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Thousands in rhythm for plaza event

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It wasn’t enough for Haley Challies to simply dance to a classical-hip hop hybrid Friday at a concert by unorthodox duo Black Violin.

The Columbus teen energetically moved to the music while flipping and swirling hula hoops like a juggler with righteous rhythm.

In short, Challies represented as much of a vibrant picture of an event called Live On the Plaza as anything.

The gathering quickly became Lively on the Plaza and celebrated the reopening of the Cleo Rogers Memorial Library plaza after it underwent a $1.4 million facelift over seven months.

The work included an intimate walkway added between the library and the Columbus Area Visitors Center and Columbus artist Martin Beach’s granite-and-sandstone sculpture, “Modern Totem.”

“Everything is beautiful,” said dancer Challies, a Black Violin fan long before the show. “I love the library, and for people to throw something like this for all these people is just great.

“I really like being here for the music. But it’s just so awesome to see the community get together and do something like this.”

Violinist Kev Sylvester and viola player Wil Baptiste’s performance, funded by Columbus’ NTN Driveshaft, shifted some of the evening into high-energy overdrive. Grandmothers smiled and clapped to the beat. A teenager or two busted a funky move near the stage. Children let the thumping bass move their bodies in crazy rhythm.

And everybody raised their hands high every time viola player Baptiste enthusiastically issued the command.

“Rule No. 1 is that this is a party,” he told the crowd at the outset.

How fitting that the free celebration at the city’s bastion of books unfolded in near-storybook fashion, since Mother Nature arrived with clearing skies at showtime — right about the same time that much of an estimated crowd of 2,000 people decided that raindrops wouldn’t keep falling on their heads.

Some sat quietly and comfortably in folding chairs. But many stood and let the performers’ funk sway their arms and hips in fluid agreement with the jazzed, sweet sounds, occasionally distorted with hip-hop record scratches.

Among the few not moving to the music was a young man shining entirely in metallic blue paint from head to toe like a Blue Man Crew leftover. He stood on a small trunk near the visitors center, purposely frozen like a statue in various poses, much to the amusement and amazement of children gathered wide-eyed around him.

Beach’s sculpture garnered its share of attention during a brief dedication fittingly held under a light rain to christen it before the concert.

“It’s really lovely,” said Columbus resident Gretchen Newell. “And I think the landscaping really sets it off.”

She referred to an approximate 18-inch sunken area under the piece, with the crevice marked by rocks and ornamental grasses. Plus, similar ornamental grasses with underground irrigation surround the entire walkway. Outlets for a range of electronic devices stand at the ready next to a series of artsy, Italian concrete benches.

Artist Beach surveyed the scene in front of a small group of community leaders and supporters. He said totems always have represented community to him — and he wanted the walkway to be a place for people to commune and gather.

On Friday, it and the surrounding plaza sprang to life as just that — two spaces seemingly working in concert.

Much like the blend of a violin and viola.

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