Best of Columbus 2018: Editors' Picks for Arts & Entertainment

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly
ArtPaths in the Short North

Jam Session

It's a typical Friday night at the Westin hotel adjacent to the Southern Theatre. Jazz melodies float through the lobby as a small band of musicians play and interact with fans who just watched them on the big stage next door. This is a Columbus Jazz Orchestra jam session, an informal show that has followed every Friday night performance at the Southern for the past six seasons. “It's an act of true improvisation,” says Kimberlee Goodman, CJO's manager. “You never know what players will come over, and they play everything [by] ear.”

Historic Newcomers

COSI is becoming a hub of new cultural development thanks to some unlikely visitors: dinosaurs. A first-time partnership between the center and New York City's American Museum of Natural History brought two new exhibition areas to the main floor, starting with the AMNH Dinosaur Gallery last fall. A second AMNH Exhibition Gallery features rotating exhibits, currently displaying Traveling the Silk Road: Ancient Pathway to the Modern World until Sept. 3.

Bird-Watching, Beginners' Edition

You won't have to search hard to find colorful birds in Glen Echo Park; they're painted inside a huge tunnel under the Indianola Avenue bridge. The larger-than-life ornithological mural depicts 35 native species at 6 to 8 feet tall, painted by local artist Clint Davidson. Husband-and-wife duo Tim Lai and Eliza Ho, of Tim Lai Architect, designed the project in 2012 through their nonprofit arm, ALTernative, in an effort to curb graffiti under the bridge.

Eastern European Import

When the Columbus Symphony Orchestra sold out the Ohio Theatre for its Russian Winter Festival in January, its first-ever sellout for a classical concert, a beaming Rossen Milanov was inspired to teach the audience a new trick: synchronized clapping. It's how Europeans show their enthusiasm when they're extra-impressed, said the Bulgarian-born conductor. Since then, symphony fans have repeated the feat at nearly every CSO performance.

Celebration of a Dying Art

For nearly two decades, the last factory in the country that regularly produces washboards—the Columbus Washboard Co. in Logan—has hosted the Washboard Music Festival. This year's festival honored the factory's 123rd anniversary on Father's Day weekend with live music from more than a dozen washboard-based bands. There were also free tours of the factory, including a view of the “world's largest washboard,” perfect for the owner of the “world's largest dirty laundry pile.”

Crowd of Dudes

“Sometimes there's a man, well, he's the man for his time and place,” says Sam Elliott's narrator at the beginning of “The Big Lebowski.” That man is The Dude, the movie's slacker antihero, and that place is Clintonville's Studio 35, which held its 10th annual Dude-A-Thon in January. This year's three-day event featured four sold-out screenings, beer tastings from regional craft brewers and the ever-popular costume contest, in which fans come dressed as characters like Jeff Bridges' The Dude, or El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing.

Heavyweight Actor

Like a combination of “Gettysburg,” “Stop-Loss” and “The Time Machine,” Artie Knapp's short film “From Gettysburg to Baghdad” details the unlikely intersection of two soldiers' lives across more than 150 years. The bizarre 14-minute movie also features a familiar face: James “Buster” Douglas, who makes a cameo as a priest. Will it bring Hollywood glory to the Columbus native and former heavyweight boxing champ? Probably not, but nobody thought he'd beat Mike Tyson either.

Eyesore Remedy

Even construction can be art in Columbus. The Short North Arts District and the Greater Columbus Arts Council teamed up with seven Columbus College of Art & Design students for ArtPaths, a project that transformed more than 400 construction barriers on High Street into a collection of 23 murals in the style of the popular “Where's Waldo?” children's books. The murals turn the dreaded, omnipresent barricades into an open-air gallery.

Collaborative Spirit

Local arts groups are taking the city's Columbus Way motto of cooperation to a new level with I, Too, Sing America: The Harlem Renaissance at 100. Eighteen organizations—including BalletMet, CATCO, OSU's Frank W. Hale Black Cultural Center, the Jazz Arts Group, The King Arts Complex, Lincoln Theatre and Thurber House—are collaborating for the yearlong celebration of African-American artists and the connections between Columbus and Harlem. More than two dozen film screenings, literary events, concerts and dance performances are taking place all around the city; here are several happening this summer. More information can be found at

Flashback 2010: 1980s artifacts

One of the most recognizable hats in rock 'n' roll is on display at the Ohio Historical Society. An exhibit devoted to Devo (the new wave band from Akron) includes some items familiar to anyone who watched MTV in the early 1980s.