Susan Cox: Take time to explore Exhibit Columbus

The Exhibit Columbus installations are here again! My youngest son was a member of the inaugural high school design team that created the 2017 installation “Between the Threads,” and I’ve been hooked on this cool event ever since. The theme this year is “Public by Design” with installations by four J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prize winners, seven University Design Research Fellows, one High School Design Team, and one Communications Designer. You can find the installations throughout downtown and Mill Race Park.

This year’s exhibition has followed its theme, really involving the public. Each of the Miller Prize winners had a curatorial partner from the community connected with each of their sites — Mill Race Park, Mill Race Center, Washington Street, and the Bartholomew County Public Library. These partners shared their concerns and hopes for how the installation could engage the community at these locations. Then last fall the designers held sessions to get input from the community about how they used each space and what they would like to see there.

Additionally, the University Design Research Fellows and the High School Design Team were encouraged to consider this year’s theme and design exhibits that pull the community in to engage with their work. This has resulted in installations that are quite interactive — more so than some previous years.

Now that the more temperate fall weather has arrived, it’s a perfect time to go explore all the installations. Play some games at “Ground Rules”, take a spin on “A Carousel for Columbus” or listen to some jazz there on Fridays from 4-6 p.m., use something from the library of things or climb the giant stairs at “Designed by the public”, enjoy nature at “The Plot Project”, contemplate past memories or create new ones at “Echoes of the Hill”, see how leftover materials can be used to create structures and recipes at “Sylvan Scrapple”, learn about water at “Pipe Up!” (You can find more fun facts about water and a bingo game inside Hotel Indigo.), explore the melding of inside and outside at “Side Effects”, and take some selfies at “Machi”. (There’s a new selfie challenge each week on Instagram @c4hghschooldesignteam and you could win a prize.). If nighttime is more your thing, check out how “InterOculus” glows, watch the play of lights at “Prisma”, or listen the sounds of the library at “Responder”.

If you’d like to connect with the designers, consider attending one of the Miller Prize or Communications Design Conversations this fall. Each designer will discuss their work with a special guest. I’m looking forward to Studio Zwede’s discussion of their exhibit in Mill Race Park, “Echoes of the Hill”, with Michael Van Valkenburgh, who designed Mill Race Park, and Will Miller on Nov. 10. The University Research Design Fellows will be back in early November for a colloquium where they’ll share ideas with each other and experts in the fields of economic development, municipal leadership, and public spaces.

Coming up later this month is Next Generation Day on Sept. 30 from 12-4 p.m. on the Library Plaza. This is a family-friendly event and begins with a performance by the 2023 Poetry Out Loud National Champion and Columbus resident Sreepadaarchana Munjuluri. Additionally, unveiled that day will be more than 30 miniature installations created by fifth and sixth-grade elementary students that each answer the question, “What does downtown need right now?” These projects were designed and built in the BCSC STEM classes over the past year. How cool is that? Maybe one of these elementary students will be on a high school design team in the future.

You can find more information about the exhibition and events at along with downloadable maps, field guides, and activity guides. You can also find copies of the maps and guides at the following locations: Bartholomew County Public Library, Bakers Fine Gifts and Accessories, Dell Brothers, Columbus Area Visitors Center, Gallery 411, kidscommons, The Commons, and Viewpoint Books. Additionally, the map includes a QR code that links to a free self-guided audio tour app, Columbus, IN Tours.

The installations will be here through Nov 26, so find time to go explore them!

Susan Cox is one of The Republic’s community columnists, and all opinions expressed are those of the writer. She is an avid reader, an outdoor enthusiast, a mother, a grandmother, and an adjunct instructor of English at IUPUC. She can be reached at [email protected].