A Trip to the Museum: Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio

A Trip to the Museum: Columbus Museum of Art

Take Your Teen to the Columbus Museum of Art!

My daughter, Holly, pictured above (hint: she’s the one in the fur-obscured Arctic Monkeys t-shirt), is already a world-renowned artiste at the tender age of fourteen.  Hey, I have Dutch friends who have seen some of her artwork!  And looky here!  Now you have, too!

CMOA Columbus Ohio
Artists’ occupational hazard? Beautiful face bursting through the sketch paper.  Untitled (Holly, watercolor, 2017)

When I saw that one of our favorite museums, the Columbus Museum of Art, was closing out its special exhibit called Beyond Impressionism, I asked Holly if we should go.  Without any hesitation she agreed to the road trip!  She’s not an impressionist; she’s a realist, but we hoped post-Impressionist art such as we would find on display would inspire her to take her portraiture in an exciting new direction.  So it was a no-brainer to hop in the car last Saturday and drive up to Columbus.

McDonalds Columbus Ohio
Top Drawer! Top Drawer!

The next morning, Sunday, we made our way to downtown Columbus, which locals call the Discovery District, and the museum.  Luckily we arrived around 9:45am, because a long line was starting to form behind us in anticipation of the 10am opening.

The Beyond Impressionism Exhibit’s Star Artist, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec

The museum has a lot of great offerings, but of course we made a beeline directly for the special exhibit.  I loved seeing works up close that I had learned about in high school!  Especially cool were the Toulouse-Lautrec prints.  Holly even snapped up a “Le Chat Noir” t-shirt.

Le Chat Noir Toulouse Lautrec Columbus Ohio
Le Chat Noir (Nightclub poster by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec)

I recalled how many times over the years I had seen the Troupe de Mademoiselle Eglantine print and its variants.

Troupe de Mlle Eglantine Toulouse Lautrec Columbus Ohio
Troupe de Mlle Eglantine (poster by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec)

Poor Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. Though born into an aristocratic family, he lived a tough, tragic, short life.  His parents split when he was only in grade school.  He grew to be only 4’8” tall due to easily-broken femurs in his teen years that didn’t heal properly.  He also suffered from alcoholism.  Painting gave him relief from his despair.  He died age 36.

Toulouse-Lautrec spent a lot of time with morally questionable characters.  According to fellow painter Edouard Vuillard, “Lautrec was too proud to submit to his lot, as a physical freak, an aristocrat cut off from his kind by his grotesque appearance. He found an affinity between his own condition and the moral penury of the prostitute.”

The Sphinx Toulouse Lautrec Columbus Ohio
The Sphinx (Toulouse-Lautrec, 1898). This is one of his more modest ladies “de la nuit.”

So while other artists of his day aspired to create paintings of perfect likenesses of their wealthy patrons, Toulouse-Lautrec was perfectly happy to sketch all number of the prostitutes, dancers and other “low lifes” in his circle of acquaintances.  He paid the rent by creating low-brow advertising posters, which further caused him to be looked down upon.

For a modern-day analogy, think of yourself as poor, unloved Henri: your art friends enjoy the prestige of creating fine art portraits of Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, while you get to maybe design disposable Wal-Mart circulars.  I wonder what art aficionados of Toulouse-Lautrec’s time would think about how celebrated his works have become in the years since their creation!

The Contemporary Art Gallery

Once Holly and I made our way through the marvelous Beyond Impressionism exhibit, we headed upstairs to see some of the regular collection on hand at the museum.  Our destination was the Contemporary Art Gallery.  There’s just so much creativity on display there!  You can’t help but marvel sometimes at the intent of each artist, and wonder what was he or she thinking!  Definitely do not miss this incredible gallery!

Within it, the thought-provoking Nocturne Navigator had a small room to herself.  The larger than life, iridescent blue statue of a skyward-looking African American female in a lit-up skirt, illustrating the path for slaves to find their way at night to freedom, was jaw-droppingly awe inspiring.

Nocturne Navigator Columbus Ohio
“Nocturne Navigator” by Alison Saar, 1998. Pic can’t do it justice, sadly.

Having seen so many paintings and sculptures that stirred us, we took our leave of the museum and headed back home.  I was sad we didn’t make it to the other incredible galleries on hand, but we were kinda missing Jitterbug, our own “chat noir.”  I have no doubt we will be back to Columbus soon, though, and I promise I will monitor Holly’s new artworks for any signs of inspiration!

Jitterbug Chat Noir Columbus Ohio
Our own “Chat Noir,” AKA Jitterbug!

Columbus Museum of Art Entrance
Outside the Columbus Museum of Art Entrance

Tips to Enjoy the Museum!

  • -Allow at least an hour to enjoy the JPMorgan Chase Center for Creativity on the first floor, straight ahead and to the right after you enter the museum.  This is a spacious, attractive workshop to take the kids to and have all sorts of unique fun creating art with them.
  • -But take the kids to the exhibits as well.  Interactive creativity stations for young and old alike are strategically placed throughout the museum.
  • -There is no charge to enter the museum on Sundays. However, the crowds start pouring in early so do arrive as close to 10am as possible.
  • -Plenty of parking is available on the surrounding streets, so don’t bother paying to park in the lot behind the museum.
  • -Bring a pencil and sketch to your heart’s content in any gallery you like!  Non-flash photography is also permitted.
  • -The museum is situated right in the middle of Columbus’s Discovery District.  Pick up a museum brochure at the entrance, which lists nearby attractions and places to eat!

Columbus – Ohio’s Capital of Fun

“The Ohio State University… and the insignificant environs over which it forever reigns” would probably be an apt moniker for Columbus, the capital of Ohio.  With a population of over 850,000, there’s a lot going on within the city and off campus, even though die-hard Buckeye fans might think otherwise.  Cee-bus, as we like to call it in Ohio, will entertain you even if you don’t bleed OSU’s famous crimson and gray.  The good stuff can be a little difficult to find, but that’s what I’m here for.

IndoorsColumbus’ own science museum is called the Center of Science and Industry, or COSI (pronounced “Co-Sigh”).  Much of it is geared towards younger folks, but there are cool exhibits for all ages of both permanent and temporary varieties.   My favorite is the “Progress” exhibit, which entices the visitor on a fun pathway of technology from the years 1898 and 1962.   Movies on the Giant Screen Theatre and multiple live shows are available multiple times per day.  We recommend visiting as early in the day as possible.  On weekends the cavernous hall fills up rapidly with families; weekdays see the usual school groups.   Buy your tickets online and avoid the line!


Zoombezi Bay, Columbus
Zoombezi Bay fun

OutdoorsSeasonalI’m seriously not sure that any visit to Ohio’s capital city would be complete without a stop at its world famous Columbus Zoo.  Its famous former director, Jack Hanna, still films here and greets guests as his schedule permits!  Plan on a full day of walking and enjoying the magnificent animal exhibits and aquarium.  Summertime, and the animals would rather snooze in the summer heat than entertain you?  No worries!  Take the time – and extra expense – to chill out at the water park adjacent to the zoo, Zoombezi Bay.


TranspoOutdoorsNow that you’ve sampled the animal delights at the zoo grounds, why not take an afternoon experiencing life up in the air the way the monkeys do?  Columbus offers a magnificent opportunity to do just that at the ZipZone.  According to the attraction’s website, “The (ZipZone) adventure park is a series of platforms in the trees connected by ladders, bridges, ropes, ziplines and obstacles of every kind, all situated in a beautiful forest on the edge of the city.”   Be sure to carefully peruse the park’s website for more information on making reservations, what happens during inclement weather, what to do if you’re afraid of heights, etc.


OutdoorsLooking for a casual, inexpensive day out?  An outstanding, partially forested lake and park facility is located within the city of Columbus itself at Sharon Woods Metro Park.  Locals and tourists alike come here to marvel at the great outdoors along its many paved and unpaved trails, perfect for biking, jogging, hiking, picnicking and strolling.  Fishing in the lake is encouraged if you are 15 or younger.  If you’re visiting the capital city with Fido, he is more than welcome here (on a leash, natch).


CultureIndoorsWould it be a shocker to admit that my intellectually remarkable kids get tired of cultural museums when we travel?  As their Mom, I get tired of trying to keep them entertained while simultaneously helping them glean an appreciation of the exhibits.  The Columbus Museum of Art to the rescue!  Many of the permanent displays in this compact museum hail from world-famous artists of modern eras.  If that weren’t enough to warm the cockles of your art sophisticate self, the museum overflows with interactive displays and miniature hands-on art endeavors for kids of all ages to get into.   Our family had a lot of fun building pipe cleaner sculptures on a particularly memorable Sunday.  Kudos to this fabulous place for truly having something for everyone and working tirelessly (!) to intensify kids’ creativity. [Read more here about my artistic daughter and me roadtripping to the museum in January, 2018!]


Good eatin'CultureIt’s a huge stretch to denote German Village as a Columbus cultural must-see.  But Imma do it anyway, at least if you promise to visit Schmidt’s Sausage Haus.  Splurge on their buffet, which they call the “German Autobahn Buffet,” when you’re super hungry, and sample the multitudes of German wursts begging for a taste.  The so-called “Bahama Mama” is an especially delectable version, which you can enjoy while pondering its mysteriously-nicknamed Caribbean island moniker.  Another challenge: saving enough room to split a half-pound cream puff!  Ja, das ist sehr gut!


OutdoorsOnce you’ve busted a gut at the ‘Haus, do shop for German candies and knickknacks at the gift shop across the parking lot in front of the restaurant.  Then, be sure to stroll through German Village and enjoy its historic architecture and atmosphere.  The neighborhood, while lovely, seems to have little other than Schmidt’s that reminds one visually, or viscerally, of any past travels to Deutschland.  Nevertheless, the area is unique, and a welcome diversion from the monochromatic, cookie-cutter McMansions so popular in today’s exurbia.  Which kind of neighborhood would you prefer to live in?


IndoorsI don’t want to hear how much you hate to read.  You only think so because your ELA teacher forces you to read a particular classic instead of whatever graphic novel series is currently in vogue.  Luckily, you WILL find graphic novels, classic tomes, and more than you ever dreamed of at the fabulous Book Loft located in the heart of the German Village.  It has, I kid you not, 32 (yes, 32) actual ROOMS of every kind of book imaginable.  It’s just an amazing place to “get lost” – in a book – in a bookstore.

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