October 11, 2022

Artists of the CFA Collection Celebrated at Hilton Event

The unparalleled collection of local original art that adorns the Hilton Columbus Downtown hotel, the Greater Columbus Convention Center and the parking garages owned by the Convention Facilities Authority (CFA) will be captivating guests for decades to come, often without much thought to the artists who created it.

But for a few hours on Oct. 9, the artists themselves were the center of attention when more than 120 of the creators and their guests were honored at a reception and dinner at the new Hilton 402 Tower by the Hilton management.

The CFA’s commitment to local art began in earnest with development of the original 401 Tower and has expanded to include more than 200 works by more than 150 artists, displayed across all properties. At the reception for the artists, Hilton General Manager Chris Coffin echoed the tribute to the artists that he delivered when the 401 Tower opened in 2012:

“Franklin County, the City of Columbus and the FCCFA gave (the building) life.
The architectural team gave it form.
The construction team gave it substance.
The design team gave it style.
Team Hilton gave it heart.
The art gave it soul.”

Longtime CFA Chair Sally Bloomfield gave credit to Barbara Nicholson, former executive director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Performing and Cultural Arts Complex, for inspiring and curating the collection in the original tower. Nicholson’s intervention was necessary, Bloomfield said, when a Chicago-based art consulting team hired for that tower persisted in suggesting nonlocal artists despite the CFA’s clear request for local works.

The CFA turned to Nicholson and brothers Jim and Michael Reese, who have among all the CFA properties curated the largest collection of contemporary art in central Ohio, representing an investment of $5.7 million.

Highlights include major pieces behind the reception desks of both towers: In 401, a mural by folk-art legend Aminah Robinson, and in 402, a multi-medium map of central Ohio featuring LED flowing rivers, popular landmarks and video projection technology capable of highlighting whatever’s happening at a given time.

Jim Reese values the diversity of the collection, declaring that no one should ever like every piece in a collection.

Speaking at the recognition dinner, Columbus Museum of Art Director Nannette Maciejunes paid tribute to the role art and artists have played in the transformation of the Short North and Columbus in general: “What was once potential is now realized activity in this room.” The CFA, she said, is bringing art “to where people are.”

Special recognition went to two artists. One was Sue Cavanaugh, who, Maciejunes said, considered herself “a stitcher, gatherer and dyer of cloth.” After a career at Ohio State University, Cavanaugh was awarded a three-month artist residency in Dresden, Germany, sponsored by the Greater Columbus Arts Council. Her work is in the permanent collections at the International Quilt Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska, and the Columbus Museum of Art.

The event was held in a ballroom named for Kojo Kamau, a Columbus-born photographer known for his chronicling of Black life in Columbus. Born Robert Jones, Kamau in 1970 adopted an African name meaning “unconquerable quiet one.”

Jim Reese saluted the artists for their role in transforming the Short North and Columbus’ value as a destination: “A lot of it is because of you.”

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