By Jennifer Sadler

The New Year is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of this reflective time and enjoy the revitalizing energy that comes with new beginnings.

Few areas in life offer the kinds of shared and enriching experiences like the arts. Creative energy and community spirit all are barometers of well-being in a society. The arts help improve not only the quality of life in our community, but also offer new possibilities for growth and opportunities.

The past couple of years have been ripe with creative initiatives that seek to bring Columbus residents and visitors together to experience art. Building on the successes of the past year, there are a few exciting dream projects that are finally taking shape in 2011—the completion of phase one renovations to the Columbus Museum of Art which include restoration of historic elements and innovative upgrades; the transformation of the old Wonder Bread factory into Wonderland, a hub for the local arts scene; and finally the completion of the Riverfront urban park projects, bringing beautiful green space downtown where people can converge for outdoor entertainment and relaxation.

Massive Renovation Brings Columbus Museum of Art into the 21st Century

More than a year and $6.9 million later, the Columbus Museum of Art (CMA) opened its doors to the public on New Year’s Day for the much-anticipated unveiling of extensive historic renovation and innovative upgrades which include redesigned galleries and a brand new Center for Creativity.

The big dream remodel began in October 2009 on the CMA’s historic 1931 Italian Renaissance Revival building, now known as the Elizabeth M. and Richard M. Ross Building, in honor of its benefactors.

Visitors can expect a striking transformation of the Museum revealing a new, luminous skylight in Derby Court; a spiffed up auditorium with comfy new seats and upgraded technology; improved accessibility; upgrades in lighting throughout; restoration of original decorative building features; and a re-imagining of the entire first floor as a Center of Creativity.

Previously, most collections in the CMA’s main galleries were arranged chronologically and based on geography. In addition to being repainted and decked out with new lighting and faux skylights, the rejuvenated galleries have been arranged to offer a more engaging experience and to encourage visitors to rediscover old favorites with the new juxtapositions.

“Each gallery will have a different theme which will tell the different stories of art,” says Nanette Maciejunes, the Museum’s executive director.

For instance, the new theme for Gallery 10 is “Love and War”—with works that illustrate some of the many ways in which artists of various nationalities, cultures and eras have interpreted these two quintessential experiences.

Other themed galleries include "Secrets and Stories," "George Bellows and the American Experience" and "New Materials"—a study of nontraditional materials, strategies and techniques used by 20th century artists.

The overarching theme for the reinstallation of the CMA’s permanent collection is “Creative Change," highlighting the changes that have influenced art from the Renaissance until today and focuses attention around specific strengths of the collection. The rejuvenated galleries feature beloved masterpieces dynamically presented in a new thematic context. The galleries are now more visitor-centered, with many new interactive elements to engage audiences, allowing deeper connections with the art on display.

The CMA’s new 18,000-square-foot Center for Creativity is a hub for Museum experiences that will inspire guests of all ages to engage with art, and with each other, as they explore the creative process and realize the importance and vitality that creativity brings to our community.

The Center for Creativity includes galleries and play spaces geared towards families; a lab and studio for interactive learning experiences and workshops; a community gallery to showcase creative projects by local students and community organizations and more.

Next for the Museum will be the expansion phase, beginning late next year with the closing of the 1974 building formerly known as the Ross Wing. The 45,000 square feet of new construction slated to open sometime in 2013 will include gallery space for large installations, events and a new café. The museum has budgeted $30 million for this next phase of work.

All the updates and expansion are being funded through the $80 million Art Matters building and endowment campaign, of which $52.8 million has been raised.

Corna Kokosing Construction Co. of Columbus led the construction and Columbus-based Schooley Caldwell Associates was the architect on the phase one project.

Click here to see some videos of the renovation process.  And click here to view WOSU's video clip from Artzine to see some of the wonderful and exciting changes.

Wonderland

It’s been more than eight months since an estimated crowd of nearly 1,000 filtered into the former Wonder Bread factory in Italian Village for the first public peek at Wonderland, the ambitious multipurpose creative facility project spearheaded by executive director and co-founder, Adam Brouillette.

The repurposed factory is projected to include artists' studios, rehearsal rooms, a boutique mall, a state-of-the-art recording facility, shared and private office space, a midsized performance venue and other amenities. The project aims to create a hub of activity for the local arts scene that could expand and help redevelop the surrounding neighborhood, as well as rival similar facilities across the nation.

The year ahead will be a busy one for the Wonderland team. They plan to hold fundraising events and keep the public abreast as to the facility's progress through social media and events held at various venues in town.

In an October interview on WOSU’s local radio show All Sides with Ann Fisher, Wonderland was initially slated to open at the end of 2010, but the team decided to slow down.

“We stepped back and said OK—this is a really great idea and we’re moving really fast,” said Brouillette. They decided to bring in a board of trustees that helped them take stock of the project and move forward more efficiently and thoughtfully. “We thought—we could do this quickly or we could do it correctly.”

According to 614 Magazine, construction will be in full swing next fall, with hopes of a 'soft opening' event on New Year's Eve 2011. If all goes as planned, Wonderland will host a full-fledged grand opening during the summer of 2012.

To start off the New Year running, the Columbus Foundation awarded a $50,000 grant to Wonderland in late December. The money can be spent at the discretion of the board to meet the upstart project's most pressing needs.

To read an in-depth article published in December by 614 Magazine on the progress so far and plans for Wonderland in 2011, click here.

For more information about Wonderland, visit www.wonderlandcolumbus.com.

Columbus Commons and the Scioto Mile Parks To Liven Up Downtown

Columbus Commons is a new world-class urban park and green space currently taking root in the heart of the city.

Exterior demolition of downtown’s City Center mall began October 1, 2009 to make way for Columbus Commons. The support system to create the park was completed in the summer of 2010, and the park infrastructure was completed just last month. The park will truly begin to come to life when seasonal landscaping is installed in the spring of 2011.

The Capitol South property was inspired by classical park designs of Paris and New York, with nine beautiful acres of inviting green space with trees, flowers, walking and bike paths. The elegant, stately lawn and amphitheater will offer the perfect environment for large entertainment events, recreational activities, dining al fresco or relaxing, all while enjoying the dramatic downtown skyline.

The long term plans still include the gradual addition of private development to fill in some of the green space with multi-story buildings that will contain a mix of residences, street-level retail, offices, and entertainment destinations. Current estimates say that the area will be home to an additional 435,000 square feet of office space, 70,000 square feet of retail space and 400 new residential units. The parking garage remains to the south of the project, and underground parking has been preserved below the park.

Capitol South is in discussions with the Columbus Association of Performing Arts (CAPA) to program the park and with Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District about assisting with security.

Current plans call for a park entrance from High Street though a pedestrian Town Street connecter. The Town Street pedestrian connecter will be a brick pathway that will run east/west through Columbus Commons and provide access to Third Street. This connector will create a green corridor, linking Columbus Commons and the Scioto Mile.

To keep up on the progress of the Columbus Commons, click here.

The Scioto Mile, the spectacular one-mile stretch of Riverfront parkland slated for completion in the summer of 2011, will wind its way from the Whittier Peninsula to the Arena District and will feature lush green spaces, a charming promenade and mesmerizing water features along with plazas, paths and bikeways. Part of the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department, the Scioto Mile is Downtown’s cornerstone revitalization project and will help attract and complement residential development, boost property values and stimulate commercial growth.

The two major highlights of the Scioto Mile are the Promenade and the renovated Bicentennial Park.

The Promenade on the Scioto Mile is a grand boardwalk and green corridor that stretches along Civic Center Drive from Broad Street to Rich Street. It connects Battelle Riverfront Park with the John W. Galbreath Bicentennial Park. The Promenade includes a series of water features in which visitors can interact with bronze fountain sculptures or rest and dip their feet in the cool, moving water of a canal.

The Promenade will also feature a stone colonnade with benches, swings, gardens, and card and chess tables.

The John W. Galbreath Bicentennial Park, a 4.7-acre area, will feature a stunning 15,000-square-foot water fountain, casual dining cafe and eye-catching bandshell.

The Columbus Recreation and Parks Department will take on the programming responsibilities once the park is complete.

In addition to adding two acres of green space to downtown, the new riverfront between Town and Main Street will function as a natural stream bank, with native plants and bio-retention areas.

In turn, the plants and bio-retention areas will contribute to the health of the Scioto River by doing what plants do: filtering toxins and naturally releasing water into the river.

Solar panels on the roof of the Bicentennial Park Café are another green addition to the project. They help power the fountains and restaurant. Finally, Town Street, a green gateway to the Scioto Mile, has also been transformed with urban bio-retention areas to filter water before it reaches the Scioto River.

To learn more about the Scioto Mile and plans for the coming year, go to www.sciotomile.com.

Photo:  A view of the Wonder Room in the CMA's new Center of Creativity.  Photo by Jennifer Sadler




Image:  Carpe Diem String Quartet

Four Lions
Presented by Wexner Center for the Arts
Through 1/6/2011

The Murder That Rocked OSU
Presented by Grandview Heights Public Library
1/13/2011

Currents: Complaints Choir
Presented by Columbus Museum of Art
Through 1/16/2011

Ohio State Theatre Presents In Concert: The Sounds of Desire
Presented by The Ohio State University Department of Theatre
1/27/2011

Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven
Presented by Columbus College of Art & Design
1/27/2011 - 3/12/2011

Seize the Music: Baroque to Big Band with Tom Battenberg
Presented by Carpe Diem String Quartet
1/28/2011

Soldiers' Chorus of the United States Army Field Band
Presented by Columbus Symphony
1/29/2011