Consider this an attempt to be representative of the kind of work done and shown in Columbus in 2017

While people whose job it is to decide such things increasingly point to Columbus as a city shaped and invigorated by its creatives, those very creatives were busy doing the actual creating. You're not going to read a “best of” list this or any year. Instead consider this an attempt to be representative of the kind of work done and shown in Columbus in 2017.

“Three Artists”

Jan. 13-Feb. 26 at Hammond Harkins Galleries

Marlana Hammond Keynes is a grand dame of the Columbus art scene, and her namesake gallery marked its 20th anniversary in 2017. This exhibition harkened back to her very first show, featuring the work of Paul Hamilton and the since-passed Aminah Robinson and Denny Griffith. “I was proud back then and I'm even more proud now,” Hamilton said.

“Silence is Death”

March 10-25 at the Vanderelli Room and other Franklinton spaces

Art as protest, as statement, as conviction and as rallying cry. When AJ Vanderelli couldn't do nothing, given her shock and frustration and anger at the state of affairs post-election of Donald Trump, she pulled the art-making and art-presenting community together to empower the people to ignite change. “We can really change everything,” Vanderelli said.

“Universe Tribe”

March 24-May 12 at Ohio State University Faculty Club

The latest installment (at the time) in an ongoing body of work from Columbus artist Lisa McLymont, “Universe Tribe” was a return to portrait painting for the mixed-media artist. The lush depictions of non-specific African-American women speak to McLymont's desire for positive representations and also her quest for unity. “The core message of ‘Universe Tribe' is to live and love,” she said.

“Gray Matters”

May 20-July 30 at the Wexner Center for the Arts

The debut exhibition for Wexner Center Senior Curator Michael Goodson proved that Columbus has bright minds in not just the making but the assembling of art work, and proved again the Wex's place among dynamic, forward-thinking spaces. ‘Gray Matters' focused on work almost entirely in shades of gray and featured all female artists, including Columbus-based Laura Lisbon and Carmen Winant.

“Black Gold”

June 3-30 at Wild Goose Creative

Sometimes, statements of great cultural significance come in the form of a conversation among friends about stuff you watched on TV when you were a kid. That's sort of the sentiment of “Black Gold,” a David Butler and Eric Jefferson show featuring their work celebrating black icons of popular culture. “We always have to hold on to our icons, [because] they are like gold to us,” Butler said.


June 3-July 22 at Angela Meleca Gallery

Columbus artist Sean Foley bared his soul for this exhibition, hosted at the fine and imaginative Downtown art gallery. He admitted his prior work had all been based on elements “external to me.” But for this show, the artist said he examined “my ongoing struggles and dealing with depression, and trying to parse out the difference between a sense of feeling melancholy and being depressed.”

“Will Play for Space”

June 23 at Skylab Gallery

MINT Collective still is, despite the loss of its space earlier in 2017, a provocative piece of the Columbus art-making community. This exhibition, part of an ongoing project that was first installed in Brooklyn, concerned issues that include space, but also access, DIY ethics and civic and government support for artist-run initiatives.

“of space and blood”

June 30-July 28 at the Cultural Arts Center

Columbus is blessed with many artists whose work is immediately identifiable, who possess a style and personality that not only sets them apart but draws you in. Amandda Tirey is one of those. The colors, shapes, layers and ideas found in this exhibition fit comfortably in Tirey's overall body of work, while stating very clearly that she has something new to say. “I'm just creating new space, creating a story about some unknown spaces, about who knows,” Tirey said.

“What Remains”

July 15-25 at Second Sight Project

At the intersection of archaeology and contemporary social justice is where Mona Gazala's work can be found. Or, better, where her work draws your attention. “What Remains” was a dumpster dive in Gazala's Franklinton neighborhood, in search of pieces that would forward Gazala's concerns about gentrification in general. “[Redevelopment] was happening right outside our front door,” Gazala said.

“A Gilding Denial”

Sept. 23-Aug. 31 at Blockfort

Despite Blockfort being, in some ways, a rebirth, the space felt like a significant new presence from the moment it opened. And while there was so much quality work done by the artists who maintain studios at Blockfort, this exhibition by Columbus ex-pat Brian Reaume, its enthralling and uncomfortable installation/sculpture addressing the plight of refugees and our collective response, even when sympathetic, stands out.

“Start at Home”

Aug. 24-Nov. 11 at multiple locations

The Hale Center at Ohio State University has assembled, through the years, an extensive and important collection of work by African-American artists. A collaborative effort of several campus entities put, if not the entire collection, a representative set, on display both on- and off-campus. The exhibition was also, in many ways, a tribute to Hale Center director Larry Williamson.


Nov. 10-18 at 934 Gallery

Felicia DeRosa is transitioning. In this one exhibition, she manages her personal history, the wide-ranging and sometimes unexpected ramifications of her transition and her advocacy in a compelling and devastating body of work. “When your expression of how you want the world to see you lines up with how you see yourself, that's congruency,” DeRosa said.