Artists from around the country take part in 46th Columbus Arts Festival

Even though temperatures ventured into the low 90s, thousands of spectators and artists gathered along the Scioto Riverfront for the first day of 46th annual Columbus Arts Festival.

“It’s a bode psaltery. It’s a very, very easy instrument to play,” Archie Smith said.

Smith is from Mount Pleasant, North Carolina. This is his fourth year at this festival. The bode psaltery could be described as a cross between a violin and a piano. Smith explained just how the handmade instrument works.

“You have 24 strings, and each string is tuned to its own note. And it’s laid out like a piano so it’s sort of like playing a piano with one finger except that you use the bode,” Smith said.

The instruments, which can run up to $1,000, are made out of different kinds of wood – some of them very exotic.

“I don’t use any pine. I use some walnut. This one is a spalted maple and of course they’re all book matched. I’ll take a piece of wood, split it and lay it open so one half is the mirror image of the other. I’ve got quilted sapele which is African. I’ve got some curly koa, palmel, bubinga, oh, I’ve got some really unusual curly Yucatan ebony which I had never seen before. Curly zebra wood, lace wood; all different kinds,” Smith said.

Down from Smith’s tent is the husband and wife team Mitch and A.me Alamag. The couple and their dog, Twinkie, came all the way from Las Cruces, New Mexico to take part in the arts festival. A.me said she and her husband are the perfect pair. She’s into painting and Mitch is more into architecture.

A.me described how they work together to make their bright artwork.

“Mitch will build out of wood and he’ll give it to me and I’ll draw free form on it. Then he’ll go in and carve it out. Then he gives it back to me and I’ll paint it and elaborate it with, these are ceramic do-dads. That’s how it happens,” A.me Alamag said.

A.me said she and Mitch are like yin and yang; and their artwork reflects their relationship.

“On these frames he’s invented this whole way of texturing the frame. And everything he touches has a feeling of symmetry and evenness and balance. And everything I have has a feeling of chaos and disorder,” A.me Alamag said.

This is the second year the couple has been invited to the show.

The festival’s director, Katie Lucas, said it received more than 1,200 applications this year from around the U.S., Canada, England and Israel. Lucas says only 240 are invited to attend.

“There are some great recognized names here of artists who have been in our show for 15, 16 years. So there will be some very recognizable names: Bruce Piso, Steven Vaughn from Florida. But we also have 77 new artists this year which is just as exciting,” Lucas said.

Lucas said one of the main attractions right now is the huge Woolly Mammoth on Main Street that’s 18 feet long. The festival runs through the weekend.

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