Exhibit Columbus 2021

After a two-year wait, one of my favorite events is upon us! My kids love Exhibit Columbus, and if we are being honest, I may love it even more than they do. What is it? Exhibit Columbus is on its third exhibition as a biennial event taking place in Columbus, Indiana, which showcases art and architectural structures. During this exhibition, temporary works of art are installed to highlight parts of the city and spark conversation in the community. This year’s theme is called “New Middles,” and it focuses on Columbus as a central geographical connection to cities with similar concerns about future topics. There are 12 truly awesome exhibits that are perfect for the whole family to explore, and the best part: It is FREE! We hit up all of the installations and are here to tell you all about our favorites:        


Located outside Central Middle School, CLOUDROOM is sure to impress and delight everyone in your family.  The giant inflatable cloud “floats” on a wooden base, creating a shaded space to be used as an outdoor classroom, with a smattering of yoga-style balls for seating. Forming even more of a connection to the school are the words printed on the inside of the cloud, which came from a survey taken from students during the last school year.  Adding extra oomph to this incredible installation is the ecological approach it takes, with sensors inside the cloud determining the current environmental qualities, and lighting up with different colors to illuminate the current conditions.  The in addition to being interesting and informative, the space is a great place for families to visit for a nice rest along the exhibit trail.

Tunnel Vision

This exhibit is also located on the grounds of Central Middle School, and is extra special to the location because the concept came from the ’20-’21 High School Design Team. The work contemplates how waterways form cities and affect future development.  Additionally, the tunnel is a good way to learn about Columbus’ history, with architecture and dates inscribed inside.  Benches line the outside of the tunnel, for a nice resting spot for tired little legs, too.

This Appearance is…….

This exhibit plays on the children’s game of hide- and- seek, and if you say the title, “This Appearance Is…” fast enough, there is a play on words, too, as it sounds like “Disappearances.” Located near the intersection on Washington Street and Sixth Street, the curved, the lenticular plastic sheet of the design give the optical illusion of being able to disappear and reappear in the maze-like exhibit, much to the delight of the participants.

Alternative Instruments

This exhibit is located at three intersections along Washington Street. The location is seemingly significant, in that the structures are created as intersections between many references.  The designs incorporate maps, weathervanes, roadside signage, phrases, the Utopian alphabet, and more.  The design is based on interconnectedness, and the fun, brightly-colored designs are sure to initiate conversation and excitement in your littles.


Window Dressing

Located on a section of the building facing Washington Street, this installation at The Commons is reminiscent of the original (since demolished) 1973 Commons Building. The shiny, mirrored-glass look of the overlapping shingles create a curtain which literally reflects the people, weather, and events of downtown Columbus.  The disco ball look of the background makes it an Insta-worthy stop, for sure, so have a fun mini photo session in front of it.

Midnight Palace

Located at the Cummins Sears Building, his industrial-style exhibit is catered to the community members who work alternative shifts, with the inspiration behind the work being designing for the city at nighttime.  An entire wall designed to incorporate historic Columbus lightbulbs, like those from train signal lights and high-pressure sodium bulbs, make up this illuminating exhibit. Kids will enjoy seeing fixtures outside the normal household ones they may be used to, and the glow creates a relaxing and dreamy background for your visit.  Additionally, this wall will be used to showcase “drive-in” and “passerby” screens for multiple community gatherings and programing. Don’t forget to bring a camera to create some really cool shots with this exhibit as a backdrop.

Columbus Columbia Columbo Colón

As you pull into Mill Race Pack, you will notice several tall, thin metal columns to the right and located behind the stage. The 58 poles are symbolic of all places named after Columbus world-wide. As you approach them, you will find inscriptions on each one, specific to the location it represents.  (The inscriptions wrap around the poles, so prepare for some fun dizziness as you learn, and for littles to inevitably swing around them, like playground fire poles.) If you are able to climb the observation tower, you can clearly see the poles are arranged in a world map of sorts, with a structure marking all the different locations.

To Middle Species, with Love

This love-letter of an exhibit is visible from the entrance of Mill Race Park.  The objective is to bring focus on the “Middle Species” common in our communities, focusing on redesigning the idea of architecture specifically intended to keep these creatures out, and instead creating a welcoming location for them to reside.  The immediately apparent parts of this exhibit are the beautifully crafted bat houses, whose poles also contain perches for birds.  With bases made of smaller rock and larger sheets of stone, space is created for smaller creatures, such as reptiles. Additionally, there are microphones to record the nightly bat calls captured during the exhibit, which will be incorporated into music following the event, and QR codes to access more information on the these.  The installation is quite a sight, and sure to be interesting to all ages.

Tracing Our Mississippi

The “Tracing Our Mississippi” exhibit is located below the deck seating area of the Columbus Pump House and appropriately, with a lovely and relaxing view of the Flatrock River. With moveable pieces and maps drawn at multiple scales, these large wheeled-models lay out the Mississippi Watershed.  The purpose of the piece (or pieces, as there are several) is to engage conversation about ecological geographies, cultural geographies, past and present utilizations of power and control, and whether the watershed should even be considered that term anymore.  This exhibit is a great conversation starter for older children.

LaSoWa Ground

This exhibit is located on the grounds of the First Christian Church, across the street from the Bartholomew County Public Library.  The title is a combination of Land, Water, and Soil, all of which are showcased in this exhibit. The land connection refers to the mounds landscape along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, drawing from the Indigenous works present and reminiscent there.  The Soil part of the title refers to the limestone quarries found throughout the region, and is showcased with stone features within the exhibit.  Water is the final part of the title and the connecting piece to both, with engravings along the sides of the stone, and the stone itself acting as a collection basin.



Located in front of the Bartholomew County Public Library, the Archival/ Revival exhibit holds a wealth of knowledge. At first look, the exhibit appears to be brightly colored, free-standing play structure platforms, perfect for kids to run, jump, and climb on.  As you investigate the structures further, you notice the plaques with historical information and the corresponding metal designs on each structure.  The themes for each structure correspond to history of the library.  For instance, one is designed after a Punu Ceremonial Dance Mask, which is a throwback to one of the first exhibits the library presented shortly after opening, on African Art.  You will also find QR codes with additional information on each structure, making this an amazing spot for learning while playing for the whole family.




Good To Know

Most of the exhibits are located downtown, within a few blocks walking distance of each other. You can view a map here to plan your visit. There are two exhibits located at the entrance of Mill Race Park, and an additional one is located at Columbus Pump House. There are also “wayfinder” signs like this one about the city, to signify you are on the right path to the next exhibit. Each “wayfinder” sign is designed to be the positive or negative space of two circles joined together, found in all the materials for the “Middle Spaces” exhibition.


You can pick up free copies of the Exhibition Guide and the Family Activity Guide at several places around the city, including  but I highly recommend the Columbus Visitor’s Center (506 5th St.). There is free street parking on all streets surrounding the center, it is centrally located to the majority of the exhibits, and my favorite reason: Chihuly. Anyone who has been to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and seen Chihuly’s Fireworks of Glass sculpture will recognize two of the artist’s works on public display here!

Extra Stops Along the Way to Enhance Your Visit:

  • KidsCommons
    • Three floors of interactive exhibits make this little museum a hit with the younger crowd. Exhibits are aimed at 18 months- 12 years. Admission is FREE every first Sunday of the month, and half-off from 3-5pm Tuesday Through Friday, when Bartholomew County Schools are in session.
  • James A. HendersonPlayground Located at 300 Washington St, this free indoor playground features areas for ages 6 month- 12 years, including a two-story high climbing feature.
  • Zharakhos
    • This restored 1900’s ice cream shop is really something to see, with curved oak, stained glass, a marble soda fountain, and of course, ice cream!
  • Gardens at Irwin Inn
    • Located at 608 5th St, this beautifully restored garden is open for public viewing every Tuesday and Sunday, from 2pm-6pm through October.

Be sure to check out additional programing events here.  The Exhibit Columbus installations are available for viewing until November 28th, 2021.


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