Columbus Art Walks are a perfect way to combine exercise, history, art, and exploring the wonderful city of Columbus, and the Discovery District Art Walk is a great one to do alone or with a group of friends. Download the map and audio tour here.
The Discovery District came together in the 1990’s and includes three colleges, an art museum, Kelton House, Thurber House the topiary park, COSI, theater, and more. The tour begins at The Seneca Hotel, designed by architect Frank Packard, opened in 1919 as a hotel and has served many purposes over the years including dormitories, an Ohio EPA building. The building was recently remodeled into brand new apartments…enlivened a bit by the continuing ghost stories.
The second stop of the tour is the CCAD Design sign. This forty foot sign complements the ART sign nearby. Take a look at the mirrored building across the street and note that the red signs are reflected in the building. The CCAD Design Center used to be the site of the Byers Auto Showroom. Byers began as a stable, but quickly became an auto dealership. Byers is still an active and influential business in the area.
If you turn to look at Cleveland Avenue, the tour goes on to describe this major street as an old and trusted road that originally led north to Cleveland, formerly called Harbor Road. It was also an important route to freedom for the Underground Railroad, passing Ft. Hayes Army base.
First Congregational Church is another feature, including a description and history of this twentieth century gothic beauty. The church is home to an original piece of concrete cast art called “The mission, the fall, the struggle and the redemption” by William Thompson, located on the exterior of the church facing the 9th Street parking lot.
The Columbus Museum of Art, recently renovated, is next up. The museum has a wonderful collection of art pieces and is worth a visit in its own right. State Auto Insurance, nearby, was famous for their amazing Christmas displays.
CCAD is one of the oldest and most important art schools in the Midwest and this next stop on the tour is the CCAD Schottenstein Hall. Featured in this stop is the ART sign, “One Line” a stainless steel sculpture and a piece by the same artist, Joseph V. Canzani, “Three Lines”. After a left on Cleveland Ave, you’ll see another sculpture. Kaname Takada’s “Ceramic Mural” and the DESIGN sign. The tour gives a ton of information about this important art college’s history and present.
An Elijah Pierce statue stands at the corner of Washington Ave and Long Street, and commemorates the location of the famous folk artist’s barber shop. The barber and artist was a wood carver and painter and a beloved member of the community. The tour offers stories of his life, family, and art. The Columbus Museum of Art, an earlier stop on the tour, contains an excellent collection of works by Pierce, one of Columbus’ most famous artists.
At Washington and Gay, there stands a red arch that is the beginning of The State Auto Arts Walk and Mural. This walk is a neighborhood beautification project supported by State Auto Insurance, Columbus Museum of Art, CCAD, and the Jefferson Center for Learning and the Arts. Various artists, including Aminah Robinson, David Demming, and Ken Bunn are represented here. Complete the Arts Walk and proceed to Jefferson Avenue’s gazebo and the home of author James Thurber. The small central park that includes the gazebo holds public art as well as a gathering space. The mystery of the disappearing unicorn still haunts the park. The homes that line this beautiful street and surround the small park once were stately homes owned by movers and shakers of Columbus. These historic Victorian homes are now offices for various non-profits that benefit children, battered women, global issues, and performance arts groups, and local historical and landmarks groups. Thurber House also offers an art garden as well as a museum dedicated to its famous author and cartoonist owner.
The Bluestone building began life as an early Columbus African American Baptist church. A beautiful example of its kind, it is now a catering center, The Bluestone. The Broad Street Methodist Church was built in the Victorian Gothic style, and the original green stone has now been replaced by artificial stone due to wear. The art glass windows in this church are a feature on the Art Walk. This building now offers a wide variety of services to homeless and underserved Columbus citizens. A third church, Third Church of Christ Scientist is a neoclassic style, and complements the style of the art museum across the street.
Columbus Metropolitan Library was a Carnegie project, and was designed by Arthur Randolph Ross and includes an outdoor statue of Peter Pan in memory of a young boy lost too soon. Inside dwells murals by Aminah Robinson and more than 30 other Columbus artists.
Columbus was a pioneer city in the education of deaf children at the Ohio Institution for the Deaf and Dumb and educated over 3,000 students in the 1800’s. The exterior of the school had an eclectic design and featured a variety of styles and artistic touches. When the school moved to a new location the building and grounds were damaged by fire. A new school is being developed here for future students. The grounds were turned into Topiary Park, a park based on the Georges Seurat’s “Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte”. It is the only park in the world based on a painting…except for the cat, an addition by the landscape artist.
Moving on to Kappa Kappa Gamma and a selection of other homes in various styles that now houses art galleries, a sorority, and private residences. This selection of homes includes Kelton House and The English, owned by Kelton and restored and operated by the Junior League. The Kelton House is now a museum complete with furnishings original to the home.
The Columbus Public Health and the Columbus Performing Arts Center, one of the oldest continually operating theaters in Columbus, conclude this Art Walk Tour. We hope you’ll try one of the Columbus Art Walks as a way to explore this wonderful city and the rich variety of public art available throughout.
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