pieces of art that I am just really proud of, regardless of what happens with it, or if it goes anywhere,” says White. “If it just sits in a dark corner for the rest of my life, I’m still content. I’m just really proud of all the work that we collected in this little ten song record.”

Find snarls on all major streaming platforms. For tour dates, merch, and more, visit snarlsmusic.com

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