With its third iteration on the horizon, Exhibit Columbus, the flagship program of the Landmark Columbus Foundation, has announced its inaugural Curatorial Fellowship. The new platform, per Exhibit Columbus, “invites international leaders in architecture, art, and design to bring a critical, research-based perspective” to the annual proceedings held in the modernist architecture-rich city of Columbus, Indiana.
Chicago-based architect Iker Gil, founding director of MAS Studio, founder and editor-in-chief of design journal MAS Context, and executive director of the SOM Foundation, is joining Mimi Zeiger, an independent critic and curator (and former AN West Coast editor) based in Los Angeles, as the fellowship’s maiden co-curators. Zeiger had previously served as a member of a curatorial advisory committee for the 2018–2019 edition of Exhibit Columbus. Both Zeiger and Gil, alongside Niall Atkinson and Ann Lui, served as co-curators of Dimensions in Citizenship, the United States Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale.
“Exhibit Columbus looks at its programs as a way to convene people and ideas, and move the cultural legacy of Columbus and everything it represents forward,” Anne Surak, director of Exhibit Columbus, told AN. “Bringing in new voices to think about this from a curatorial perspective—and to take this program that we’ve built collectively and to add that other layer of critical thought and research—seemed like a great direction for us to go.”
Exhibit Columbus 2020–2021’s symposium will be hosted this fall virtually and/or with some in-person programming depending on comfort levels and current restrictions in place due to the coronavirus crisis. Surak relayed that the symposium will likely be a hybrid of both virtual and in-person events. The exhibition remains scheduled for August 20 through November 28, 2021, in Columbus. Both events will be co-curated by Gil and Zeiger, who will develop a curatorial theme together with the Exhibit Columbus team, which will be announced later this summer along with other programming details.
“We see the social agency of architecture so well illustrated in Columbus,” said Zeiger. “As we move forward, we want to work within the context of Columbus as where it is and then ask ‘how things are changing?’ Columbus can be a bit archetypal, and what’s happening there is also happening in places across the Midwest and across the country in small and medium towns and cities.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfurl across the United States, now concentrated in rural America and in smaller cities like Columbus, Zeiger noted, on top of that, “cities and towns are also facing and reckoning with their own resiliency” in the midst of a global climate crisis. And during a time of social unrest stemming from the killings of George Floyd and other Black Americans, Zeiger emphasized that “creating platforms where we can feature a real diversity of voices speaking from their experience within this community setting is going to be really important.”
When Surak was asked how Exhibit Columbus 2020-2021’s programming might respond to a tumultuous present-day backdrop that includes a societally and economically disruptive global pandemic, accelerated climate change, and a historic social justice movement, she, like Zeiger, sees an opportunity to elevate new voices.
“For one of the first times that I can think of, humanity is a going through a shared experience together,” said Surak. “What’s great about Exhibit Columbus is that we provide this framework for people to create new work and respond to timely things in a way that gives them the freedom to explore ideas that they’re interested in.”
Stressing the crucial role that public space plays during times of uncertainty and upheaval, Surak noted: “Our program is fortunate that we’re already creating things in the civic space so hopefully designers will be interested in the challenge of how we use public space to bring people together in new ways in light of a lot of the things going on.”
“Columbus is big enough to have ambition and small enough to get things done,” Surak added. “It’s a really interesting place to be a laboratory for exploration and looking at what’s possible.”