“Yikes! Are My Teeth Really That Big?”

Pass the northeast corner of North High Street and Goodale Avenue in downtown Columbus and you might see a larger-than-life version of me.

Wearing a pair of heart-shaped hair clips and a Joules scarf peeking out over the collar of my Avoca tweed coat, that’s how I looked around noon on Wednesday, November 8, 2017. That’s when my friend Kristin and I went to see “As We Are.”

“As We Are” is a 14-foot-tall, three-dimensional sculpture in the North Atrium of the Greater Columbus Convention Center. The sculpture resembles a human head and is made from rows of bright LED screens. Photographic portraits taken onsite of convention center visitors are magnified about 17 times the actual size of the subject and are projected on the sculpture.

Matthew Mohr, a local artist who teaches advertising and graphic design at the Columbus College of Art and Design, submitted a proposal to create a large-scale, interactive sculpture for the renovated, expanded convention center in 2015. After the proposal was selected, the sculpture was fabricated by Design Communications Ltd. of Boston. It was installed this Fall.

Step inside the back of the sculpture’s neck and sit down in a photo booth outfitted with dozens of cameras that take three-dimensional pictures of you at many different angles.

Enter your e-mail address to receive a GIF of all of the photos taken of you. After you have your picture taken, leave the booth, wait a couple of minutes, and your portrait will be projected on the sculpture. Your likeness will be added to the collection of other portraits made there, and will be included in a random rotation. When the sun sets, the sculpture turns to face the street, so that passers-by can see the changing portraits.

As we watched our likenesses appear, others stopped by, so entertained by our reactions that they got in line to add their own portraits to the collection.

The sculpture is one of more than 130 local works of art that have been installed at the convention center, making it home to the largest collection of local artwork in Franklin County.

The center’s history dates to 1974, when Battelle Memorial Institute contributed $36.5 million to develop a convention facility in downtown Columbus. 1980 brought the opening of the Ohio Center and its Battelle Hall, site of concerts, theatrical productions, sporting events, trade shows, and other large public assemblies. In 1993, the neighboring Greater Columbus Convention Center opened. Architect Peter Eisenman, assisted by local architect Richard Trott, designed the abstract building to resemble a row of metallic-colored boxcars in a rail yard to recall Union Station, the train station that stood on the site until it was demolished in 1977. A major expansion and renovation project was completed in 2001, making the unique symbol of Columbus nearly 1.7 million square feet.

The center is owned by the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority, which built and developed the structure during the tenure of Sally Bloomfield, its first and current chair and my former Bricker & Eckler colleague. It also built a $140 million convention hotel across North High Street that opened in 2012.

A 105-foot-long, steel-and-glass skywalk connects the Convention Center to the Hilton Columbus Downtown. A 48-inch-diameter, weight-bearing Turkish steel beam, known as the spine, runs the length of the 380,000-pound elevated pedestrian bridge. Suspended steel ribs and glass from Germany form its sides, while the floor is made of opaque glass from Spain. The pieces had to fit together perfectly, and they did, as they were assembled in front of the hotel.

Inside, the hotel displays more than 150 original works by central Ohio artists. One is “Looking North,” a view of North High Street and the convention center by Ryan Orewiler, son of our photography teacher at Columbus School for Girls.

Another is Amanda Cook’s “Planters Peanuts,” which documents the vintage neon sign that has attracted locals to The Peanut Shoppe since 1936. It is part of her “Looking Up” series of oil paintings that encourage people to stop and admire the artistic beauty of these signs that are often only seen from a distance.

And finally, there’s the eight-foot-tall bronze statue of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who first visited Columbus in 1970 to compete in the Mr. World bodybuilding contest. In 1989, Schwarzenegger organized the Arnold Classic, a bodybuilding and fitness competition and expo, which takes place in Columbus each year. The statue was originally installed in 2012 outside the Veterans Memorial Auditorium, site of the 1970 bodybuilding competition. When the auditorium was torn down, the statue was moved to the Columbus Convention Center, where the Arnold Classic is held today.

Click here to take a virtual tour of the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority’s art collection, consisting of 200 pieces representing 150 Central Ohio artists. Watch this segment about it and “As We Are,” which first aired on WOSU’s “Broad and High” on October 26, 2017. 

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