The fresh art and architecture is taking shape for the inaugural exhibition of Exhibit Columbus, just a month away.

And anticipation is building, locally and globally.

The 18 new installations, inspired spin-offs of nearby buildings and art, can be seen for free from Aug. 26 through Nov. 26, mostly around downtown.

A piece called “Conversation Plinth,” set to grace the Bartholomew County Public Library plaza, is in the early stages of construction at two wood firms.

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“Between the Threads,” designed by local high schoolers, has taken on a groovy, colorful, psychedelic feel in its construction home at the Indiana University Center for Art + Design.

“Another Circle,” highlighting a creative use of recycled stone, will be rounding out nicely soon at Mill Race Park.

“One big thing for all of us that really has been inspiring is how this community as a whole has stepped up in different ways to make this happen,” said founder Richard McCoy, referring to support from local metal shops, construction firms, community leaders and generous financial donors. “That’s made this project a dream.

There are a lot of moving parts and pieces to line up in the next 30 days, McCoy acknowledges.

“But we’re going to be ready. We’re building away.”

McCoy and his team of organizers label this first-time outing “politely audacious.”

Adding to the excitement is the Indiana premiere of the architecture-centrist film, “Columbus,” opening Sept. 1 at YES Cinema downtown. The movie already has won critics’ praise for its beauty and cinematography surrounding local, notable buildings.

This attention has caused McCoy to double his attendance estimates for Exhibit Columbus to 20,000 people.

“All eyes are going to be on Columbus this fall,” he said.

Architect Yugon Kim, founding owner/partner at IKD in Boston, plans to be in Columbus off and on throughout much of August to oversee construction of his and Tomomi Itakura’s multi-layered and multi-level platform design, “Conversation Plinth.”

It serves as one of five of the event’s Miller Prize winners, which hearken to the local architectural foundation provided by design lover and wealthy industrialist J. Irwin Miller and his wife, Xenia Miller, also a worldwide proponent of art and architecture.

Wood work on “Conversation Plinth” is being done by Koetter Woodworking in Borden while cutting-edge, high-tech, cross-laminated timber fabrication is being done at SmartLam in Columbia Falls, Montana.

Architect Kim mentioned that he is hardly surprised by growing attention for the event that will entertain worldwide media members at the opening.

“My feeling about all the media attention really is ‘Why hasn’t this happened sooner?’ Columbus is an amazing place,” Kim said.

A good number of local residents have a sense of that.

About 70 people have signed up for Exhibit Columbus training to be a tour guide for a 90-minute walking tour, said Erin Hawkins, director of marketing for the Columbus Area Visitors Center. Training began last week.

“That’s an excellent response that speaks to how well the community is embracing this project,” Hawkins said. “Plus, this is a good opportunity for people who have toyed with the idea of being a regular (architectural) tour guide without having to make a long-term commitment. I think it may be a more-accessible volunteer option for some people.”

One work that tour guides will highlight is the 30-foot-long plastics-and-glass 3-D abstract sculpture, “Shadow of An Unknown Bird,” a project between Cummins Inc. engineers and Indiana University artists and designers. It may become the largest 3-D sculpture in the country or even the world, according to organizers.

It began as a collaboration separate from the exhibition. But team members quickly discovered its timing fit the Exhibit Columbus calendar, and could serve as the IUCA+D’s contribution to the exhibition.

It mixes top technology with one of only 10 such 3-D printers of its kind worldwide, with top artistic creativity. Currently, it is being fabricated at IUCA+D.

The piece’s design team consists of T. Kelly Wilson, Jennifer Riley, Jee Kim, Philip Shelton and John Rupp.

“I realized this would be a great project to complete before the opening of Exhibit Columbus,” said Wilson, who is director of IUCA+D in Columbus.

That work is expected to proceed right up to the opening of Exhibit Columbus, under the umbrella of The Heritage Fund — the Community Foundation of Bartholomew County.

“Columbus is a smart town,” McCoy said. “This town knows architecture. It’s unlike any other community.”

And if McCoy is right, Exhibit Columbus will be unlike any other architectural exhibition.

Exhibit Columbus by the numbers

Number of total exhibits: 18 > Number of volunteers: More than 50.

Organizers’ projected viewers by Nov. 26: 20,000

Estimated number of architects involved: 25 (some are teams)

Number of countries represented by designers: Seven, including the United States.

Exhibit Columbus opening weekend

Here’s a look at some of the events on the opening weekend of Exhibit Columbus:

  • Preview Party, 6 to 11 p.m. Aug. 25, Cummins Corporate Office Building (outdoors): A dinner gathering to meet and honor the five J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prize winners, the many other designers whose work is being presented in the 2017 exhibition, and all those who have helped make this exhibition possible. Ticket prices begin at $150 at exhibitcolumbus.org.
  • Opening Celebration from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Aug. 26, Fifth Street to Mill Race Park. Free. This is a chance to meet the architects and designers participating in Exhibit Columbus at their installations.
  • Miller House and Garden Ticketed Champagne Tours departing from the Columbus Area Visitors Center, evening of Aug. 26. Cost, other details to be announced. Information: exhibitcolumbus.org.
  • Free Mill Race Park 25th Anniversary Party, 4:30 to 7 p.m. Aug. 26. A community party open to all.

How you can help

You can be far more than an observer for Exhibit Columbus. Organizers can use more volunteers for everything from construction to errands.

Information: info@exhibitolcumbus.org.

Pull Quote

“This town knows architecture. It’s unlike any other community.”

— Richard McCoy, founder of Exhibit Columbus

Author photo
Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.