The 2013 Columbus Arts Festival

Yesterday, I attended the 2013 Columbus Arts Festival in downtown Columbus, Ohio.  The Columbus Arts Festival features some of the finest artists from around the world.  I was eager to get some pictures taken of all the art on display, but to my dismay, the festival committee enforced a “no photography” of the art rule.  That’s understandable.  If you visit the official 2013 Columbus Arts Festival website, you can view a list of all the artists featured in the festival, and a sample of their incredible work.  (There was, however, no rule against me taking pictures of the graffiti art I spotted just outside of the festival)

Lucky for me, and all the other festival goers, there were plenty of sights to take snapshots of in addition to the tremendous displays of realism, impressionism, postmodernism, mixed media, glass, metal, wood, ceramic, jewelry and photography.  Like many other people yesterday, I found myself pointing my camera at the bending arches and stretching bridges which highlighted the architecture of the riverfront.  The reflections of the downtown Columbus skyline upon the Scioto River, amidst the iridescent bejeweled Main Street Bridge, made for a terrific twilight scene.  The Main Street BridgeThe Main Street Bridge is something of a piece of art in its own right.  In fact, according to, “The Main Street Bridge is the first inclined, single-rib tied arch bridge in the whole United States.  AND it’s only the fifth inclined arch superstructure on the face of the planet.”

After walking around and looking at all of the art booths at the festival, I decided to visit the Community Stage, and listen in on acoustic guitarist Matt Steidle’s performance.  Matt played a slew of classic covers ranging from George Gershwin’s Summertime to Come Together by The Beatles.  Matt SteidleHe also covered Dave Matthews, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and played his own version of M.Ward’s Chinese Translation.  Though his interpretations of the classics were fantastic, I found his original songs that he shared on stage even more intriguing.  Particularly, one of his songs titled Giggles had the effect of tickling my fancy, as well as my funny bone.   As his skillful solo work on the high E string developed, he added a touch of improvised scatting into the microphone.  A group of children then promptly rushed to the front of the stage and began to dance.  I can’t help but laugh when I see children dance.  Children are so carefree and oblivious to the world’s constrictions, as if they are artists in the making.

After Matt’s set concluded, I headed over to the Word Is Art Stage to hear poetry.  But before I got there, I ran into 2 street performers.  The first performer was The Piano Peddler.The Piano Peddler  This guy was really cool!  He played an electric piano on top of the bicycle he used to arrive at the festival.  He also played a tambourine with his foot, showing off the full extent of his polyrhythm.  The second street performer was Mark Abbati of joyUNSPEAKABLE productions inc.  This guy was really, really cool! Mark Abbati

You’ve probably seen the performers who act as if they are statues and then all of a sudden, miraculously come to life.  If you have not, you’re in for a real treat if you visit his website.  Mark was dressed as a pirate, and entertained the kids and adults simultaneously during his performance.  It was thrilling to watch him spring to life, and then instantly turn to stone.  How does he do that?  (And yes, I did tip both of them, and you should too when you see amazingly talented artists performing on the street!)

Finally, I found my way over to the poetry stage.  Columbus has a very good poetry scene, so I was not at all surprised to find some of the city’s best poets congregated.  The first poet I listed to was Meg Freado.  Meg was the 2nd runner up in the 2013 Columbus Arts Festival poetry contest.  Meg’s poetry was deeply personal and introspective.  She shared a poem about her mother who passed away when Meg was only 17.  Meg FreadoShe shared deeply intimate memories and described, through descriptive prose, just how strong the bond between a daughter and a mother can be, even in the face of death.  Meg used cosmically illustrative metaphors like stardust and moonbeams to accent  her poetry.  My favorite comparison that Meg used to describe love was that of a storm chaser.  To paraphrase, Meg said that if searching for love is like chasing storms, then to find true love, you must not only be a storm chaser, but you must chase every storm.

Next up was the winner of the 2013 Columbus Arts Festival poetry contest.  Her name was Izetta Thomas.  Izetta is a school teacher and specifically works with autistic children.   She’s also one of the best poets in the city, having competed and won in poetry slams (contests) all over the country.  Izetta interwove gospel-styled singing and character portrayal while reciting her poems.  Izetta ThomasHer poetry introduced themes such as identity, childhood, racism, acceptance, and survival.  Izetta’s poem about the teacher strikes that occurred in Chicago, Illinois, in 2012, underscored the urgency of African-Americans in that city.   She asked the question: Where do we draw the line between just compensation for teachers, and ensuring that children have a right to education.  Using the metaphor of cookies being baked in a factory, Izetta’s poem held back no punches, as she lyrically questioned the city’s true intentions in sending children to schools that are inadequately funded and operated.  With a booming voice, Izetta’s poetry stirred the soul of attentive listeners, and raised the consciousness of passing onlookers.

After the poetry ended, I heard a rumble that sounded like thunder.  I looked up and saw that there were no clouds in the sky.  Then I heard it again.  Then I realized it was my stomach.  Yep, time to get something to eat.  And what better place to eat then at a festival?  So I made my way over to the  North Market’s stand (home to delicious food from all over the world) where I happily ordered a lamb and roast beef gyro for $5 (And for the record, it’s pronounced “yeer-oh” not “jai-row” as I used to call it).  Mmmm-mmmm!  Needless to say, I devoured my gyro in less than 3 minutes.  So then I washed it down with a $5 frothy, frosty, full 12 ounce glass of Blue Moon Agave Nectar Ale – a must try for all of you beer connoisseurs out there.

So there you have it.  The 2013 Columbus Arts Festival in a nutshell.  I had a blast!  You will too if you ever decide to go.

Mark Abbati

Downtown, Columbus Riverfront (Graphite and Colored Pencils)

© 2013


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