Extending its stay: Another Exhibit Columbus piece will remain downtown, with a new configuration

Submitted photo An artist’s rendering of an adjusted “Ground Rules” Exhibit Columbus installation in its new Fourth Street location in a motorcycle parking slot.

In the aftermath of another completed architectural exhibition billed as temporary, a second installation is staying — in a smaller configuration and in a new Fourth Street location by spring.

The first piece recently announced as staying was “InterOculus” at Fourth and Washington streets.

“Ground Rules,” by Jessica Colangelo and Charles Sharpless’ at the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design at the University of Arkansas, was part of Exhibit Columbus’ University Design Research Fellows pieces. Until the exhibition ended last month, the piece was located in front of the Cummins Inc. corporate office building at 500 Jackson St. in downtown Columbus.

The idea for the piece staying began early in the three-month exhibition when Heather Pope, Columbus’ director of redevelopment, heard the designers mention that the piece could be reconfigured for a different location such as a parking spot. She followed by reaching out to the city engineering department and public works. Her interest increased after Exhibit Columbus’ Activations In Place days in November.

That two-day event brought together state and national experts in creating permanent and temporary quality-of-place amenities with the seven University Design Research Fellows.

“You can basically make this piece almost whatever size you need it to be,” Pope said. ” … This is about an effort to further establish a sense of place downtown.”

Richard McCoy is executive director of the nonprofit Landmark Columbus Foundation that is the umbrella agency of Exhibit Columbus. He also has been for several years a key figure strongly advocating for making Columbus’ downtown more active and vibrant.

“The future of downtowns,” McCoy said, “is about creating an interesting experience with surprises, fun things to do, cool art — that’s what all kinds of people are looking for. When we talk about downtown vibrancy — well, that’s what this whole, recent cycle of Exhibit Columbus was about.”

Exhibit Columbus, which began in 2017, is an exploration of community, architecture, art, and design that activates the modern legacy of Columbus. It is funded by grants and private donations, not public tax dollars.

McCoy and Pope called moving the piece, featuring a bench and decorative fencing, and keeping it indefinitely an example not of public art, but of “tactical urbanism.” Pope provided the following online definition of that.

Those efforts are “short-term, community-based projects — from pop-up parks to open streets initiatives — that have become a powerful and adaptable tool for downtown activists, planners, and policy-makers seeking to drive lasting improvements in their cities.

“These quick, often low-cost, and creative projects are the essence of the tactical urbanism movement.

“Whether creating vibrant plazas seemingly overnight or re-imagining parking spaces as neighborhood gathering places, they offer a way to gain public and government support for investing in permanent projects.”

McCoy mentioned that Ground Rules, which originally included a segment for games, represents trying something new.

“This is chance for the city to experiment with using some of those hard-to-use bicycle (or motorcycle) parking spots to give people another reason to decide to hang out downtown,” McCoy said. “We’re regularly hearing mayors across the country looking for new ways to create experiences for people visiting a downtown.”

McCoy and Pope both mentioned that these smaller steps can become catalysts to attract attention, and to also attract groups to stroll and relax downtown. The move to attract more people to Columbus’ downtown has been significant as far back as the 1990s and the simple push to include art in alleyways.

But the effort most recently was renewed by New York City consultant James Lima. He spoke in town months ago detailing his firm’s study including downtown possibilities with more events and other attractions.

“This (installation) won’t need a lot of care and upkeep,” McCoy said, adding that Landmark Columbus would be willing to take on such work with volunteers or others. “There are really only two small pieces.”

After the installation is placed at Fourth Street next year, it will be re-evaluated late in the year, according to Pope.

“We know that the winter elements can be very hard on wood,” she said.

About ‘Ground Rules’

Its original, larger design at Cummins Inc. included included an elevated playing court for various games. But the smaller, reconfigured version, aimed for a nook of Fourth Street in the spring, will include only the seating spot and decorative fencing.