College towns just seem to have a bit more culture and Columbia, Missouri, home to the University of Missouri, is no exception. Art is everywhere from galleries to large scale outdoor installations and even on traffic boxes. Every March filmmakers debut gripping documentaries at the annual True/False Film Festival, and in October, female directors take the spotlight at the Citizen Jane Film Festival. Music festivals round out the year’s events celebrating everything from symphonies to blues. Here are a few ways you can join the locals in Columbia to celebrate the arts.
Public Art Walks
Art in public spaces not only enhances the beauty of a town, it adds depth and interest. I stopped more than once as I strolled the streets of Columbia to check out sculptures, murals and even art on traffic boxes. The City of Columbia has put together a Public Art Walk – a self-guided tour of over 30 works of public art throughout the city to help visitors discover these quirky installations on their own. No appointment or ticket is necessary, just download the guide and roam about. Points of interest along the walk include the Jamboree, a bronze sculpture depicting five animals – a gecko, hare, alligator, cat and frog – all playing different musical instruments. The plaque on the base describes the work as "celebrating diversity in harmony." You’ll find the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial along a nature and fitness trail, Time in Transit oil on canvas at the Wabash Station and even the comic strip character, Beetle Bailey, depicted in bronze as he lounges on a graffiti-covered bench on the campus of the university.
Columbia is home to a diverse group of art museums that any visitor will want to tour. The Museum of Art & Archaeology on the campus of the University of Missouri displays exhibits from a wide range of cultures including Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Byzantium, European, and American. Bluestem Missouri Crafts, a partnership of artists, features the work of more than 300 artist and craftspeople from Missouri and eight neighboring states. The works include traditional and contemporary works in clay, glass, wood, metal, and fiber. The museum has also been honored as the nation’s top retailer of American crafts.
Art in the Park
Each June, more than 110 artists from around the country gather in Stephens Lake Park for an Art in the Park weekend. Attendees can purchase paintings, sculptures, jewelry, pottery and more from the artists. An Emerging Artists Pavilion showcases work from the local high school and university and a Kids Art Spot provides family-friendly activities and entertainment.
True/False Film Festival
True/False has taken its place on the world stage as a venue where filmmakers debut gripping documentaries. Directors from all over the world gather in Columbia in early March to screen their works in front of packed crowds and more than 50 films are shown over four days in venues throughout the city.
This homegrown festival has grown into an internationally recognized event, yet has remained true to its roots. Over 800 local volunteers support the event where directors and their subjects are accessible to festival attendees with Q&A sessions, parties and panel discussions.
More than just a film festival, it’s a neighborhood celebration where you’ll find buskers roaming the streets, entertaining the crowds en route to their next film. The weekend starts off with "March March" – a whimsical parade where anyone and everyone is welcome to march in costume through the streets of the city led by local King of Queens, Ron Ironic Ribiat.
Last year a favorite event of attendees was the cozy "Campfire Stories" where host, author, filmmaker and storyteller extraordinaire Davy Rothbart gathered eight directors around a "campfire" to swap tales of the scene that got away, complete with homemade S’Mores.
Citizen Jane Film Festival
The University of Missouri isn’t the only school in town. Columbia is also home to Stephens College where the Citizen Jane Institute focuses on the promotion of gender equality in the television and filmmaking industries. Each October the Citizen Jane Film Festival provides women filmmakers a forum to showcase their work to the public and a chance to network with other filmmakers. The festival features a mixture of documentaries, narratives, shorts, and experimental films.
Citizen Jane Film Festival is more than a film festival, there are panel discussions, parties and workshops – all provided with the goal of ensuring that women’s stories are told.
Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival
What would the arts be without music? Every September more than 30 international, national, regional and local artists perform in Stephens Lake Park serving up music from several genres including roots, blues, gospel, country, folk and soul. Of course barbecue is on hand to keep things tasty.
Have you been to Columbia? What cultural events were your favorites?
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