Why All the Cool Kids Really Love Columbus
An article at National Geographic came out yesterday titled 'Why All the Cool Kids Love Columbus, Ohio.' It starts out quoting from the vice president of Express, the shopping mall staple brand, tipping its hat that the article is either a puff piece or a product of a publicist's elbow grease.
After pointing out that Columbus is home to Victoria's Secret and Abercrombie & Fitch (which no one is going to ever claim makes your city cool), the Nat Geo article then digresses into an internet-friendly listicle citing coffee shops, craft breweries, barber shops, and art museums. Which is cool, but every city has craft beer and pour-over coffee at this point, and clearly misses the mark.
I get asked the question a lot, as to why—as a book publisher—we decided to expand into moviemaking. The short answer is why not? I want to make cool shit. That zest for creating new things is prevalent in Columbus. There's an ethos here that I love, fueled by an idealistic, DIY mindset, and the unwillingness to stick to conventions. What I appreciate about the shops I highlight below, is how they take their operation to the next level, not limiting their imaginations to how their field is traditionally defined.
Also, I appreciate how folks are doing creative things with meager resources. When you're in Brooklyn or LA, anything new that crops up feels like it's washed in money: for instance, a new start-up press is fueled by the Koch Bros trust fund. I had a conversation with Ian Vanek—formerly of Japanther, now Howardian—a couple years back, about how limited resources actually make you more creative. The cool start-ups in Columbus don't have that sponsored-by-mom-and-dad vibe, growing organically and on their own.
Following is an expansion of the Nat Geo listicle (in no particular order), highlighting a few choice operations and happenings that make our town special, in my opinion.
1. Not Just a Barbershop.
Alright. I guess now barbershops—like succulents and leather—are maybe officially "a thing" with hipsters. I'm no expert on barbershops, but I think it's rad that The Mug & Brush, on High Street in the North Campus area, hosts their own performing arts series. For the Mug & Brush Sessions, they clear out the shop and have bands perform, recording the performances and posting them online. It's like NPR's 'Tiny Desk' but in a barbershop rather than a corporate office space.
2. Not Just a Craft Brewer.
This town is swimming with craft breweries, and many of them are indeed very cool. But Seventh Son Brewing Company is the one that takes things next level. Situated in an old garage, they have an incredibly tasteful design, and are the ones that host the seasonal Columbus Fleas, a market comprised of local artisans and vendors hocking everything from books (we're there usually!) to succulents to furniture. Craft Beer + Flea Markets = Hipster Paradise.
Seventh Son also hosts what is quickly becoming Columbus' coolest music festival, 4th & 4th Fest. Though it was forced to move locations because of draconian city regulations, the line-up this year is the best yet and includes Times New Viking, The Thermals, Diet Cig, Dilly Dally, and White Reaper.
3. Not Just the Arts.
Nat Geo points out the rad modernist wing at the Columbus Museum of Art that just opened before calling attention to a hotel that features work from the Pizzutti Collection. Which is cool, but not as cool as the Wexner Center for the Arts, which was the only gallery outside of LA to display Noah Purifroy's massive and moving 'Junk Dada' exhibition.
At the Wex, they also have the best film programming in the country in their movie theater, screening hard to hear of indie gems (if you want to find a stellar new flick you've never heard of, just scroll through their calendar), and hosting visiting filmmakers such as Spike Lee, Richard Linklater, and Guy Maddin. Last week, they showed Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom outside, while earlier this spring they screened a retrospective of Whit Stillman. They have a "Fierce Women of Film" series, which in August is showing a doubleheader of Barbara Loden's cult classic, Wanda, followed by Winter's Bone.
Also, outside of a gallery setting, there's Urban Scrawl (pictured above), which has been going for 8 years now. Urban Scrawl is a festival in Franklinton that features wrestling matches by the Artist Wrestling League, an outdoor skate park, DJs, a breakdancing stage, and artists live-painting large wood panels over the course of 2 days, which are then later auctioned off to support artist grants.
4. Not Just an Outdoor Festival.
Basically from May to October, every weekend you can find an outdoor festival of some sort in Columbus. From Urban Scrawl to 4th & 4th to fests celebrating most imaginable ethnicities, they're great. But the crown jewel of these is Independents' Day, when all the artists, artisans, makers, and tinkerers celebrate local.
For the past several years, Independents' Day has been the reason we don't attend the Brooklyn Book Festival anymore. Cause it is so, so rad and so much fun. Taking place in the Franklinton Arts District, Independents' Day has acrobatic shows, skate ramps, mini-golf, a plethora of craft breweries and food trucks, fireworks, and five stages featuring non-stop music FOR TWO WHOLE DAYS.
Here's a student video that wanders the fest: