High-Tech Interactive Art Piece Showcased at Greater Columbus Convention Center Grand Reopening Celebration

September 15, 2017

To commemorate the completion of its $140 million expansion and renovation project, the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio did what most event facilities would do: host a grand reopening celebration to show off its newly expanded and beautified digs.

But instead of just carrying out the usual fanfare at this special event, held Aug. 31, the downtown Columbus facility had another surprise up its sleeve: the reveal of a giant, 3-D interactive art piece.

“As We Are” is a 14-foot, 3-D human head-shaped sculpture made from ribbons of ultra-bright LED screens. Created by Experiential Artist and Designer Matthew Mohr, an associate professor of advertising and design at the Columbus College of Art & Design, the piece contains a photo booth capable of shooting 3-D pictures.

Guests can interact with the sculpture by having their photos taken, then emerge from the booth to see his or her portrait depicted as the face of “As We Are” for about 30 seconds. Images are stored in a database and appear in a rotation.

“Each portrait is roughly 17 times the size of the person represented,” Mohr explained.

He continued, “Eyes are as big as dinner plates. Through magnification, the sculpture re-contextualizes each participant and asks all who see their portrait to consider who that person is and the life they lead, no matter their age, gender or culture. Portraits rotate continually, fading one into another to provide a rolling landscape of human diversity.”

Intended to be fun and engaging, the piece makes open-ended statements revealed through observation and interaction, addressing the relationship between the self and representation of the self while asking the subject of the portrait to reconsider themselves through the magnification of their head and facial features.

Fabricated by Boston’s Design Communications Ltd., the sculpture was commissioned by the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority, owner of the GCCC, to become the signature piece in the largest contemporary collection of central Ohio art.

The FCCFA has invested $3.5 million in and displays nearly 400 pieces of art throughout its properties. Reese Brothers Productions serves as the curator of the collection.

When guests arrived at the Reopening Celebration, they were definitely curious about the huge head sculpture in their midst, said Jennifer Davis, senior marketing and communications manager of the GCCC.

“At the specified point in the program, the speaker asked guests to turn around and face the sculpture, which suddenly was activated and started scrolling through a rotation of images of local dignitaries and celebrities,” Davis explained.

She continued, “Initially, you could hear a collective gasp and then guests quickly pulled out their cell phones and started shooting photos, videos and selfies. When the attendees were invited to participate, the line started forming and lasted throughout the rest of the event.”

Situated in the 1.8 million square foot facility’s North Atrium, “As We Are” is just one of more than 130 works by local artists on display throughout the convention center.

“Having more than a hundred pieces of art displayed throughout the GCCC provides us with a distinctive, entertaining landscape for guests as they travel throughout the venue to attend events, relax in our new cafes and gather in our collaboration spaces,” Davis said.

She added, “There is definitely artwork that can appeal to everyone in the collection at our facility, and ‘As We Are’ is the crown jewel.”

Even the GCCC’s parking garages are adorned with artwork, which often helps guests remember where they parked, Davis joked.

John Page, general manager of the GCCC, expects “As We Are” to become a destination and iconic image identified with the facility and Columbus, as well as a point of pride for both visitors and residents.

“The artwork on display in the GCCC adds to the allure of our facility – it provides a more memorable visitor experience,” Page said.

He continued, “The GCCC is the gateway to the Short North Arts District, so our art collection adds to the vibrancy of the facility and neighborhood. We host both technological and arts-focused conferences, and artists are collaborating more across a variety of mediums. Maybe ‘As We Are’ will be a catalyst in inspiring more (technology-infused) art.”

Visitors are now invited to check out and interact with “As We Are,” and will be welcomed and assisted by Guest Services ambassadors Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m.- 3 p.m., with additional hours of operation based on the GCCC and area event schedules.

“We’ve hosted a number of events since the installation was revealed and ‘As We Are’ really grabs the attendees’ attention in a positive fashion,” Davis said.

She continued, “A few guests have loved seeing the images of others but have been timid about seeing their own faces enlarged to that extent. The vast majority of guests know this is a one-of-kind sculpture and want to be part of the experience and savor the moment with their colleagues and friends.

In addition to “As We Are,” the GCCC now offers:

  • 373,000 sq. ft. of contiguous exhibit space and 447,000 overall
  • 114,000 sq. ft. of ballroom space, with 25,000 sq. ft. Union Station Ballroom, 15,000 sq. ft. Short North Ballroom and 74,000 sq. ft. Battelle Grand
  • 75 meeting rooms comprising about 118,000 sq. ft.
  • 9 new meeting rooms with outside-facing windows
  • 4 parking facilities with 4,000 onsite parking spaces
  • Spacious atriums with elegant flooring
  • Arnold Plaza featuring 10,000 sq. ft. of event space with tent
  • Upper-level show management offices overlooking exhibit halls
  • Decorative lighting and colorful node walls in the concourse
  • Digital meeting room signage
  • 35 loading docks
  • South Café & Marketplace featuring quick-service dining, specialty shops and services
  • 2 Guest Services Centers
  • Free-standing nursing mother’s room
  • Shoe shine services
  • Energy-saving fixtures in remodeled restrooms and LED lighting in exhibit halls
  • Collaboration spaces in cafés, throughout the main concourse and beneath node walls
  • Internet capabilities via Smart City include accommodating 20,000 simultaneous users
  • Levy’s Discovery Cafe featuring local cuisine and beverages within the Homegrown Café, Columbus Grille, CBUS Tap Room and Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea. The indoor Smartfarm — the first of its kind in a convention center — produces nearly 5,000 pounds of vegetables and herbs annually for culinary use that can be grown in advance to accommodate event planner requests
  • The Live at Lunch series provides local entertainment the first Thursday of each month
  • The city’s largest contingent of Certified Tourism Ambassadors

To learn more about “As We Are,” go here.

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