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Tap Into Your Creative Side at the Columbus Arts Festival

By Maya Stanton
May 23, 2019
Bridge with festival tents over river
Courtesy Columbus Arts Festival
With hands-on activities, first-rate performances, and 250-plus artists from 30 states showing off their work, the Columbus Arts Festival has something for everyone.

Ohio’s state capital might have a serious case of college-football fever, but thanks to a deep-rooted artistic community, it’s also home to a thriving creative scene. From art schools and museums to galleries, collectives, and events galore, the city offers a warm welcome to artistically inclined visitors—especially during the annual Columbus Arts Festival (columbusartsfestival.org), when the downtown riverfront becomes a beacon for hundreds of artists and the crowds that follow. Now in its 58th year, 2019's celebration runs June 7 to 9 and features a full slate of activities, demonstrations, performances, and more. Here’s what to see and do during the city’s premiere summer event.

Augment Your Reality

Ever wanted to jump right into a work of art, a la Dick Van Dyke’s chalk-wielding chimney sweep in Mary Poppins? Well, now’s your chance. Making its debut this year, the White Castle presents VR at the Fest tent will allow curious onlookers to step into paintings and check out venues on the opposite side of the globe, via multiple virtual and augmented reality experiences.

Meet and Greet

In the Big Local Art Tent, Columbus artists and collectives sell their works, demonstrate techniques, and lead workshops where budding creatives can make their own masterpieces—and take them home with them. Look for booths from emerging central-Ohio artists, selected by the festival’s jury and given an extra hand with marketing and presentation to help them launch their careers. Festival mascot the Art Shark will also be on hand to say hello to his adoring young fans.

Get Your Groove On

This year's entertainment takes place on five stages boasting local and regional talent—musicians, dancers, thespians, poets, and storytellers among them. Columbus troupe BalletMet kicks things off on Friday night, and a huge array of acts are on deck to keep the party rolling. The Big Local Music Stage hosts everything from hip hop and R&B to folk, rock, and Americana, while Sunday’s main stage features an a capella performance by the Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus, the big-band stylings of the Capital Pride Band of Columbus, and a drag show starring Virginia West with Flaggots Ohio, a LGBTA colorguard. Check out the flamenco ensemble, watch the clog dancers go at it, or take in the Celtic steppers; there’s also spoken-word, comedy, and an acoustic lounge.

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