Free Art! – Discovering Creative Adventures after a “Rain Out”

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70% chance of rain! The most trusted websites and weather apps were calling for rain, and I expected that my weekend was going to be rained out. Thunderstorms were threatening the Sunlight Market on Gay St., in downtown Columbus, where I’d planned to meet my girlfriends Sunday morning, for brunch and a little shopping. The event organizers had already called off the monthly market, which includes local artisans, food vendors, and craftsmen, selling their creations.

It had been a rainy spring, and ½ of the bike rides I’d been on had been “tentative” until the morning of the ride, while we all watched the Doppler Radar, to see where the storms were headed. The day before had almost been rained out, with my cycling group saddling up and taking a chance, in the end only suffering a light drizzle. The hills we’d ridden were more of a nuisance than the precipitation was. But we got lucky, and the sun broke through, as we rode through the small town of Eaton, in Western Ohio.

But the Sunlight Market can’t wait for a “game time decision”, so the artists weren’t coming. That means a loss of income for the artists, but also for the surrounding community, the restaurants, bars and shops that would have entertained the market patrons, after they had their fill of wandering from tent to tent, soaking in the local, small business culture. I’ve been to the Moonlight version of the market, and know that it offers everything from scented herbal soaps, and hand cream, to finely carved wooden sculptures, and from vintage, repurposed clothing to artisanal dog treats.

(note: Local canine sources, reliable and generally trustworthy, tell me the Peanut Butter flavored puppy treats are the most delicious! My felines would also testify that one of their favorite scratching posts is from this pet-friendly market. It’s nothing more than a bunch of cardboard glued together and shaped into a cube, with a hole in the center, but it’s perhaps the best $20 I’ve spent on the ButterTwins.)

So, with no solid plan, it was time to get brunch started by ordering a Bloody Mary! At Due Amici they mix ‘em up right, and bring the drink cart right to your table. Some people turn their nose up at this spicy drink, and I used to be among them, but I love all the savory accompaniments. I enjoy the olives, banana peppers and pickles so much that I keep ordering the drink, and it’s growing on me. This one took 2nd place, losing out to the drink with the same name, served at Busboys & Poets, in Washington D.C. But the concoction was delicious, and extra olives were handed over readily! The waitress asked what level of spiciness I desired, and even asked whether I had any known allergies, before she added a splash of clam juice.

We sat in the restaurant’s front window, watching the heavy cloud cover push across the sky, umbrellas leaning against the wall. It was settled, over quiche, that we’d trade one artistic experience for another. The market would have sent me home with at least a few crafty impulse buys (unbecoming for a self-proclaimed Minimalist). Our “Plan B” was a visit to the nearby Columbus Museum of Art, which offers free admission on Sundays. We couldn’t pass that up! It would be much easier to keep my money in my wallet there . . . except for their wonderful gift shop / bookstore . . . and the café, with its coffee drinks and gourmet snacks. . .

What is remarkable about free admission to the art museum is the opportunities it opens up, for anyone interested in grabbing ahold of a new idea, witnessing a new artistic technique, or exposing themselves to a new way of seeing things. A whole world of art, both contemporary and traditional, is available to the public every Sunday, rain or shine.

 

With scattered raindrops coming down outside, “the public” was taking advantage of the free day. The halls were filled with families, headed straight to the hands-on, interactive exhibits. In the middle of a rather fragile gallery, with works out in the open, my friend remarket that she wouldn’t dream of bringing her 2-year-old into that part of the museum. But there’s a little something for everyone, in the recently remodeled building, and it’s FREE, so you can stay just an hour or two!

A group of retired art patrons bustled by, pushing their metal walkers, and calling out to one another for direction. One snagged a museum security guard, and asked for an impromptu explanation of the contemporary art exhibit. The guard looked from one retiree to the next, then muttered, “Um. . . okay. . . Well, let me go get a brochure.”

In a corner of the gallery I spotted a teen couple, with arms casually around each other. Her arm wrapped gently around his slim waist, and his draped heavily around her shoulders, pulling her in close.  They were looking at a colorful, abstract painting, and had been in the same spot for a while. She leaned her head against his tall shoulder, and he dropped his arm down a little bit lower, as he stooped in to steal a kiss. The museum seems the perfect place for a date.

We were all lucky enough to catch the tail end of an impressive, temporary exhibit. We were surrounded by Bodies@Work: The Art of Ruben and Isabel Toledo. The contemporary art exhibit was designed for the space, and the artists spent an entire day in the empty gallery, before finalizing their thoughts on what pieces they would display, and how. The power of design!

“The artists will transform the Geraldine Schottenstein Gallery into an evocative installation that tells the story of their lifelong partnership in art, design and life which springs from the complex interplay of two individuals, two aesthetics and the push and pull of their distinctive, yet complementary visions and energy.” (Museum Website)

Textiles, patterns, and shapes were scattered throughout the gallery, on the walls, in the windows, hanging from the ceiling and dropping down to the floor. Black and white illustrations were morphing into colorful displays, on paper that rolled across long tables.

Silhouetted figures faced a wall of glass, looking out, away from the rest of the artwork, gazing down at the front lawn of the museum, and the sculpture garden. Visitors who followed their “gaze” would also notice the nearby Columbus College of Art & Design, with its giant ART sculpture in red, standing out against downtown buildings, and trees that were a vivid green from the rain.

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While cycling around downtown, I’d seen the graphic figures several times, at a distance. From the street, it was hard to tell what they were made of, and I’d mistakenly taken them to be life-sized paper cutouts, flattened to the windows. From the inside of the exhibit I discovered mannequins, completely covered in a stretchy black fabric; even their faces were eerily covered. The silhouettes mimicked the shapes of ball gowns, the sorts that were on display elsewhere in the exhibit. Isabel Toledo’s experience as a fashion designer undoubtedly influenced this section of the display, but her husband Ruben’s illustrative style was apparent as well.

The two Cuban-Americans are based in New York City, but they also have a 2nd residence in Miami, a city they remain closely connected to. The couple has been working together for two decades, mutually influencing each other’s work, on a continual, daily basis. This was their 1st “Official” collaborative work, and it was both stunning and memorable. (see Museum website for more details about the couple.)

From Bazaar Magazine: “Isabel, who will debut her first collection for Anne Klein during New York Fashion Week in early February, sees no distinction between her work and her life. ‘We’re not trying to finish something to start something we love. We love it the whole time.’”

Shouldn’t we all embrace our passions, and follow inspiration wherever it takes us, as these two do? Oh, and the Cuban-born couple visits there regularly, and considers Havana’s Malecón to be a travel must! I’ll have to visit again soon, and be sure to bring lots of Cuban rum. A return trip to the art museum is also in order – if you go, don’t forget to visit the rest of the museum.

Bodies@Work: The Art of Ruben and Isabel Toledo, is on view through June 18, 2017.

Join me on my next adventure,

~ Kat

Related Links:

Sunlight Market (Gay St., Columbus, OH): http://www.sunlightmarket.com/

Due Amici: https://due-amici.com/

Bodies@Work: The Art of Ruben and Isabel Toledo: http://www.columbusmuseum.org/bodies-at-work-the-art-of-ruben-and-isabel-toledo/

Bazaar Article: http://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/interiors-entertaining/advice/a107/fashionable-life-toledo-0207/

Roots of Style: Weaving Together Life, Love and Fashion (by Isabel Toledo): https://www.amazon.com/Roots-Style-Weaving-Together-Fashion/dp/0451230175

Columbus College of Art and Design: https://www.ccad.edu/

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