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Columbia's art scene thrives

A new village for the arts

Missouri Contemporary Ballet

Dancers practice at the Missouri Contemporary Ballet, 110 Orr St. Photo by Nicholas Benner

In recent memory, the downtown Columbia blocks north and east of Ernie’s Café and Steak House at 1005 E. Walnut St. offered, well, “not so much,” says Jennifer Perlow, BA ’94. But during the past five years, the old warehouses and other structures have blossomed into a haven for the arts. The North Village Arts District now includes painters, sculptors, dance companies, filmmakers, live music and even a grocery store.

The shift started with Orr Street Studios, a renovated warehouse that opened in 2007 at 106 Orr St. with 16 studios where artists work and sell their wares. At its opening, Karsten Ewald of the Columbia Art League told the Columbia Daily Tribune that, “I really feel Columbia is on the cusp of becoming a major art stop in the Midwest … .”

Now a hundred or so artists show work, and special events welcome throngs of art lovers. For instance, the Farmers and Artisans Market runs from May to November. “We’ve got produce, artists selling goods from paintings to hats to necklaces to alpaca rugs,” Perlow says. “And there are pumpkin carving contests, a demonstration on how to build a chicken coop — even Tai Chi flash mobs. The North Village is not just a place to go but a thing to do. The fact that it exists really speaks to growth in the arts community in Columbia.”

Art venues

PS:Gallery (fine art), 1025 E. Walnut St.

Orr Street Studios (fine art), 106 Orr St. 

Artlandish Gallery (gifts, fine crafts), 1019 E. Walnut St. 

Check out the catacombs downstairs for more offerings.

Columbia Academy of Music and The Bridge (lessons and live music), 1020 E. Walnut St.

Missouri Contemporary Ballet (performance, instruction), 110 Orr St.

Rock Bottom Comics (comics, graphic novels), 1013 E. Walnut St., Suite 101


A party for every season

Columbians are a fun-loving crowd that enjoys art, entertainment and festivals year-round. Come on down:

• Mizzou recently upped its contribution to local culture by leasing the Missouri Theatre at 203 S. 9th St. to host University Concert Series events and more.

• The Roots N Blues N BBQ festival has included the likes of Taj Mahal and Tab Benoit (Sept 21–22, 2012,

• The True/False Film Fest continues to garner acclaim for its annual display of documentaries from all over the world (March 1–4, 2012,

• The Citizen Jane Film Festival highlights films made by women (October 2012,

• Art in the Park features dozens of crafts vendors, music and more (June 2–3, 2012,

• The “We Always Swing” Jazz Series brings great musicians to town year-round (

• Artrageous Fridays revelers “crawl” to downtown arts venues (2012 dates: April 20, July 20, Oct. 12–13,

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