I went to Columbus, Ohio: CMoA, Wexner, Pizzuti Collection, + Highball

Sometimes "work travel" for writers feels less like work, and a lot more like an absurdly fun vacation. This weekend I got to spend time in Columbus for a romp around the arts scene with an amazing group of art and travel writers. (Huge thanks to the Experience Columbus team!)

It was my first time in the city, and I was surprised at what a bustling local art scene the place had. Not to mention, Saturday night was Highball, a major high-fashion and costume block party that's bigger and more exciting than you probably imagine. Costumes, beautiful people, live music, and a serious fashion design contest. I'm pretty sure it's the best weekend of year to be in Columbus.

But before I donned my glittery feathered mask at Highball, and before its fashionistas took my breath away, I saw a lot (and I mean a lot!) of art. Here's a peek at some of the stops I made along the way.


The weekend kicked off with a mind-blowing breakfast from The Seasoned Farmhouse, a restaurant and cooking school founded by chef Tricia Wheeler. Our meal began with fresh scones with marmalade and butter, followed by a beautiful plate of deviled local eggs, crisped prosciutto, local pork sausage links, pumpernickel toast, smoked salmon with dill, radishes, capers, onions, perfectly arranged around an airy brushstroke of crème fraîche. 

With full hearts and bellies, we ventured to the Wexner Center for the Arts, a non-collecting arts center that lies just on the edge of the Ohio State University campus. Director Sherri Geldin calls it the "Wex" for short. Fun fact: the Wexner building has no right angles, so if you feel a bit of vertigo while you're walking down the halls, that's why.

The Wexner's current exhibition, After Picasso, included some interesting Picasso-inspired works like Folkert de Jong sculpture, Les Saltimbanques: Old Son 'Jack T', Francesco Vezzoli's Olga Forever, and Sean Lander's 2001 mural painting Genius.

Next we were off to check out the newly expanded Columbus Museum of Art. The museum just opened a new $38 million contemporary art wing. It's always wonderful to see museums expanding their size and collections. The new wing was gorgeous, and we stopped for lunch in the Schokko Art Cafe, named after the 1909 Alexei von Jawlensky painting that hangs in the gallery hall, Schokko with Red Hat. 


Some highlights from the permanent collection were Edward Hopper's Morning Sun, Romare Bearden's La Primavera, a Jenny Holzer marquee, Georgia O'Keefe's perfectly autumnal painting of leaves in Lake George, New York, Sol Lewitt's grid of etchings, and Helen Frankenthaler's big swath of blue:

Next we visited Franklinton, an up-and-coming arts neighborhood that functioned as the hub of countless working artists. We stopped at Land Grant Brewery for beer flights, then perused 400 West Rich, a massive complex that's home to over 100 artists. 


Then it was on to the nearby Columbus Idea Foundry, a major player in the maker movement. The Foundry is essentially mecca for DIY initiatives and craftsmanship: woodworking, forging, robotics, 3D printing, building anything and everything.

We ended the day at the studio of the brilliant couture designer Celeste Malvar-Stewart. Celeste makes "farm to fashion" clothing that is elegant, one-of-a-kind, and extremely thoughtful. Her studio felt like a sanctuary and apothecary rolled into one, and her kind demeanor made me fall in love with her creations even more. 

Her clothes are all hand dyed with natural materials like walnuts and flowers. She stays away from all chemicals and sources all of her wool locally and humanely.

We started the next day at the Pizzuti Collection, the privately owned contemporary collection of renowned collector Ron Pizzuti. The current exhibition, Us Is Them, featured a vast selection of work by some phenomenal artists like Kehinde Wiley, Kara Walker, Hank Willis Thomas, Nick Cave, Shirin Neshat, Zhang Huan and many more.

Zhang Huan

Zhang Huan

With the sun shining bright and a light breeze hitting our necks, we strolled around the Short North district, a quaint section of town with a smorgasbord of shops and local galleries. If you're in Columbus, and wanting to see local art, this is where it's at. While you're in the neighborhood, stop for lunch at Basi Italia. (Order the zucchini pronto to start, you won't regret it!) If you're looking for something quick, duck into the the North Market for Pad Thai at Nida's Thai + Sushi. So delicious!

All in all, it was a whirlwind of a weekend. I had a blast and met a lot of great art folks and writers along the way. If you find yourself yearning for an artsy weekend trip, put Columbus at the top of your list, it just might surprise you. 

Highball: Eileen Kinsella of Artnet News, me, and Scarlett Cheng of Artillery Magazine.

Highball: Eileen Kinsella of Artnet News, me, and Scarlett Cheng of Artillery Magazine.

Photographs by me.