Designed for fun: Exhibit Columbus has festive opening party

As shadows fell on the 2019 Exhibit Columbus exhibition’s opening party Saturday, a group of young people a few blocks away gathered on the City Hall plaza, taking cellphone camera-flash shots of Bryony Roberts’ rope-festooned installation “Soft Civic.”

So, even in the darkness, the architectural event lit the local area with flair and pizzazz in a city that long has championed top designers’ bright light.

“Tonight,” Mayor Jim Lienhoop told a crowd of 700 people under a 100-yard-long tent at Mill Race Park, “we’re going to have a little fun.”

And they — community leaders, exhibition designers, corporate sponsors, volunteers, you name it — did just that amid sunny 75-degree weather that seemed as perfect as many of the 18 temporary architectural pieces gracing the city through Dec. 1.

[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]Click here to purchase photos from this gallery

They did it with the zest of people such as architect Carlos Zedillo of PienZa Sostenible of Mexico City. His agency created bee houses as part of the Washington Street Civic Projects.

But his exuberance surfaced best when he joyously scooped up 2-year-old son Franco and made a beeline for the dance floor — and let a disc jockey’s tunes ranging from Michael Jackson to Bruno Mars crawl up his leg just before the dinner.

“Oh, he loves to dance,” Zedillo said after the two had moved and grooved and even hopped.

Others felt like celebrating a bit after merely looking over the crowd that enjoyed an elaborate meal of braised beef, crab cakes, shrimp cocktail, Spanish paella with chicken, beef empanadas and more offerings from Kahn’s Catering in Indianapolis.

“Look at this outpouring (of people),” said impressed Hartsville resident Suzie Renstchler.

She added that she felt heartened to see the city’s architectural zest rise again with the help of people such as T. Kelly Wilson, who arrived in town nearly a decade ago and now serves as the director of Indiana University’s J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program, which is based in Columbus and part of the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design. Also, Richard McCoy, executive director of Landmark Columbus, which operates Exhibit Columbus, has earned his share of accolades for being a catalyst along with others specifically for the exhibition.

In fact, when McCoy was introduced Saturday, a playful deejay blared the Rocky theme music “Gonna Fly Now.” McCoy laughed, as did many in the crowd.

But the 2017 exhibition spread its wings so significantly that it attracted some 40,000 people and worldwide publicity in a town that the American Institute of Architects once ranked sixth nationally for the number of top Modernist architectural structures. McCoy last week predicted that this new exhibition, with a roster of experienced, heralded designers who currently are working around the globe, will attract even more people.

And he took a moment to salute Anne Surak, director of exhibitions.

“She’s a visionary, has great taste and wants everything to be perfect all the time,” McCoy said as the crowd applauded.

She also has exercised patience and calm as some builders worked feverishly Saturday (and planned to work through Sunday) finishing final details on some of the installations mimicking everything from turtle shells to mini-forests.

McCoy also offered thanks to opening party co-chairs Jeff Baker and John Pickett, who repeated their 2017 opening party success that also drew 700 people.

“I think this might have been a little easier than the first time,” Baker said as attendees milled around him and the tent. “Now, many of the people understand what it is. Now, the first one is a concrete memory for them.

“And after they realized the impact the first one (in 2017) had on the community, I think there was no question this time (about support).”

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”Opening party by the numbers” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]


Months of the exhibition


Hours long


Number of installations celebrated 



[sc:pullout-text-end][sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”About the exhibition” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

Exhibit Columbus is a once-every-two-years exhibition of a wide variety temporary architectural installations that are meant to highlight or somehow connect to nearby, permanent structures and buildings in Columbus.

The exhibition will run through Dec. 1 and is an exploration of art, architecture and design.

Exhibit Columbus seeks to celebrate Columbus’ heritage while making it relevant in new and modern ways, according to organizers. It is the signature project of Landmark Columbus, which was created in 2015 to care for the design heritage of Columbus, and is under the umbrella of Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County.

To learn more, visit:

[sc:pullout-text-end][sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”For more photos” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

For more photos, see