Q&A with Betsy Pandora, Short North Alliance executive director
As a Columbus native who lived in the Short North for 10 years, Betsy Pandora knows the district well. On Aug. 12, Pandora will take over as executive director of the Short North Alliance. She has plans to expand the district's arts and culture scene, as well as make it effortless for both residents and visitors to enjoy.
Pandora has an extensive background in the arts sector of Columbus, having worked at the Wexner Center for the Arts, CAPA, COSI and MadLab Theatre. She most recently worked at Columbus Public Health creating and running projects to make the city more bike-able and walk-able, including Columbus Art Walks and Columbus Green Walks initiatives.
Pandora cites her experience and passion for the district as the assets that will guide her in this new position as she works to continue the Short North's "variety and vibrancy."
With my arts background there's certainly a strong interest on the arts and an interest on the part of my leaders and the Short North Alliance. To see art infused more and more into the things we do in all varieties and all media. Something to recognize is the district is multi-disciplinary and not just traditional visual arts, or the more traditional art forms. Those are represented and they're wonderful, but you have culinary artists, fashion designers and really creative retailers - really so many entrepreneurs that infuse creativity and artistic sensibility in what they do. Just as much as we want to see visual and performance art, we want to really elevate the creative aspects of all the businesses.
One of the biggest things I tend to focus on is it's such an exciting district that so many people want to experience it [and] live here. We need to make it as easy as possible for people to get in and out of the district, park in the district and have the best experience. I think really focusing on the parking issue - the city is doing a study right now and the Short North has a great work group that's formed to address parking issues. Getting that figured out in the short-term is paramount.
Something else is heightening public art. There's a really strong committee of the Short North Alliance that is focusing on public art. I think you'll see more visible public art projects in the near future and maybe a more comprehensive vision or plan for public art. The city as a whole has taken more of an interest in public art and the Short North has been such a leader that anything is on the table.
My favorite piece of public art in the Short North is the arches. I think the arches are a piece of public art. Above and beyond all of the wonderful murals and pieces we have, that would be my favorite public work.
It's [also] important to have a diversity of arts experiences in the external areas of the district. We have such great alleys, small spaces and pocket parks that there are all kinds of ideas for pop-up projects. And just continuing to make sure there is a great arts presence; that artists can participate in the district as well.
Something else I think is going to be really big for the district, that isn't so much an institution but an event, is Highball Halloween. It's just grown and grown. I think we're looking at seeing it evolve into a festival in the caliber of things that are nationally acclaimed - South by Southwest, Pitchfork or Mardi Gras; a destination to celebrate Halloween and fashion. It'll be a two-day festival this year and continue to be an event where all people come out to showcase their creativity.
I want to continue to see a mix of offerings in the district. Having a dense concentration of places for people to eat and wonderful places for people to shop, buy home goods or art in galleries. Having that mix is what's really important and meaningful because it creates and keeps that interest alive.
Hometown: Upper Arlington
Neighborhood: Mrion Village
Day job: Executive director of Short North Alliance
Favorite local artists: Dan Gerdeman, Clint Reno
Favorite Short North restaurant: Haiku (especially for Gallery Hop)
Favorite band: The Avett Brothers
Favorite local bands: The Spikedrivers, Floorwalkers, Hocking River String Band, Tim Easton, Megan Palmer
Favorite color: Purple