Best of Columbus 2021: Editors’ Picks for Arts & Entertainment

Timely films, a grassy gallery, a show-stopping virtual performance and more

Columbus Monthly staff
Priyanka Shetty

Virtual Performance 

In her virtual one-woman show for the Abbey Theater of Dublin in February, actress Priyanka Shetty was the only one who spoke—but she spoke on behalf of far more. In researching her show #Charlottesville—about white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, Shetty, a native of India who had lived in Columbus before relocating to Charlottesville, interviewed more than 100 individuals about the incident (which resulted in the death of Heather Heyer). “It’s so important for us to remember and learn from history, so we don’t make the same mistakes in the future,” Shetty told The Dispatch.  

Redemption Story 

Opera Columbus’ 2020–21 season opened with a singer who wowed with his talent and resonated with his personal story. In a virtual performance shown in January, bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green, who is Black, talked about race, the criminal justice system (as a troubled youth in Virginia, he spent time in juvenile detention) and how music can redeem. Green, who finished in the top five of the Metropolitan Opera’s annual competition in 2011, spoke—and sang—with rare authority. 


The Greater Columbus Arts Council took action to assure that the conversations started last year about racial equity and justice continue. Last fall, the organization led the way in preserving more than 100 temporary murals that had been painted in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. After first being on display last year, the murals are set to return later in 2021 to sites throughout Central Ohio, including on the campuses of Ohio State University and the Columbus College of Art & Design. 

“The Invisible Majority” by Rosine Mbakam

Timely Films 

To comment on the central issues, debates and conversations of 2020, the Wexner Center for the Arts tapped 20 international filmmakers—from Apichatpong Weerasethakul of Taiwan to Oscar-winning Black director Charles Burnett—to make two-minute short films for “Cinetracts ’20.” Funded by the Wex’s residency award, the filmmakers were each given $4,000, and because they took their time, their films—available virtually on the Wex’s website—had a rare immediacy. “Fortuitously, I think artists do procrastinate a bit,” says Wex film/video director David Filipi. 

More:Columbus Monthly’s Best of Columbus 2021

Josh Rodstein along with her sons Jake, 8, left, and Alex, 6, center, pose for a photo in front of the "Walk by Gallery" at their house in Upper Arlington Friday. Josh, an amateur photographer, began showing off his work on his lawn to hopefully bring a little joy and change up the routine of his neighbors.

Grassy Gallery 

During the pandemic, many Central Ohioans spent more time outdoors. Some discovered they had a gift for gardening, but few likely put their yards to more creative use than Upper Arlington resident Josh Rodstein. Starting this year, the amateur photographer began combing his archive for images to display on a pair of stands placed in his front yard—his “Walk By Gallery.”