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Concert set to celebrate plaza’s rebirth

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When finished early next year, the local public library plaza will feature granite steps, more benches, shade trees, extended Wi-Fi connectivity and electrical outlets for people to charge their mobile devices.

And in June, the plaza will host nationally known hip-hop/classical fusion duo Black Violin for a free community concert that local officials hope will turn into an annual event in Columbus.

The brick steps leading to the entrances of the I.M. Pei-designed Cleo Rogers Memorial Library have caused some maintenance problems and safety concerns, and construction crews will replace them with granite slabs, said David Doup, president of Taylor Bros.

Construction, the project’s construction manager.

Fencing at Fifth and Lafayette streets still requires patrons to make some detours around the plaza with the Henry Moore “Large Arch” sculpture, as crews are replacing some damaged bricks and lifting others that have sunk and made the surface uneven.

The updated plaza also will feature some honey locust trees, supported by an irrigation system.

Crews also will install a more elegant connection between the library and the Columbus Area Visitors Center, on the block’s southwest, by adding benches, plants, and a sculpture for people to relax, read or have lunch.

The area will serve as a “mini park between the two spaces,” Doup said.

The update also will include better access to electricity, which will ease the hosting of concerts and other functions.

Jason Hatton, assistant director of the Bartholomew County Public Library, said that previous concerts required library staff to snake power cords through the building and across the plaza.

Doup said he hopes to complete construction by the end of January but expects some weather-related delays.

The project’s $1.2 million cost is being covered by the library’s savings.

To celebrate the plaza’s rebirth, the Library and Columbus Area Arts Council have secured a live performance from Black Violin, from 7 to 9 p.m. June 27.

The Florida-based duo consists of Wilner “Wil B” Baptiste and Kevin “Kev Marcus” Sylvester, two classically trained string musicians who combine their virtuosity on the violin and viola with hip-hop, rock, R&B, and bluegrass beats and lyrics.

According to its website, Black Violin has played in 49 states and 36 countries. It has worked with artists including Alicia Keys and Linkin Park member Mike Shinoda.

The duo also performed this year at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.

Arthur Smith, marketing & media director of the Arts Council, said Baptiste and Sylvester will work with local students at the Philharmonic Strings Camp a week earlier and invite them to play with the duo on stage during the concert.

Arts Council and Library officials are still working on event details, but they expect the event to include activities for all ages.

“We want it to be more than just a concert,” Hatton said.

Smith said Black Violin would be a first-of-its-kind concert in Columbus, and Hatton said he expects the recurring concert to provide a more eclectic mix of entertainment that will appeal to broader segments of the community and reflect its growing diversity.

The concert will be free to the public, thanks to sponsorship from NTN Driveshaft.

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