Best of Columbus 2022: Van Gogh, Thurber House, Opera Columbus and Other Arts Happenings

A musical marathon, a gutsy performance, a reimagined bus and more

Columbus Monthly staff
Jason Isbell (center) and the 400 Unit

Best Gut-Check Performance 

In January, Jason Isbell, the Grammy-winning musician and expert Twitter user, played a makeup concert at the Palace Theatre (after contracting breakthrough COVID-19). Nothing seemed amiss—Isbell, his band and his wife, musician Amanda Shires, put on a rollicking Americana concert to an appreciative crowd. It was only after the show that Isbell revealed he had spent most of the day “in the fetal position” with food poisoning. “So, I consider this my 1997 Game 5 Jordan show,” he tweeted.

Best Dutch Double

They say there can be too much of a good thing, but surely there can never be too much Van Gogh, right? Columbus put that idea to the test when a pair of exhibitions centered on the painter ran concurrently starting last year. Through Vincent’s Eyes: Van Gogh and His Sources, at the Columbus Museum of Art, presented works by the artist and those artists who fed his imagination, while the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit Columbus deposited attendees in environments surrounded by projections of the artist’s masterpieces.

"Sunflowers" seem to come to life at the "Immersive van Gogh Exhibit Columbus.

Best Musical Marathon

To commemorate its anniversary, Opera Columbus helped the city sing out for 40 days this spring—one day for each of the organization’s 40 years of performing. The ambitious “40 Days of Opera” featured, among other events, immersive performances of Verdi’s “La Traviata” at the Residence Inn Columbus Downtown; the return of a 1999 company-commissioned opera centered on the Underground Railroad, “Vanqui”; a drag show; and more.

Best Return Engagement, Dance Edition

Last December, the Ohio Theatre once again became a child’s fantasia of Sugar Plum Fairies, Nutcracker Princes and lots and lots of artificial snow. After calling off performances in 2020 due to the pandemic, BalletMet resumed its classic production of “The Nutcracker.” The coronavirus necessitated the cancellation of the ballet’s final two shows, but the company got through 16 out of 18 planned performances. Call it a Christmas wish come true.

Best Return Engagement, Books Edition

The Thurber Prize for American Humor is a big deal, honoring some of the funniest people in the country, such as Trevor Noah, Patricia Lockwood, James McBride (this year’s winner) and other boldface names in literature and show business. This year, its sponsor, Thurber House, returned the ceremony to an in-person event and gave it the kind of program it deserves—a full-fledged awards show production, with comedy skits, dance numbers and original music. And best of all, the Lincoln Theatre program featured local talent. Musician Counterfeit Madison served as musical director, while Scott Woods and Brooke Preston (both Columbus Monthly contributors) were the co-head writers.

Taylor Grindle uses a retrofitted bus to sell vintage clothes and other items at Sohud Collective.

Best Bus Bazaar

Two years ago, Taylor Grindle and a few friends, feeling stir-crazy during the pandemic, started selling vintage clothing in the small parking lot next to Punk Pigs at Summit and Hudson streets. Today, that little gathering has grown into Sohud Collective, a weekly community market featuring a rotating roster of about 100 vendors hawking food, art, handmade jewelry, crystals, organic soap, plants and more. Perhaps the market’s most intriguing feature is a retrofitted bus, which Grindle uses to sell his vintage jackets, shoes, shirts, robes and more. Last year, Grindle set up a stage on the top of the bus for concerts. That proved a little too loud for the neighborhood, so the plan this year is to use the bus as a backdrop for quieter, ground-level shows.

This story is from the July 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.