Columbus Art Galleries Offer World-Renowned Works

Peter Tonguette
Aminah Robinson's “Passing Through” is among the well-known Columbus artist's works at Hammond Harkins Galleries.

Between performing-arts venues, eclectic restaurants and ample residential options, Columbus is bustling with activity. Based on the quantity and quality of its museums and galleries, the city also places a priority on visual arts. In and around Downtown are a plethora of public institutions for art aficionados to appreciate paintings and sculptures, both ancient and modern.

Public Institutions

Who knew that Columbus was home to Edward Hopper and Pierre-Auguste Renoir? Actually, neither artist ever lived in Central Ohio, but works by each are included in the formidable permanent collection of the Columbus Museum of Art. In addition to honoring masters of generations past, the museum—founded in 1878 and currently overseen by executive director Nannette Maciejunes—has recently doubled down on its dedication to artists of our own age. In 2015, a new wing focused on contemporary art—the Margaret M. Walter Wing—was unveiled, showcasing exhibits as diverse as a selection of art associated with the now-defunct Columbus arm of the Pace Gallery and an overview of art from the Soviet Union. This year, the museum will present exhibits highlighting two artists with strong ties to Columbus: In a New Light: Alice Schille and the American Watercolor Movement (June 14–Sept. 29) and A Mile and a Half of Lines: The Art of James Thurber (Aug. 24–March 15, 2020).

As further evidence of its interest in up-to-date art appreciation, in January the Columbus Museum of Art completed its merger with the Pizzuti Collection, the contemporary-art center established in 2013 by local collectors Ron and Ann Pizzuti. Now known as the Pizzuti Collection of CMA, the institution in June opened its latest forward-looking exhibit in its 18,000-square-foot Short North facility: Jim Hodges, featuring more than 30 works from the highly regarded contemporary artist. The show continues through Sept. 22.

Government offices and performing-arts spaces fill the Vern Riffe Center for Government and the Arts, but on the first floor is a sprawling gallery set aside for visual arts. The Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Gallery offers changing exhibits throughout the year, including Thread Count: The Intersection of Mathematics and Fiber Art (May 2–July 6); Natural Expressions: A Student Curated Exhibit, a nature-focused show organized by four high school students (July 25–Oct. 19), and the gallery’s biennial juried exhibition (Nov. 1–Jan. 4, 2020).

Change is afoot at the Wexner Center for the Arts: Earlier this year, longtime director Sherri Geldin stepped down to be replaced by Johanna Burton. In spite of the shift, the center remains a destination for spectators with an appreciation for avant-garde, experimental and just plain offbeat art, from the stylish photography of Cindy Sherman to the unclassifiable installations of William Kentridge. Exhibits on tap in 2019 include Barbara Hammer: In This Body, featuring photography, collage and video pieces by the experimental artist; Cecilia Vicuna: Lo Precario, with sculptures by the Chilean artist; and a solo show of visual art by jazz pianist and composer Jason Moran (all exhibits run June 1–Aug. 11).

Also located on the OSU campus is the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, which often draws from its enormous collection of original comics and cartoon art to present exhibits in a pair of gallery spaces. Recent shows have highlighted Latinx comics and the work of the late New Yorker cartoonist Barbara Shermund. Upcoming exhibits center on the First Amendment and on comics and medicine (both exhibits run April 20–Oct. 20).

Not to be outdone is the art space associated with the Columbus College of Art & Design, the Beeler Gallery. Past exhibits include Roxy Paine's eerily evocative dioramas replicating modern spaces and the out-of-this-world paintings of the late former CCAD president Dennison Griffith. The innovation continues under the leadership of second-year director of exhibitions Jo-ey Tang, whose first exhibit, arms ache avid aeon, features pieces by a queer art collective.


In addition to public institutions, Columbus supports numerous commercial galleries for those who want to take a piece of art home. For glass creations, look no further than Hawk Galleries. Since its formation in 2002 by owner Tom Hawk, the gallery has specialized in representing artists whose medium of choice is glass. For a change of pace, this spring the gallery presented an exhibit of striking oil paintings by George Nick, but soon enough, Hawk will return to his gallery’s strengths: Master glass artists Bertil Vallien and Lino Tagliapietra will be given solo shows in September and November, respectively.

If your tastes run toward the tried and true, Keny Galleries in German Village may be the gallery for you. The lasting work of such leading American artists as Edward Hopper and Grant Wood have been on display during recent exhibits, while pieces by Gustave Baumann, Edna Hopkins and Alice Schille will be included in The Chicago Connection: American Modernist Works on Paper (1900–1945) (May 17–June 28). At the same time, James M. and Timothy C. Keny—co-owners of the gallery since its opening in 1980—are equally attentive to high quality contemporary work. Upcoming shows include spotlights on artists Eric Barth and Carol Snyder (Sept. 13–Nov. 1) and Lowell Tolstedt (Nov. 8–Dec. 2).


Central Ohio’s vibrant visual-arts scene extends to Franklinton. Among the organizations the area is home to is the Second Sight Project, a visual-arts residency that also presents exhibits. Already this year, Second Sight supported Shari Wilkins’ examination of the Scioto River and illustrations of writer Mike Ingles’ memories of his youth in Franklinton. Another noteworthy gallery, the Vanderelli Room displays exhibits under the direction of curator and founder Alicia Jean “AJ” Vanderelli.

Short North Arts District

Anchored by the Pizzuti Collection of the CMA, the Short North is chock-full of well-regarded commercial galleries for which it’s named, including Brandt-Roberts Galleries. Under the guidance of owner Michelle Brandt, the gallery spotlights several of the most exciting up-and-coming Ohio artists, including Christopher Burk and Cody Heichel, both known for their city scenes. More established talents, including impressionist-style landscape painter Mark Gingerich, are also on the gallery’s impressive roster.

Just across the street from Brandt-Roberts is Hammond Harkins Galleries. Gallerist Marlana Hammond Keynes was a fixture in the art scenes in Lancaster and Bexley, but in 2015 she relocated her gallery to the Short North. There, she has continued to exhibit gallery mainstays (and Central Ohioans) Aminah Robinson and Paul Hamilton, but also has added recent discoveries to the fold, such as Alteronce Gumby—who, in the fall of 2018, curated a Harlem Renaissance-themed show. Current visitors can catch an exhibit devoted to the work of Karen Snouffer (June 7–July 28).

At Sherrie Gallerie, owner Sherrie Hawk draws attention to artists who create pieces in three dimensions. On view in the coming months are gooey-looking abstract works in ceramic by Hunter Stamps (June 2–July 14), intricate ceramic sculptures of people and creatures by Calvin Ma and Erika Sanada (July 21–Sept. 1) and striking vessels in glass by Mattia and Marco Salvadore (Sept. 9–Oct. 13).

And, if you want to sample a little of everything artsy in the Short North, don’t forget about the monthly Gallery Hop, when galleries, restaurants and shops stay open late and sometimes offer special deals on the first Saturday of each month.


In Central Ohio, residents of the suburbs also have access to the best in visual arts. The Dublin Arts Center is located in a former residence constructed in the French-eclectic style and nestled on a wooded lot, but don’t let the charm of the locale deceive you. Operated by the Dublin Arts Council, the center offers consistently exciting exhibits, including the Southwestern-style art quilts of Frauke Palmer (Aug. 6–Sept. 13), the functional ceramic pieces of Masayuki Miyajima (Nov. 12–Dec. 18) and an exhibit of student artwork (Jan. 7–Feb. 20, 2020).

Not to be outdone is the Peggy R. McConnell Arts Center of Worthington, which, in addition to hosting performing arts and other events, shows art in a dedicated gallery and in corridors throughout the building. The center is currently presenting works crafted by members of the Central Ohio Clay Arts and the Art Quilt Alliance (both May 16–Aug. 18).

Reprinted from Columbus Monthly City Guide 2019.