AirTran expands service to Columbus offering another way south

Finally, a less expensive airline has decided that Columbus has a gaping hole to fill–two in fact. After first Skybus and then Jet Blue pulled out of Columbus, and other carriers cut down their service, the options for heading out of Columbus have become more expensive and less frequent.

AirTran Airways’ non-stop flights to Ft. Meyers, Orlando and Atlanta that began this week are an answer to people who want to get out of central Ohio for warmer climates, or to visit their relatives who have moved south. I know a few people who were disappointed with Skybus’s demise because their options for visiting loved ones on a regular basis had ended. There are several other flights to other destinations, but those require a plane change in Atlanta.

Unlike Skybus, that fair weather airline that overextended itself, AirTran’s reputation is one of a cautious, steady airline that is not likely to leave Columbus in the lurch.

AirTran is not one to offer less expensive seats and then charge people for every little item either. The first checked bag is free. The second costs $25. Flights also have complimentary non-alcoholic beverages and snacks. Hooray!

Another detail I noticed is that the airlines seems to understand that Columbus has something to offer people looking for an affordable getaway. The AirTran Airways’ Website page for Columbus has a photo of one of Columbus’s gems–the Columbus Museum of Art, for example and there is also a link to Columbus’s GoGuide that lists where to sight see, shop and eat. I second the recommendations.

A visit with Aminah Robinson, artist and MacArthur Fellowship winner

The first time I saw Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson’s work at the Columbus Museum of Art, I was astounded. When you see a Monet, you know it’s Monet. Same with Picasso, Van Gogh, Cassatt, Renoir, Dali, Matisse. Seeing one of these artists’ works is an “I know you experience” that is grounding. At least, it grounds me.

The first time I saw Aminah’s work was also an “I know you” happening. Perhaps it’s because her subjects capture the essence of people and community–a pairing of the African American experience with the African by connecting the present with the past, and then connecting those ideas to the notion of what makes us universal. The ideas about what makes us human with spiritual connections–with soul, is also what I gather from Aminah’s work. It’s one of the threads of my own life. It’s what I kept looking for when I was in the Peace Corps. I think the search for connection is what calls people to world travel.

Aminah’s work pairs fabric arts of rag paintings, and RagGonNon (her own creation) with storytelling. She also creates fantastical sculptures and music boxes using a method she calls Hogmawg which incorporates found objects and roughly carved wood. Each piece chronicles an aspect of history and culture.

This past Sunday, Aminah, a Columbus native, made an in-person visit to the Columbus Museum of Art as part of the closing to the exhibit of her latest endeavor, “Along Water Street.” For the closing, she gathered the audience’s children around her while she read the book, To Be a Drum, one she illustrated. A young drummer beat time to her voice in the right spots and the children leaned in with their ears to the floor when Aminah leaned down, listening for the drum’s heart beat. This was one of those rare magical moments of spontaneous connection pulled together by her energy.

Now Aminah’s work and story are on the Web. Aminah’s World provides an opportunity to visit her studio, find out about her life, create Aminah style work, and find out where her artwork is on exhibit. Here’s the link that tells where. There’s a video of her studio and one of her talking about her influences. Also, you’ll see why she was given the MacArthur Fellowship. The fellowship is for “talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.”

For more about Aminah talking about her work, check out this page of the Columbus Dispatch where there is an audio interview.

Best American Cities to Retire: A Pleasant, but not Surprising Find

Columbus, Ohio is listed as a city that has the best neighborhood as a place to retire. It’s actually first on AOL’s money and finance list. And to think I almost already live in the Short North. I could walk there if I felt like it. I’m not surprised about the Short North. It is my favorite section of the city, and, in a life without kids, I’d probably live there myself. What surprises me about the report is the comment “Not much in the way of nature around Columbus.”

WHAT!!! There are parks galore in the Columbus MetroPark system that rings the city. Because of its proximity to I-70, I-71, I-670 and 315, The Short North is about a 20 minutes drive from at least four of them. Most of the parks have programs every week and there are biking, hiking and picnic area shelters at each. At least three of them have nature centers. A few weeks ago we went on a 3 1/2 mile hike called Howl at the Moon at one of them. This was a dog and kid friendly event that took us through woods and around fields bursting with fall wildflowers. The park system if fabulous and it’s FREE.

Then there is the mention that downtown has nothing to do. WHAT!!!

Last night I had a double header, both events spur of the moment. The first was a FREE happy hour at the Southern Theatre, the oldest theater in Ohio. It opened 1896 and was restored in the late 1990s making it one of Columbus’s best architectural gems. This event included wine, beer, food and a ProMusica concert. ProMusica is Columbus’s chamber orchestra. The event was a kick-off to entice subscribers. There was a buy one get one free deal. I’m now a subscriber. On the way home, I asked my husband to swing by the Palace Theatre, another downtown architectural delight, so I could see if there was at least one David Sedaris tickets left. Eureka! A man who was waiting by the box-office to get rid of a ticket, sold me one for $10. After dropping my husband off at home, I drove back, parked for $5 and ended up sitting 8 rows back from the stage in the center of the row. After it was over, I chatted with David (as did all the other people waiting in line) and was back home 10 minutes after David said, “Nice to see you again.” I saw him last year as well.

On Thursday night, I had a conflict so I wasn’t able to go to the opening of the Monet exhibit at the Columbus Museum of Art. Also FREE for members. I’m a member. Oh, and where is the art museum? DOWNTOWN. The thing about Columbus is that there are so many things to do that it’s hard to choose. Today I’m going to the opening of Paul Busse’s train exhibit at the Franklin Park Conservatory which is close to DOWNTOWN. It’s not free but I have a buy one get one free admission, and tonight may head to a movie. One of the theaters I like to go to is DOWNTOWN. Still, if I was retiring, I’d pick the Short North and get out more.

Enrich your Travel With Do-It-Yourself Volunteering

This past Thursday I talked with Columbus-based artist and traveler Eric Marlow at an event for the “Optic Nerve: Perceptual Art of the 1960s” exhibit at the Columbus Museum of Art in Columbus, Ohio. Earlier that evening I saw him at the opening of “Outside the Box, ” a retrospective of “garbage art” at the Kings Art Complex. Marlow’s work was one of the pieces in the show. Both exhibits I recommend, but this post is about the traveling/volunteering experience Marlow told me about.

Recently, he went to Nicaragua on a beach vacation and while there decided to do something useful, not that one needs to do something useful on a beach vacation. But, he felt the urge and contacted a local school in San Juan del Sur to find out if the school would like a guest artist to do an art workshop with students. The school was delighted with Marlow’s offer so he spent three 3 hours leading a group of adolescents in a found-art collaborative sculpture. This endeavor did involve a trip to the beach. One of his comments was how the school didn’t have any resources. None. Zip. Zippo. Nada.

This is an example of a do-it-yourself kind of volunteer project. If you’re traveling in place with limited resources and schools are in session, perhaps approaching a school with your ready-made project idea would be something they’d be interested in. If you’re looking to hook up with projects before you leave for vacation, try International Volunteer Programs Association. If nothing else, its website lists ideas for what sort of volunteer projects are available. To learn more about volunteering in Nicaragua here is an article that goes into more detail. While you’re packing for a trip, tuck in a few boxes of crayons and a pad of paper. You might find yourself having a fine time with a group of kids somewhere.