Diversity means different things to different people.
Just what it means to a group of local artists will be on display during the month of October at the Rhodes State Office Tower, 30 E. Broad St.
The show, “Columbus Celebrates Diversity,” continues a concept co-curators Tom Baillieul and Jim Siemer began to develop back in 2009 to serve as a kind of build-up to next year’s bicentennial celebration for the city.
Clintonville resident Baillieul and Siemer of the West Side, both artists in their own right, put on a successful art exhibition for Black History Month in February of that year, Baillieul said last week.
“It was a very big success and we had so much fun doing it, so we said, ‘You know, we should do something for Columbus Day,’ ” Baillieul said.
They also decided, he said, to do something that was Columbus-themed — the city, not the explorer.
“This is kind of the run-up to the bicentennial is how we refer to it,” Baillieul said. “Each year we try to come up with a different them, and yet still focus on Columbus.”
As it turned out, the Rhodes Tower was booked in October 2009, so that first Columbus-themed art exhibition, called “Crossroads of Ohio,” took place in September.
“We had quite a nice turnout,” Baillieul said.
Last year’s show was titled “Ohio’s Hometown.” It included works depicting various landmarks and several of the city’s skyline, watercolor artist Siemer said. In consulting with artists and his co-curator, Siemer said that it was decided this year’s show would focus on the people of Columbus.
“For this year, I felt that we needed to talk about diversity, and not just diversity racially, ethnically, whatever, as a lot of people think of the term, but the wonderful diversity that exists in Columbus in terms of its history and its architecture and of course the wonderful ethnic diversity, and let the artists had the freedom to interpret it as they would,” Baillieul said.
“We have many portraits of people of Columbus, whether it be jazz artists, whether it be teachers, photos of urban life, just capturing all various aspects of life in Columbus,” Siemer said. “We have accomplished what we were looking for. We have more celebration of the people who make Columbus what it is. In short, I’m very pleased with the art that’s been submitted for this exhibition. I think this exhibit will be a powerful exhibit.”
Baillieul expects “Columbus Celebrates Diversity” to include around 55 submissions from a variety of local artists when it opens.
“Artists were asked to depict some aspect of Columbus’ tremendous diversity, past and present, of people and place,” the Clintonville resident wrote in announcing the show. “Columbus is an exciting place to live, diverse in its many neighborhoods: Clintonville, German Village, Italian Village, Victorian Village, Olde Town East, Franklinton, Linden, the University District. This diversity can be extended into the past with Fly Town where immigrants new to America settled and created a rich cultural stew of music, dress, language and beliefs – along with Mt Vernon Avenue and Poindexter Village, chronicled by Aminah Robinson. Columbus has a diversity of music, with a long and vibrant tradition of jazz, being a major stopover on the rail lines radiating from Chicago, St. Louis and New York. Equally venerable is Columbus’ association with brass bands and open-air band performances. And then of course, there is the symphony, the opera, Celtic pub bands, bluegrass, salsa, ska; you name it, it’s here.
Artists are not charged a fee for having their works included in the October showings, Baillieul said, “because for some artists who live on a shoestring, that’s prohibitive.”
“We try to keep it broad and we try to make it inclusive,” he added.
A reception for the artists whose works are included in “Columbus Celebrates Diversity” will be held on Thursday, Oct. 13, from 6 to 8 p.m.