18 New Reasons to Visit Columbus, Indiana | Midwest Living

18 New Reasons to Visit Columbus, Indiana

Columbus, Indiana, just added a collection of interactive temporary art installations to the city known for its architecture.

Henry Moore’s gray-green Large Arch sculpture has a new look this season: Conversation Plinth, a series of concentric circular wood platforms that wrap around and out from the arch.

Conversation Plinth, by the IKD design team, is one of 18 temporary art installations unveiled by Exhibit Columbus late last month. The installations will be on view through Nov. 26.

Conversation Plinth

Conversation Plinth wraps around and out from Henry Moore's Large Arch; across the street is Eliel Saarinen's 1942 First Christian Church. Photo: Hadley Fruits for Exhibit Columbus.

Every piece in the exhibit is kid-friendly, outdoors and interactive. Sitting on these items, touching them and walking through them is not only OK— it’s encouraged. A couple of them light up at night, and all are made from reused, recycled or repurposed materials.

Exhibit Columbus was founded to celebrate the city’s design heritage and encourage a new generation to explore the town’s attractions. It kicked off last year with a symposium and organizers plan to alternate symposiums and art installations in future years.

"Exhibit Columbus was created in part to answer the question, 'What's next for Columbus?' '" said Mayor Jim Leinhoop.

Columbus is home to one of America’s best displays of architecture, thanks to local businessman J. Irwin Miller. In the 1950s, he launched a program to subsidize buildings with the stipulation that they be designed by great architects. He wanted to foster a world-class community, and he helped fund the investment because he believed that, “Mediocrity is expensive.” The result is a town filled with more than 70 buildings—including churches, banks, schools and homes—designed by famed architects.

This fall, visitors can enjoy the new art installations while also exploring the architecture. The installations include works by international artists as well as regional college and high school students. Grab a map at the Visitors Center for a self-guided walking tour and download an app for additional narration as you go.

It’s easy to tackle the whole art tour in about an hour if you keep moving, but many people will want to linger. Most of the installations are along several blocks of Washington Street, the downtown main drag, each clearly marked with a yellow “flag” and appropriate signage.

The Washington Street exhibits seem the more modest of the bunch – Pause concrete block benches that look like oversized pastel dice; a handful of Columbus Circles, short cylindrical structures attached to buildings; and the quilt-like Theoretical Foyer, a colorful bricked corner. The Playhouse is a depth-perception illusion, using a series of white frames in decreasing sizes to create a walk-in structure with bench seating that gets smaller the farther back you go.


The Playhouse

Top: Pause; Bottom: The Playhouse. Photos: Hadley Fruits for Exhibit Columbus.

Some of the bigger and more impressive pieces lie just off the Washington Street corridor, including The Exchange, a huge white cut-out rectangular structure you can walk through or sit in, and Conversation Plinth.

The Exchange

The Exchange. Photo: Hadley Fruits for Exhibit Columbus.

A few blocks to the east at Central Middle School are five large-scale pieces created by student groups at Midwestern colleges that offer programs in architecture and interior design.  University of Cincinnati students created the open dome structure of Alchemy with cast-off Rookwood Pottery tiles in a rainbow of colors.


Alchemy exterior (left) and interior (right); photos by Amy Lynch.

A little further afield, you can drive, walk or bike over to the lovely Mill Race Park to see Another Circle, a group of 2,800 pieces of Indiana limestone scattered and stacked to compose a 3.5-acre circle.

Another Circle

Part of Another Circle. Photo: Hadley Fruits for Exhibit Columbus.

If you're in the area, consider timing your visit so you can drop in to one of Columbus Pump House's “Drinking About Design” meetups, held Thursday afternoons. The meetups include a happy hour and presentations from designers and architects.

For more information about visiting Columbus, see Midwest Living's Columbus Trip Guide


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