The Columbus Arts Festival will bring in 450,000 attendees this year over three days. Credit: Courtesy of the Greater Columbus Arts Council

This year, the Greater Columbus Arts Council will bring new elements to their annual Columbus Arts Festival at the downtown riverfront, including an updated layout, larger artist display and demonstration space, virtual reality activities, musical performances and emerging artists.

Updated Layout

The Columbus Arts Festival will debut a new circular layout allowing the estimated 450,000 guests to visit the new National Veterans Memorial and Museum and provide them with easy access to art, food and performances, Jami Goldstein, vice president of marketing, communications and events for the Greater Columbus Arts Council, said.

“We use feedback from the community to help make the festival stronger and part of that was trying to make the footprint a little bit more circular, so people can start and end in the same place,” Goldstein said.

Big Local Art Village

What has been known as the Big Local Art Tent in previous years will be transformed into the Big Local Art Village to showcase Columbus’ visual, performing and culinary arts.

Some of the highlights of the Big Local Village will be demonstrations, including ceramists, a witcher and a blacksmith.

The new Big Local Music Stage will be situated at the Franklinton entrance to the festival, and the Big Local Beer Garden will feature Columbus craft breweries such as Columbus Brewing Company, BrewDog and Seventh Son, Goldstein said.

“We wanted to deepen people’s awareness of Franklinton because they’re really doing a lot of great work in the arts. It just seemed like a great opportunity to bundle the music and the local craft beers and the artists that are part of the Big Local Village,” Goldstein said.

The 270 exhibiting artists in 16 categories were all juried in by a panel of five judges. One category, the emerging artist program, started in 2011 for artists from Franklin County or surrounding counties who have never been exhibited in a major outdoor festival, giving them assistance and reduced booth prices.

On Saturday, the jury announces winners from each category to receive a portion of the $21,000 in prize money raised through ticket sales from the Friday night Patron party.

Virtual Reality Tent

The new Virtual Reality tent will allow patrons to engage in virtual and augmented reality experiences, play the latest high-tech games and watch presentations from Columbus-based artist Bryan Christopher Moss, Columbus College of Art & Design and GDEX, a local gaming convention that occurs in the fall.

“The Columbus Arts Festival is about all art. We have visual art, but we also have dance, music, theater, spoken word. Gaming and electronic design development is really becoming more and more popular,” Goldstein said.

Some of the visual artwork has been created to interact with an app for augmented reality, in which people can point their phones at a painting and watch it come to life, as well as play one-player and multiplayer games.

Goldstein said she hopes the VR tent will help people “understand the differences between virtual reality, augmented reality games and what the intersection of technology and the arts is.”

The new VR tent will be open Friday and Saturday from 2-9 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

Headlining Performances at Bicentennial Park

The ABC6 Bicentennial Park Stage will feature free headlining performances over the weekend.

On Friday, BalletMet will perform a mixed repertoire of shorter pieces, and on Saturday, Nashville-based blues, rock, and R&B musician Anderson East will perform.

To kick off Pride Week, Pride at the Fest — presented by Stonewall Columbus and hosted by Virginia West — will take the stage on Sunday morning. The Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus, Capital Pride Band of Columbus, Americana singer-songwriter Kelly Vaughn and the Flaggots Ohio flag corps will perform throughout the day.

Artists to Look For

Kate Morgan, a mixed media art and portraiture artist based in Columbus, will be returning for her sixth Columbus Arts Festival in the last seven years, after debuting as an emerging artist.

“Init” by Kate Morgan. Morgan will be returning for her sixth year at the festival. | Credit: Kate Morgan

Morgan mentioned that she is looking forward to seeing several artists across various mediums at the festival: Jessica Joy, Gabriel Guyer, Joe Engel, Kate Tillman, Chuck Wimmer and the Big Local Arts Tent “because we have so many amazing local artists,” Morgan said.

“It’s so fascinating when you’re on the road and you meet all these different artists. You end up spending time with them, and then learning way more about what they do and how they do it. You get a whole new respect for all kinds of things that you wouldn’t normally,” Morgan said.  “You start looking at the construction, and if you’re fortunate enough to know an artist and are able to see how they make something, you know there’s just so much more to it.”

Festival hours will be Friday from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free and open for all.

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