Columbus – October 2015 – Arts and Small Museums

Since it was Halloween we decided to stay close to home and find some as yet undiscovered to us sights of Columbus. First up was the Columbus Cultural Arts Center on Main Street in downtown Columbus. It is housed in the old Ohio Arsenal, built in 1861 to house arms. The arts group took over the building in the 1980s.

The center offers classes that occur on all 3 levels of the building, as well as a housing two main galleries, one on the first floor and one in an upper level. The day we were there the first floor had an impressive collection of art made out of recycle plastic bottles.

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After a brief stop at Franklin Park to check out the new events center, as well as what was left of the gardens with winter soon upon us, we headed back downtown to the Kelton House.

This house was built in 1852 in an Greek Revival and Italianate manner, and has served as a museum since the 1970s. The house and furnishing were fairly standard fare, and the workers/volunteers fairly uninspired, couple with the no photography rule made this, for me, uninteresting. I still don’t understand why many of these small museums that have nothing of intellectual property value, or artistic value that isn’t seen numerous other places have such restrictive photography policies. I would only recommend a visit here if you are very close by and have never seen a mid 1800s house restored to near original.

We made our way a few blocks away to the James Thurber house. What a difference – the nice lady who greeted us with enthusiasm encouraged us to explore, ask questions and generally just enjoy the humor that was Thurber, which is exactly what we did.

The Thurber house opened in 1984 after renovations. It serves as a gathering place for readers and writers, with an ongoing schedule of visiting writers coming to discuss their work or views. Many well known writers have come to the Thurber House including John Updike.

Thurber’s parents bedroom has an excellent collection of memorabilia; the other rooms have displays as well. They even encourage you to play the piano (we passed).

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Finally we stopped at Ohio State to see the Billy Ireland Cartoon Museum. This too is a hidden Columbus treasure. It is a well presented, professional looking museum celebrating all that are cartoons over the years. Of particular interest are the political cartoons of the 1800s, which clearly show that while everyone loves to say they long for the old days, the old days were just as vicious in their politics as today, just without the immediate, mass media that is available with the internet and cable TV.

The museum has the world’s largest research facility for comic and cartoon art. It is named for Billy Ireland, a self taught cartoonist who worked for the Dispatch from 1898 until his death in 1935. As a result the museum has a significant amount of Columbus specific content including ridiculing the university for building of Ohio Stadium in 1927 when there was (and still is) a student housing shortage, questioning when the city was going to beautify the riverfront (they finished in 2015!), and generally being a satirist.