Exhibit Columbus introduces curatorial partners, gathers community thoughts

Exhibit Columbus began its fifth two-year cycle Wednesday, with the first of four events that will culminate with the exhibition of this cycle’s project in August 2025.

At the Community Kickoff at Helen Haddad Hall, the curatorial team and Landmark Columbus staff began looking into the potential for the project. One of the tools that they brought to the event was a map of downtown Columbus, in which participants could place small, colorful blocks on areas of certain significance.

The exact shape and color of these markers correlated with their meaning: Blue for iconic value, green for historic value, yellow for aesthetic value, orange for spiritual value, and red for social value. In addition to the blocks, those choosing to participate could write an explanation on a small flag and place it on the table.

Blocks of all shapes and colors populated the map, with a wide variety concentrated on Fourth and Fifth streets, and a number of yellow boxes popping up in Mill Race Park.

The seven curatorial partners for this cycle include Could Be Design, Rasul Mowatt, Preservation Futures, Too Black, and Mila Lipinski. They all carry accolades from poet, to professor, to historian, to author, to architect.

Lipinski, currently an architectural associate at Duvall Decker in Jackson, Mississippi, is a Columbus native. When she introduced herself to the room, she addressed a question she often gets, and one many people in the room likely had: “Is being from Columbus what made you want to pursue architecture?”

And although she says it’s a logical question, Lipinski replies, “It was sort of like asking a chef if they wanted to be a chef because they grew up eating food.”

“Being from Columbus was completely and totally lost on me for an embarrassing length of time,” she said. She didn’t necessarily connect being from Columbus and being interested in architecture together, as it was just what she grew up knowing.

Lipinski said her appreciation for Columbus was sparked as a member of the Exhibit Columbus high school design team in 2017.

“Columbus is an incredible place,” said Lipinski.

Also joining the cycle is Preservation Futures, a firm out of Chicago that works with historic preservation. Although Jonathan Solomon, half of the firm’s founding duo was not able to attend the event, Elizabeth Blasius was in attendance and spoke about the firm’s work and goals.

“Everything that happens here happens kind of unencumbered by the status quo of preservation, the rigidity of preservation, and it kind of gets ahead of the challenges,” said Blasius.

The work of Preservation Futures focuses on the preservation of the recent past, as well as work for clients who are interested in preservation but historically may have struggled with having their stories told and kept.

Too Black, a poet and artist out of Indianapolis, is bringing a bit of a different perspective to the group. Part of his role on the team is to provide critical analysis of the way architecture functions within a city.

“I think when we think about cities, and architecture, there’s ways that those things can be helpful, beneficial, and there’s also ways that architecture goes the other way, it can blight the neighborhood,” he said. Although Too Black may not be a trained architect, he does know art.

“As an artist, I think with architecture, or just art in general, I think all of us are not trained artists, but we know a good song when we hear it. We know a beautiful painting. We know what it feels like, even if we can’t explain the technical stuff,” he said.

Could Be Design is another Chicago duo. Joseph Altshuler and Zack Morrison describe their work as “seriously playful.”

“We like to think about companionship, of course, between humans and humans, but also between humans and places, and also between places and places,” said Altshuler. They explore this concept through architectural design, public art, books, and education.

“We are so thrilled and excited to be back in Columbus,” said Althshuler.

Morrison shared the sentiment, calling Columbus a “special place.”

“We’re super excited to find new ways that we can build relationships between designers, and the community, community organizations, to continue those conversations in this new cycle,” said Morrison.

The seventh member of the fifth cycle is Rasul Mowatt. Mowatt is a writer and educator based in Raleigh, NC, and his work focuses on the geographies of race, the geographies of violence, the animation and production of public space, and the application of critical theory. Outside of his academic focuses, Mowatt brings perspective on city management, human rights, and incarceration through his work.

“These topics are born out of sort of examining issues we see in our society, and its been great in certain ways to sort of have this sort of perspective, but it’s more fortunate to come in to a space to try to be a part of a solution,” said Mowatt.

Mowatt also proposed thoughts regarding the function of a city, the inherent care for others that is required for its success, what cities look like as a solution, and the importance of form and function interacting.

“What is a city? What can it be? How is it currently? By sort of thinking about the ways in which cities are planned in the wrong ways, cities can also be planned in the right way,” said Mowatt.

Once the introduction of the curatorial members concluded, those in attendance were able to visit the map at the front of the room and mark important places.

For the second portion of the event, Landmark Columbus executive director Richard McCoy presented potential sites for the Miller Prize winners.

The seven collaborators, Landmark Columbus staff, and audience members discussed potential locations, such as the Bartholomew County Public Library, Miller House, Fifth and Franklin, and a handful of other locations.

“We have some interesting sites on this list that are sort of ghosts,” said Lipinski. Lipinski talked about places that have changed form, and raised the idea of considering the differences between public and private spaces.

In addition to the Miller Prize, the room touched on what the community partnership and communication design may look like.

They searched for ways this cycle may be able to tell story of a forgotten place, or engage with community members who may be forgotten about now.

“How do we empower the sites themselves? How do we empower the organizations that have been partnered with? We’re not trying to answer a question. We’re trying to help give them the space, empower those entities,” said Lipinski.