OSU Urban Arts Space opens in old Lazarus building

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The Recruiter
The Recruiter

The Ohio State University College of Arts has a new art gallery in downtown Columbus – the OSU Urban Arts Space. It’s located in the old Lazarus building. The new space that opens Tuesday

OSU Urban Arts Space is a 10,000 square foot art gallery with high, open ceilings and concrete floors. Ohio State’s College of the Arts Dean Karen Bell said the gallery will host a combination of art work from alums in the community to international artists. But Bell said the space was specifically designed to help OSU art students propel their professional careers.

“We imagine them interacting down here in a variety of ways running the space, curating things, selling their work, producing their work, being responsible for a space and being responsible to a community,” Bell said.

But Bell said she hopes the Urban Arts Space will also help propel the revitalization of downtown Columbus.

“We hope that we’re going to be a drop of dynamic energy in the core of our downtown as we think of ourselves as pioneers of this part of town. I have every confidence that this part of town is going to be revitalized and reenergized in the next couple of years and that we will be a part of that,” Bell said.

Caribbean music fills the air in the new OSU Urban Arts Space. The music is part of one of the arts displays – images of a Caribbean carnival projected onto a wall.

On exhibit now is the American premiere of “Midnight Robbers: The Artists of Notting Hill Carnival.” It’s considered the largest and most spectacular street performance in Europe.

During the 1940s and 1950s, Notting Hill was a slum area. The area was and still is known as the Trinidadian area of London. The Caribbean immigrants were treated badly with poor living conditions and low wages and attacked in the streets by white youth gangs. Exhibit curator Ruth Tompsett said the black residents of Notting Hill fought back.

“They fought back with carnival, in the sense that it was their culture. They wanted at least for a day or two days a year to say this is us, we feel good, we will take this public space of the street, we belong here and we have our own culture and our own identity. And that’s why it’s so important, because it’s a bottom up, it’s a bottom up event,” Tompsett said.

One of the pieces on display is a larger than life skeleton – about 15 feet tall. It’s called “The Recruiter” and was used in the 2004 “Notting Hill Carnival.” The skeleton, which is strapped to the back of a carnival member or player, represents a British colonial recruiter who led Indians into slavery. Tompsett described how it works.

“Every movement the player makes is echoed right through this articulated skeleton. And what you see is a skeleton moving, sweeping, moving his cloak, dancing. It’s scary, it’s scary. And then you laugh. And that’s the combination for carnival,” Tompsett said.

Also on display is part of Cleveland’s Parade, the Circle.

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