Best of Columbus 2015: Arts & Entertainment

Columbus Monthly Staff

Editors' picks for the best of arts and entertainment in Columbus:

Six String Concerts

There are some pretty polite rooms for music in Columbus. But we'll be darned if we can find people more reverent and ready to absorb music than we've found at Six String concerts. All the more impressive: The series is run by volunteers who've booked distinguished, familiar artists like Shawn Colvin, Ani DiFranco, Stacey Earle, Iris DeMent, The Roches and The Wailin' Jennys. They've also built relationships with many other folk, roots and Americana artists who have made repeat visits and who know just what to expect from the Six String audience: affection, support and all ears.

Columbus Children's Theatre

Columbus Children's Theatre has been putting kids on stage for 52 years, ever since "Sis" Bloom and Edie Mae Harrel decided theater performance would be a great way for young people to develop and learn to get along with one another. Some of those performers have made it all the way to television and Broadway. Tens of thousands of others have signed up for acting, voice or musical lessons for the opportunity to be creative, to be challenged and to simply try something new. Aspiring young performers have a plethora of options for outlets at CCT, from a summer camp to college preparatory training. Bloom and Harrel's mission is still being fulfilled.

Johnstone Fund for New Music

Jack and Zoe Johnstone are so in love with contemporary music-think along the lines of composers Phillip Glass, John Cage, the Kronos Quartet-that they created a fund to encourage its composition and performance for years to come. Ensembles big and small, old and young (including the Columbus Symphony Youth Orchestra and Urban Strings Columbus Youth Orchestra) have been awarded money from the Johnstone Fund, whose applicants are strongly encouraged to weave collaboration and public performance into their projects.

Off the Grid

Art can be a hard sell to 20-somethings. Contemporary art? Even tougher. But the Wexner Center for the Arts' GenWex young professionals group makes art cutting-edge and cool. The culmination of these efforts is Off the Grid, which is hands-down the best party for a good cause in Columbus. For a low price palatable to young professionals, partygoers sample food from the city's trendy restaurants, sip copiously from the bar and dance to the beats of some very hot DJs, inevitably imported from Brooklyn. There's art, too, of course. Admission includes all-night strolling through the Wexner Center's galleries.

Opera Columbus

For those interested in dipping a toe into the grand, slightly intimidating and usually subtitled sea of opera, there is Opera on the Edge, digestible and enjoyable, abbreviated operas staged at Shadowbox Live's Backstage Bistro and The Refectory. One is casual with pizza and beer, and the other is a multi-course menu from chef Richard Blondin. Both are outstanding introductions to an art form too many of us shy away from.

Sunday at Central music series at CMA

Since 1994, violinist and Columbus Symphony Orchestra assistant concertmaster David Niwa has curated this dazzling series of chamber music, which on one Sunday might have a string quartet playing Mozart and on another feature a world premiere of a local composer's latest work. It's a treasure, made even more valuable because it is accessible to anyone. These concerts are always free. Set aside a few hours for the original wireless entertainment.

Rossen Milanov

Watch out, Columbus: A new maestro is in town, and he's eager to show us just how exciting a symphony orchestra can be. Really! Milanov is entering his first year as the music director of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, and he's already announced a slew of new ways to experience classical music. We can't wait to hear it all in person, starting the weekend of Oct. 2 with a season premiere program featuring Carl Orff's familiar Carmina Burana. Dramatic, indeed.

Park Street Festival

Real talk: Five years ago, this festival was a great spot for bros and nu rock. But Park Street Festival has evolved and, thankfully, has not gone full beard and Toms on us, either. It's just plain fun on three stages, with the addition in recent years of food trucks and an arts and crafts fair. This year the festival hosted bands like Hocking River String Band (bluegrass), Queen cover band Mr. Fahrenheit and the Loverboys, Damn the Witch Siren (electro-pop) and The Wet Darlings (indie rock).