Art galleries, city installations, performance arts and artists are all embraced in and around Columbia. The North Village Arts District hosts First Fridays, a free “art crawl” every first Friday of the month. The schedule changes monthly, but always includes the participation of art galleries, artists, restaurants and other businesses. Parades, outside performances and its ever-changing nature are some of its most enticing attributes. You never know what surprises await on First Fridays.
A new art installation downtown, called the Gateways, helps tell the stories of different areas of The District. Light hubs are strung over the streets at specific locations to represent different aspects of the community. There’s one at Flat Branch Park to represent active recreation, and another over the North Village Arts District to represent the art community. The light hubs are the very first elements of the Gateways project; eventually a welcome plaza will be installed at Broadway and Providence.
“Our hope is that through this art project, we can help better explain the importance of downtown and the history, what makes it special,” says Katie Essing, executive director of The District.
Hannah Reeves, curator at Sager Braudis Art Gallery, says Columbia’s appreciation of art culture is something that sets it apart. “I’m a huge proponent of the idea that Midwesterners are culture-creators, and not just culture-importers,” she says. “We, here in Columbia, are privileged to host some huge, important names in art, music and literature from elsewhere, but we are also rich in local voices that brilliantly and beautifully capture the contemporary American experience.”
“Every community, every culture will find ways of adding beauty even where it seems that only function is necessary. The heart of a city like Columbia comprises the features that are not just utilitarian. The members of our arts community — businesses, non-profits, art departments, volunteers and professional artists — each supplies something vital and unique, and helps define our identity. Columbia isn’t just a geographic location made of streets and buildings — it’s defined by its cultural events, architecture, murals, galleries, museums, music, and, of course, the people making those cultural experiences happen,” Reeves says.
Columbia keeps us entertained year ’round with an array of community events. And what’s even better is that many of them are free. The Columbia Parks and Recreation Department hosts family fun nights every third Wednesday of the month from April through September at Cosmo Park. The event includes music, special performances, art activities, hands-on crafts and more for all ages.
Fire in the Sky
Independence Day celebrations have long been one of Columbia’s favorite community events. The night always has a sense of magic about it; fireworks erupt in the skies over downtown, casting a vibrant glow upon the many faces that gaze up at them. Before the fireworks show at Flat Branch Park, children can run through an inflatable obstacle course, play pop-a-shot and more.
Salute to Veterans Airshow
Hosted each Memorial Day weekend, the Salute to Veterans Airshow is a free event held to honor military veterans at the Columbia Regional Airport. Planes and jets new and old soar through the air, creating an exciting show for all ages.