This fall, the past meets the present as the I, Too, Sing America: Harlem Renaissance at 100 citywide arts collaboration shifts into high gear. While this initiative celebrates an important historical arts movement from a century ago, it's also about new works being created by black artists today. That fusion of tradition and innovation carries through this fall's arts season, which offers new local theater, music and visual arts alongside time-tested classics and venerated national performers. Here's our curated list of what's exciting this fall.


“Highball: You Are What You Wear”

Short North Arts District, Oct. 26–27

For two fabulous nights, Highball turns the masquerade element of Halloween into a couture event, drawing as many as 40,000 to the Short North for the city’s most elaborate costume party. Street and runway will blend seamlessly as partygoers take to heart the 2018 theme, “You Are What You Wear.” $7–$130.

“Lineage: A Collection of Short Ballets”

Davidson Theatre, Riffe Center, Oct. 26–28, Nov. 1–3

BalletMet will open the 2018–19 season with a collection of three works by storied New York choreographers spanning three generations: George Balanchine, Christopher Wheeldon and Justin Peck. $29–$77.


Titian’s Lady in White: A Renaissance Mystery

Columbus Museum of Art, through Dec. 9

In honor of the CMA’s 140th birthday this year, Columbus’ sister city of Dresden, Germany, is loaning the museum a masterpiece from its own art museum, the Gemäldegalerie. The lady in Titian’s 1555 portrait is clad in elegant white silk, and her intimate, wary glance provides the mystery. Is she the painter’s daughter? Or perhaps his lover? The exhibition includes other portraits from the period by painters such as Anthony Van Dyck and John Michael Wright.

Ohio Art League Juried Exhibition

Shot Tower Gallery, Fort Hayes, through Oct.12

The annual juried exhibition is the flagship event for the Ohio Art League, established more than a century ago to support and encourage Ohio artists. Past jurors for the exhibition have included Grant Wood, Robert Indiana and Edward Hopper. This year’s jurors are Columbus painter Roger Williams and French photographer Sophie Blais; the exhibition, held in different locations each year, will be in Fort Hayes’ Shot Tower Gallery.

Mickalene Thomas: I Can’t See You Without Me

Wexner Center for the Arts, through Dec. 30

You’ve likely seen Mickalene Thomas’ rhinestone-encrusted portrait of Oprah, but that’s just an entry point to a huge body of mixed-media, collage-inspired, multidisciplinary work, often focused on images of black female beauty, power and sexual identity. This exhibition will explore Thomas’ incorporation of a range of artistic traditions and history in her work.

Imagining a Better World: The Artwork of Nelly Toll

Decorative Arts Center of Ohio, through Dec. 30

Hiding with her mother for 18 months in a small bedroom in the apartment of a Catholic family in Nazi-occupied Poland, a young Jewish girl began writing stories and painting watercolor images of happy children and carefree school days. This traveling exhibition provides a window into the mind of a child trying to make sense of the terrible history that was unfolding around her.

The History of Animation at CCAD

Cloyd Family Animation Center, through Nov. 2

This fall, the Columbus College of Art & Design gets a new animation center, which will include state-of-the-art facilities like a virtual reality drawing lab and a dedicated stop-action lab. The center, located in CCAD’s Design Studios on Broad, will also include a gallery, and its inaugural exhibition will feature works by influential CCAD alumni.

Season One: arms ache avid aeon

Beeler Gallery, Columbus College of Art & Design, Oct. 2–March 17, 2019

Recently installed director of exhibitions Jo-ey Tang will curate this exhibition dedicated to the work of the New York collective of queer women artists called “Fierce Pussy.” Formed in 1991, the collective’s provocative early projects included renaming New York City streets after lesbian heroines and redesigning the restroom at an LGBT community center. The exhibition opens with a tour conducted by Tang and the artists.

I, Too, Sing America

Columbus Museum of Art, Oct. 9–Jan. 20, 2019

Writer Wil Haygood, who never lived in New York’s Harlem neighborhood but has spent much of his career studying and documenting the lives of black American heroes who emerged from its culture, curated this landmark exhibition. The show, which explores the blossoming of the arts that germinated and spread from Harlem between the great wars, will include paintings, photographs and a selection of books, sheet music and print ephemera of the period.

The Mystical Arts of Tibet

Coffman Park Pavilion, Dublin, Oct. 10–14

While much of the art world focuses on preservation, imminent destruction is part of the beauty of a mandala sand painting. The monks of Drepung Loseling Monastery will carry out this ritual art form at the B.R.E.A.D. (Building Responsibility, Equality and Dignity) Festival of the Arts, Oct. 10–14 at Dublin’s Coffman Park. Both the opening ceremony, during which the site of the painting is consecrated, and the closing ceremony, when the millions of grains of colored sand are swept away, will be open to the public.

Black Heritage Through Visual Rhythms Juried Art Show

Ohio History Center, Oct. 13–Jan. 31, 2019

This juried exhibition of art focused on black American culture, history and experience, sponsored by the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center, the Ohio History Connection, The King Arts Complex and the African American Visual Artists Guild, comes to the Ohio History Center for its fifth year. The show will include the best entries from across the U.S. in the categories of social justice, identity and surroundings.

Fashion Week Columbus

Various locations, Oct. 14–20

The convergence of an internationally renowned art and design school with the headquarters of several national clothing brands has made Columbus the third-most-popular city for fashion designers, much to the surprise of some coastal types. We celebrate our style for a week in October, with events throughout the city ranging from a “high fashion tea runway show” at the Columbus Museum of Art to a forum on the art of beauty.


Harlem Gospel Choir

Lincoln Theatre, Oct. 5

Gospel, itself a hybrid of African traditions and Christian inspiration, is at the root of much of what we call American music: blues, soul and rock ’n’ roll. The country’s most famous gospel performing group will raise the roof in Columbus for one October night as part of the Harlem Renaissance at 100 citywide celebration. $30–$40.

Celtic Thunder X

Ohio Theatre, Oct. 7

The hugely popular, public-television-approved Irish boy-band Celtic Thunder is celebrating its 10th anniversary (hence the X) with a new show that includes 23 songs ranging from traditional to contemporary. Expect elaborate choreography, lots of costume changes, a top-notch backup band and plenty of crooning. $34–$74.

Shawn Colvin

Davidson Theatre, Riffe Center, Oct. 12

It’s been almost 20 years since Shawn Colvin won the Best Contemporary Folk Album Grammy for Steady On in 1989; three more Grammys (including an Americana Trailblazer award) and seven nominations later, she is still a mainstay of the contemporary folk scene. She’ll be at the Riffe Center for an intimate acoustic concert Oct. 12. $32–$42.

Leonard Bernstein Centennial Celebration

Ohio Theatre, Oct. 12–13

Leonard Bernstein conducted many of the world’s greatest orchestras and brought classical music to the masses with a lecture series on public television, but his most lasting legacy may be the music he composed. In celebration of the legendary maestro’s centennial, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra will play an all-Bernstein concert featuring his Broadway tunes from “On the Town,” “West Side Story” and “Candide.” $10–$71.

Bassist Edgar Meyer and the Dover String Quartet

Southern Theatre, Oct. 13

Double bassist Edgar Meyer was awarded a MacArthur “genius” award in 2002 for his unique mastery of the difficult instrument, and his extraordinary musicianship has allowed him to collaborate with musicians as diverse as Yo-Yo Ma and Nickel Creek. Chamber Music Columbus brings him to the Southern for a concert with the Dover String Quartet in which he will play his own composition, “Quintet for Strings,” along with Rossini’s “Duo for Bass and Cello.” $15–$55.


Cinema, Expanded

Hopkins Hall Gallery, Oct. 15–Nov. 19

OSU’s Hopkins gallery will become a white-walled setting for a series of live projection performances exploring a vision of cinema that goes beyond the traditional single-projector, black-box theatrical screening. Presented in conjunction with the series will be one earlier event at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Berlin-based Ojoboca, on Oct. 2. That show is $6–$8; the rest of the series is free.


Wexner Center for the Arts, Oct. 25–28

This festival exploring films that stretch the boundaries of documentary tradition returns to the Wexner Center for a second year. It will include a master class with award-winning filmmaker Yance Ford, appearances by directors Robert Green, Leilah Weinraub, RaMell Moss, Chase Whiteside and Erick Stoll and screenings of more than a dozen films. Festival pass $38–$45.


Speak Easy

Wild Goose Creative, Sept. 6, Oct. 4 and Nov. 1

If you have a story to tell—one you can tell in 10 minutes or less—come to Wild Goose Creative and take the microphone on the first Thursday of the month. Speak Easy, Columbus’ answer to the popular storytelling series The Moth, is a lively, open-mic evening of personal reflections and tall tales. $5.

Amor Towles

Upper Arlington Public Library, Oct. 14

The bestselling author of “A Gentleman in Moscow” and “Rules of Civility” is this year’s selection for the Upper Arlington Author Series. $10–$35; author reception $50.



Where are They Now? 

Following a decade of change at several Columbus performing-arts organizations, fans may wonder what happened to a favorite conductor or dancer. We checked in with four of the arts scene’s past leading lights to learn about their second acts.

Dancer Jimmy Orrante’s tenure at BalletMet, which included the lead role in “Dracula,” began during the 1994–95 season and ran through the 2014–15 season. By then, the dancer recognized it was time to quit.

“It was a full 20 years,” says Orrante, 45, who struggled to balance his evolving artistry with the aging process.

“You don’t really mature as a dancer until you have a few years under your belt,” he says. “By the time you mature as an artist, then you kind of lose your athletic ability a little bit.”

Orrante has continued to choreograph, a skill he honed at BalletMet, which premiered his adaptation of “The Great Gatsby.” This past spring, Orrante co-choreographed “Cinderella” for the New Albany Ballet Co., where he also is on the faculty.

One thing Orrante does not miss is fame. “Even when people would come up to me after shows … I would get a little bit shy,” he says. “I don’t feel like I need to search for the spotlight.”

Another BalletMet dancer, Adrienne Benz, traded the limelight for family life after the 2016-17 season. Benz, 33, had already given birth to her son, Clive, now 4 years old, and wanted more children. “My career was a little bit selfish for myself, and now … my job as a mom is completely selfless,” she says.

The dancer, known for her appearances in “The Nutcracker,” wanted to exit on a high note. “I could’ve continued for probably another good five or more years,” Benz says.

Since retiring, Benz has relocated to Hudson, Ohio, where, earlier this year, she gave birth to her second son, Jude. When her children grow older, Benz plans to teach dance or fitness, but for now, her time on stage is an increasingly distant memory.

“No new people I meet where I am now know my past,” Benz says. “They just assume I’m a stay-at-home mom, but I did have a career, and it was a long one and it was a hard one.”

Also content with his decision to move on is former ProMusica Chamber Orchestra conductor (and co-founder) Timothy Russell, who turned over the group’s leadership to David Danzmayr in 2013.

“One of my proudest achievements is the fact that ProMusica has lived on and is thriving,” says Russell, 63, who resides in Phoenix, Arizona. Russell conducts ballets with the Phoenix Symphony. “I love the ballet,” he says. “That is my conducting outlet.”

Meanwhile, longtime Columbus Symphony Orchestra conductor Albert-George Schram—familiar to summertime concertgoers for leading Picnic With the Pops concerts until his departure in 2016—uses guest-conducting assignments around the country to keep on the move.

Schramm, 69, lives in Palm Beach, Florida, but retains a link with Columbus thanks to his leadership of a male chorus at Linworth’s Lord of Life Lutheran Church, of which he is a longtime member.

“Once a year or twice a year, we would have one rehearsal with a hell of a lot of beer and a pile of brownies, and I would teach them three or four songs and then we would sing in church,” Schram says. “And I still keep on doing that.” —Peter Tonguette