Columbus,Ohio: A Cultural Safehaven?

This week has completely blown me away… I feel speechless. I think it’s important to take a pause and think about some of the events of the week (and maybe take a few minutes to look at CNN and BBC). I think if I just wrote about my direct experiences in this blog post, I would be doing a disservice to this fellowship. The Columbus Foundation Fellowship does not only help the fellows, but it helps the community. These organizations are chosen because they are making positive impacts in Columbus.

At our fellows session, Douglas Kridler, the President and CEO of The Columbus Foundation came and spoke to us. His talk was empowering to say the least. One of the many inspirational messages that he conveyed is the growth and energy of Columbus, Ohio. While I won’t be able to convey all of his sentiments nor as eloquently as he did in this blog post, I will list a few key points. First and foremost, as some of you may have heard, Columbus was the winner of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Grant. A total of $50 million has been awarded from the U.S. DOT and Vulcan Inc. for Columbus to make public transportation innovations. Second, Mr. Kridler briefly talked about Andrew Nelson’s National Geographic article, “Why All the Cool Kids Love Columbus, Ohio.” While Nelson has some great places listed, I’d like to share my personal favorites (a few of which are also mentioned in his article).

One of the favorite things about Columbus is it’s coffee shops. Coffee shops were some of the first places I had the opportunity to explore outside of the Ohio State campus. My coffee shop preferences have changed over the years, but my current favorite places are Stauf’s (Grandview location despite the terrible wi-fi) and Caffe Apropos. Of course, we also have some great used record stores and book shops. I am a fan of The Book Loft in German Village.

Like Nelson also mentioned in his article Columbus is home to lots of great art, like the Wexner Center for the Arts (free for college students!) and The Columbus Museum of Art (free on Sundays!). The latter of which, I had the chance to grab some lunch at with some of the fellows.

Burger pic

Black Bean Burger from Schokko Art Cafe inside The Columbus Museum of Art

Although that veggie burger was tasty, Columbus is home to lots of other fantastic food. I honestly don’t know where to begin with Columbus food, because there are so many options. Yesterday, at work, we spent a bit of time talking about Condado Tacos, but today I’m really craving Indian food…or maybe vegan food. With so many options and new restaurant openings sometimes the biggest problem is deciding where to eat is where to try first.  Of course, I personally can’t fail to mention the Columbus ice cream scene– there’s Jeni’s, Graeter’s, and Cookie Dough Creamery just to name a few. Should we rename Columbus the Ice Cream Capital of the World??

In all seriousness, Columbus clearly has some great opportunities to take advantage of. One of the most important of which is the sense of community and progress that can be felt and is praised. For example, last weekend was the Columbus Pride Festival and Parade and this weekend is ComFest. These events celebrate the community and its members.

Columbus is thriving in many ways. This is not to say that changes don’t need to be implemented to improve aspects of this city. However, whether it’s lack of public transportation or high infant mortality rates, there are people stepping in and trying to make changes.  If you have been following along with the news (or did as I recommended and read articles from CNN or BBC), you can see we live in a world where some people are perpetuating hate and xenophobia. In Columbus, improvements are being made in the city and I’ve surrounded myself with like-minded individuals. Columbus in many ways feels like a cultural safe haven in a world with individuals who would like to halt progress.

As fellows for The Columbus Foundation we have been given a wonderful opportunity to give back to the Columbus community through our non-profits. However, everyone can contribute to this city. One should take advantage of all this city has to offer AND give back to this city. I don’t know what my future holds, but I am happy that for this summer I get to provide educational programing to those who are traditionally under-served in Columbus. I hope in the future that I will be able to make an even bigger impact on society.

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