By Jennifer Sadler and Kelsey Thaxton

Imagine the perfect afternoon scenario: peruse a stunning al fresco gallery with a dazzling array of artwork in every conceivable style and medium. Listen to an artist tell a great story about a work of art they’ve created that just so happens to be that one-of-a-kind piece you’ve been searching for to add to your collection. Learn something new and creative—engage in some hands-on art activities like throwing clay on a potter’s wheel, or flame-working glass canes into a beautiful bead. Take a stroll along a lovely Riverfront promenade. Then spread out a blanket, take in some sunshine and enjoy a delicious lunch while you listen to live music from some of Columbus’ best entertainers.

You can enjoy these experiences and much more at the 2012 Columbus Arts Festival presented by Time Warner Cable and produced by the Greater Columbus Arts Council as we celebrate our long-awaited move back home to the Downtown Riverfront, June 1, 2 & 3. The Festival will transform the heart of the city into an outdoor celebration of the arts as the nation's top artists display their work and attract art fans from all over the country.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to convene at the Riverfront to enjoy artwork created by more than 230 artists, continuous live entertainment, hands-on art activities and homegrown art from some of our most creative indie artist collectives. Plenty of delicious food will satisfy every appetite—from classic festival fare to gourmet offerings from community-favorite Dine Originals restaurants. Local food trucks will also be onsite serving everything from specialty crepes to Venezuelan-style street food.

Longtime fans of the Festival will be pleased to experience a familiar ambiance that’s been greatly enhanced by the Riverfront revitalization. Highlights include a beautiful new Bicentennial Park stage, two stunning new bridges, lush green spaces, a charming promenade, an awe-inspiring 15,000 square feet interactive fountain, plazas, paths and bikeways.

The Columbus Arts Festival will be the first festival to take place at the location that was designed with outdoor events in mind.

“As we celebrate our Bicentennial throughout the year, it is fitting that the Columbus Arts Festival is returning to its proper home, along the Downtown Riverfront,” Mayor Michael B. Coleman said. “The additions of Scioto Mile and the Main Street and Rich Street bridges will make this year’s Arts Festival the best one yet for our residents and visitors.”

Scott Huntley, who joined GCAC in February as the new Festival director says he’s very excited that the festival will be the inaugural large event to be held along the newly renovated Riverfront.

“The city has worked hard to build this beautiful venue and we are very happy to be holding the 2012 Arts Festival there,” said Huntley. “I feel honored to be directing the festival and to be a part of the Greater Columbus Arts Council. The arts community in Columbus is a strong one, our coordinating committee has been working overtime to create a show that not only brings in artists from all over the country, but showcases our local arts community as well.”

From its humble beginning as a "Festival of the Arts" on the Statehouse lawn more than half a century ago, the Columbus Arts Festival has grown into one of the most highly acclaimed arts festivals in the country. Early festivals focused on "a program in cultural achievements" by students of the Columbus City Schools and local colleges, but today the Festival has evolved into an extravaganza of art and culture.

Each year, more than 1,000 artists vie for coveted 200+ booth spaces at the Festival. Applicants are juried by a panel of visual arts professionals to exhibit their exquisitely hand-crafted work representing 16 different mediums. With a national reputation for loyal art buyers and supporters, the Columbus Arts Festival is a “must do” with a relaxed, gallery hop style atmosphere—perfect for browsing an exciting selection of handcrafted art and fine crafts and inviting patrons an opportunity to chat with the artists whose work they admire.

Our state will be well-represented at the event—more than 40 of the artists who are exhibiting are from Ohio. Be sure to seek out up-and-coming local artists participating in our Emerging Artist program—designed for talented artists from Franklin and surrounding counties who are brand new to or have very little experience participating in outdoor festivals.

Local bands will perform continuous and diverse styles of music on the Bicentennial Stage—from the Latin beats of Yumbambé to The Salty Caramels, whose nostalgic sound is inspired by girl groups from the ‘40s-‘60s. Sponsored by BP, the Community Stage is back this year with acts ranging from participants from the 200Columbus Celebrate Columbus in Song contest to performances by BalletMet and Actor’s Theatre of Columbus. Don’t miss singer/songwriter and roots-rocker, Tim Easton, performing on Friday night at 8:30 p.m. on the Stage. Since getting his start as a musician in his college days at Ohio State, the Nashville-based Easton has enjoyed a highly acclaimed career that has taken him around the world—and the Columbus Arts Festival is always one of his favorite gigs.

The place to find homegrown art at the Festival will be the Big Local Art Tent. Experience art demonstrations and a gallery of works for sale by local artists, and make-and-take projects led by indie artist collectives like Columbus Crafty Cotillion, Columbus Artmobile, Cap City Creatives, Etsy Team Columbus, Columbus Idea Foundry and Mother Artists at Work.

Local artist Heather Wirth who operates the Artmobile—an arts class on wheels—says she’s excited to be in a position to help infuse more of local arts into the Columbus Arts Festival.

“I'm involved in several projects for the Festival that I feel will really help to highlight more Columbus artists,” said Wirth. “The Big Local Art Tent is something that many local arts collectives are working together on, to add something new to the festivities. We'll have a gallery, live demos and performances, as well as a make-and-take station where the patrons get to be artists and create work of their own.”

Wirth has also helped to organize a gallery show at 400 W Rich, Columbus Local, which will showcase the work of more than 60 local artists during the Festival. 400 W Rich, a warehouse located in Franklinton, neighboring the Festival on the west side of the river, is home to a growing community of artists.

“We'll have 2- and 3-D work, but also several installations that wouldn't normally have a place at the Festival,” said Wirth. “This might be the largest presence of Columbus artists that the Festival has ever seen.”

The Artmobile will also be housed at 400 W Rich during the Festival in Studio 103, open from noon-6 p.m. each day providing free arts activities for kids.

Abuzz with creative energy, the Hands On Art Activities Area of the Festival provides opportunities for all ages to roll up their sleeves and create masterpieces of their own. Local arts and cultural organizations including the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, COSI and Glass Axis will offer a wide variety of creative activities from throwing clay pots and sculpting paper flowers to creating an ornament to place on a Wishing Tree to be displayed at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

One of the most popular stops is the Children’s Gallery. All of the work displayed in this unique, kid-sized gallery is generously donated by exhibiting artists. Youngsters can purchase a work of art for $5 or less. The experience is fun and hopefully encourages a life-long appreciation for skillfully hand-crafted work and collecting art.

Each year, we honor Columbus' reputation as a national leader for spoken word poetry on the Ohio Magazine Word is Art stage. You won't want to miss the high impact, high energy performances from some of the city's best poets. The schedule is jam-packed this year, with featured readings by the top three winners the Columbus Arts Festival’s Poetry Contest (held in March). On the Saturday evening of the event the 8th annual Columbus Arts Festival Poetry Slam will be hosted by accomplished local poet Scott Woods. A “slam” is a mock competition—all in fun—in which poets are “judged” by members of the audience.

For the second year, the Festival will offer VIP Packages that feature all-weekend passes to an exclusive VIP Lounge providing a private oasis in the shady courtyard of the Cultural Arts Center. A private cash bar, free parking, free bottled water, comfortable seating, private restrooms and other amenities will be available to those who purchase VIP Packages and to those who join the Friends of the Festival program. The VIP Lounge, generously sponsored by GRID Furnishings, will feature a special menu from the Columbus Brewing Company and exclusive live music performances.

VIP Packages will be sold prior to and during the festival for $75. Couples package for $140; group packages are also available. VIP Passes are transferable and are good for the entire weekend. Tickets can be purchased online at and on site at the VIP Lounge and Souvenir booths located at the center of each bridge. Proceeds from VIP Package purchases support the Festival and GCAC’s programming.

No public money funds the Columbus Arts Festival. The Festival is only possible through the generous sponsorship of local and national businesses—and support from individuals. In addition to tickets to our VIP Lounge, we’re now offering an exciting new way for you to get more out of your festival experience. By becoming a Friend of the Festival, your donation will not only help defray general operating support expenses, but also supports the Festival’s mission to offer a free and engaging arts experience for the community. You’ll also receive some VIP benefits at the Festival as a thank you for your contribution!

Volunteers are the heart of the Columbus Arts Festival. Each year, the Festival comes to life through the cooperation of Greater Columbus Arts Council staff, Coordinating Committee members who work with us year-round and an expansive corps of more than 300 on-site volunteers. Our energetic and friendly volunteers are invaluable in terms of the work they accomplish, and their input ensures a festival that’s fresh, original and fun—the key elements in maintaining a dynamic art event.

Be sure to experience the Festival online! Sign up to volunteer, become a friend of the Festival or purchase a VIP Package at Check out behind the scenes action on our Facebook page and get up-to-the-moment info and participate in our #tweetandgoseek scavenger hunt through our Twitter account, @ColsArtsFest.

Columbus' downtown boasts a wide collection of fun places to eat, shop and experience the arts in all forms. After you experience the Festival, we hope you’ll stroll through the surrounding downtown areas and check out organizations such as 400 W RichCOSI, Columbus Commons, the Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Center Gallery, OSU Urban Arts Space and more. Don’t miss WaterFire on Saturday night of the Festival—a unique display of bonfires floating on braziers on the Scioto River. This year WaterFire will light more than 60 braziers. The gates will open with free admittance at 6:30 p.m. and the fires are lit at 8:30 p.m. with the best viewing and listening from Washington Blvd. at Genoa Park on the west side of the river.

The festival runs from June 1–3. Hours are Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m., and on Sunday from 11:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Image courtesy of FEVERHEAD.

Technically Speaking Contemporary Dance Class
Presented by FEVERHEAD
Through June 27, 2012

Laugh and Learn at Lunch with Conversations & Coffee at CAC
Presented by the Cultural Arts Center
Through June 28, 2012

Music in the Park
Presented by City of Gahanna Parks & Recreation Dept.
Through August 17, 2012

Friday @ The Meadery
Presented by Brothers Drake
 Through December 28, 2012

Four-Season Urban Plein Air Paintings
Through December 31, 2012

Summer Jazz Series
Presentey by Camelot Cellars Winery and Jazz Arts Group
June 15, 2012 — August 17, 2012

Camp Create
Presented by Creation Nation
June 26, 2012 — August 16, 2012

TangoOSU Argentine Tango lessons and Milongas
Presented by The Ohio State University