The Columbus Museum of Art features a variety of American and European modern works of art. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

As a French exchange student — and a contemporary art fan — I never expected that a museum in the Midwest would be the host of such incredible artworks. Even without competition from other museums in Columbus, The Columbus Museum of Art manages to compete with others not only on the national scene, but at the international level.

The CMA is by far not just my favorite gallery, but my favorite place in Columbus. Yes, it’s a bit awkward to get to by bus from campus, but this downtown expedition is worth the exceptional art collections that put the Columbus art scene on the map.

The architecture of the building deserves its own tour to explain how the old Sessions Mansion blends so well with the modern 50,000-square-foot wing. The beauty of the building explains why so many prestigious events are organized there, such as Fashion Week Columbus and many wedding ceremonies and receptions.

Inside, the permanent collection counts masterpieces from the most famous French painters such as Paul Cezanne (“Portrait of Victor Chocquet”) and Claude Monet (“The Mediterranean” and “Weeping Willow”). In the new wing, the contemporary art collection is a must-see; it is a perfect blend of high-quality artworks, both from local and international artists, in beautiful rooms with high ceilings and tall windows.

When I first visited CMA, I felt for the second time in my life that a museum deserved a small donation in exchange for my free visit. The first time was the Tate Modern of London.

If CMA wasn’t already good enough, the museum got much better in January. The Pizzuti Collection — my favorite private gallery in Columbus — officially became part of the museum thanks to the generous donation of its former owners, Ron and Ann Pizzuti. Even though admission tickets aren’t reciprocal with CMA, students can visit the Pizzuti Collection for free, any time.

Admission is free on Sundays at CMA and doesn’t include the temporary exhibition. On any other day, student admission is $9, and an extra $8 for the temporary exhibit, which is too much if you ask me. Consequently, as a firm believer in free access to art and as a student on a budget, I consider CMA open only on Sundays — which is a great day for a museum visit. A free tour is offered at 1 p.m., but be prepared to make your way through the crowd.

Numerous events are organized every week, such as “Think Like an Artist Thursdays,” on the first Thursday of every month. CMA partners with local artists to create this event where people can make art and play, but also enjoy craft beer and cocktails with live music. This event is free for members or costs $5 for nonmembers.

Beyond the often pretentious and serious atmosphere of museums, CMA also thinks about younger audiences and more accessible art. The display “Think Outside the Brick,” a replica of Columbus and Buckeye memorabilia made of LEGO, was an interesting addition to the museum.

On the other end of the spectrum, the partnership with the Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister of Dresden, Germany, brought to Columbus Titian’s “Lady in White” until Dec. 9. Before the end of the semester, I recommend the exhibition “When Attitudes Become Chairs” at the Pizzuti Collection, on display until April 28.

All these world-class exhibitions are a sign that CMA is the epicenter of art in Columbus.