The Wexner Center on the Campus of Ohio State University Credit; Bill Rockwell
Although I’ve been to Columbus at least five times already, I never seem to run out of things to see and do. There always seems to be something new, either an attraction or a special event.
A recent two-day stay in April gave me a chance to catch up on things I missed, starting with the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum. In case you’re wondering, Ireland was a cartoonist for the Columbus Dispatch.
Located on the Ohio State University campus, the museum is free of charge and houses the world’s largest collection of materials related to cartoons (more than 300,000) and comics. This includes original art, books, magazines, journals, comic books, archival materials and newspaper comic strip pages and clippings.
A Cartoon from the Power Lines Exhibit Credit: Bill Rockwell
It was fun to see cartoons that date back into my childhood. Prince Valiant, Pogo, Dick Tracy, Calvin and Hobbs are just some of the exhibited gems from the past that I spent close to an hour enjoying in a gallery exhibit.
In a display case, I saw cartoons that have made their way into merchandising like school lunch boxes, hats and T-shirts. Elsewhere, themed galleries hold exhibits that change frequently. During my visit, I enjoyed Power Lines, which dealt with the environment, and Dark Humor, the work of African American Oliver “Ollie” Harrington, who used his talent to raise awareness of racial, economic and social injustice with razor-sharp wit and insight.
A Case of Cartoon Merchandise Credit: Bill Rockwell
While on campus, you might want to consider taking a walking tour of OSU (allow an hour and a half). Maps and a walking tour guide are available at the Ohio Student Union and online at https://campusvisit.osu.edu/WalkingTour.pdf.
Also on campus, the Wexford Art Center first dazzled me years ago for its stunning architecture and amazing programming of contemporary art in all its forms, including dance, theater, music and film. Two outstanding exhibits I remember viewing there over the years were an Andy Warhol show titled Other Voices, Others Rooms and a photo exhibit of the work of Annie Leibovitz.
Inside the Wexner Center Credit: Bill Rockwell
Opening on June 9, Portal For(e) the Ephemeral Passage is a multiple artist show that includes the debut of jaamil olawale kosoko’s first multichannel video installation, Syllabus for Black Love and a new audio opera Nehanda, Nehanda, heard through the monumental speaker assembly shitsoundsystem.
Also included are Keioui Keijaun Thomas’ multimedia Afrofuturist installation Come Hell or High Femmes, which imagines a lush post-apocalyptic world of physically perfect trans women and FLY / DROWN Fables by Jennifer Harge and Devin Drake, an installation of videos and artifacts that builds on the artist’s series of experimental folk tales honoring the self-sovereignty of Black women.
The Columbus Food Scene
Columbus has become quite a food destination with a long list of good to great restaurants. For lunch one day, I stopped by Katalina’s Café, home of the original pancake balls. That’s right balls made of pancake batter filled with things like Nutella or dolce de leche (your choice).
Katalina’s Pancake Balls with Assorted Fillings Credit: Bill Rockwell
But the fun doesn’t stop there at this funky eatery proud to serve “5-star food with a Latin twist.” With my award-winning Mazatlan Pork Sandwich, for instance, I tried for the first time, a glass of prickly pear juice just one of many interesting beverages on the menu.
Katalina’s Mazatlan Slow-Roasted Pork and Egg Sandwich Credit: Bill Rockwell
Take cash because Katalina doesn’t accept credit cards. 3481 N. High Street.
For dinner that evening, I went Italian at Due Amici, on Gay St. between 3rd and High. Housed in a renovated, historic building, Due Amici offers its guests an option to dine and imbibe bar-side or enjoy a meal in the sleek, brick-walled dining room.
Calamari Due Amici Style Credit: Bill Rockwell
Some of the classic Italian dishes I tried are the Calamari appetizer (with vegetable tagliatelle, lemon thyme aioli and minced scallions) and the Chicken Parmesan, served on linguini and a rosé sauce made with red peppers.
Ready for Some Chicken Parm Due Amici Style? Credit: Bill Rockwell
For a postprandial treat, I drove to the Franklin Park Conservatory to catch light artist, James Turrell’s piece “Light Raiment II” after dark. The work transforms the Conservatory’s Palm House into a Columbus beacon by night and features a permanent installation of 7,000 computer-controlled LED light sources in a nightly show.
Franklin Park Conservatory Lit at Night Credit: ExperienceColumbus.com
During the day, visitors can soak in the beauty of the landscape, see over 400 species of plants from around the world in the Conservatory’s biomes and simply marvel at the intricate glasswork of Dale Chihuly in the largest private collection of the glass artist’s pieces in a botanical garden.
Franklin Park, A Nature-Lovers Must See Credit: Bill Rockwell
One of Columbus’ newest attractions, the National Veterans Memorial and Museum, is located on the downtown riverfront. The building the only place in America dedicated to telling the stories of veterans of all branches of military service over the course of all conflicts. The building itself is an architectural masterpiece, winning accolades from Architectural Digest for its curving lines and unique cast concrete construction.
Exhibits in the circular space take place in a series of alcoves, where the different parts of a service member’s journey are told, from enlistment to swearing-in, to training camp, to wartime service to coming home. While there are a few artifacts, they tend toward the personal (letters from home and tokens of good luck), and the experience of military service is explored primarily through personal stories.
The Budd Dairy Building Credit: Bill Rockwell
A drive over to the Budd Dairy, a business/restaurant incubator from Cameron Mitchell Restaurants in the Italian Village, was a real eye-opener. The massive brick building built in 1916 once housed a milk processing and distribution center that eventually became a part of the Borden Dairy Company. As first built, the building could process 6,000-14,000 gallons of milk and cream per day. The final day of milk processing took place in 1967.
Inside the Budd Dairy Food Hall Credit: Bill Rockwell
After the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2017, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants began restoring the building, now known as the Budd Dairy Food Hall. Today, the massive hall holds 10 kitchens (everything from Filipino, Southern and Cuban to pizza, tacos, poke and cheesecake), three bars and a popular rooftop area with a bar and food service area that overlooks its surroundings.
For a Place to Stay, The Graduate Hotel operates under an interesting concept. All 35 hotels across the U.S. sport portraits of famous alumni or those who attended the university in which the hotel is located.
The room keys have replicas of student id cards and the backdrop behind the front desk has a Mt. Rushmore type image of Archie Griffin, Jesse Owens, Katie Smith and Jack Nicklaus. 750 N. High St. Phone 614-484-1900 or graduate hotels.com/Columbus.