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Short North Arts District, Columbus, OH

The Short North is a neighborhood in the city of Columbus, Ohio, centered on the main strip of High Street immediately north of downtown and extending until just south of the University District and Ohio State University. It is an easy walk from the convention center or Nationwide Arena district to the south. The Short North is a densely-populated commercial and residential district, with especially high pedestrian use during its monthly “Gallery Hop” and other local and downtown events.

More often than not, The Short North has been described as trendy, colorful and offbeat! The district is heavily populated with art galleries, specialty shops, pubs, nightclubs, and coffee shops. Most of its tightly packed brick buildings date from at least the early 20th century, with traditional storefronts along High Street, old apartment buildings and row-houses and newer condominium developments in the surrounding blocks. The city installed 17 lighted metal archways extending across High Street throughout the Short North, reminiscent of such arches present in the area in the early 1900s. This area is also known to be quite a gay- and lesbian-friendly neighborhood which contains numerous gay nightclubs and bars and hosts the annual Columbus gay pride parade.

The name “Short North” has its roots dating back to a period during which the vernacular used by the area police to describe a period of decline, in which, from a suburban commuter’s perspective, the neighborhood had fallen ‘just short’ of the central business district’s north end, both physically and economically. A reputation for diversity and an artistic, Bohemian atmosphere has marked the Short North, with land prices and local rents rising steadily from the humble beginnings as a squatter’s neighborhood in the 1980s. Prior to this gentrification of the neighborhood which originated from artists, it had suffered prolonged decay and from latent, street-level crime and gang violence as Columbus affluent residents followed the economic bubble outward, into the suburbs, during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The 1980s saw the neighborhood’s rebirth enter into full gear as galleries began to open up and started to flourish. As Maria Gallowy, the proud owner of PM gallery, which was formerly the oldest gallery in the Short North, once put it “It was one of those neighborhoods that artists love to move into because the possibilities are there.” In 1984 two Short North area galleries, PM Gallery and Art Reach began opening new exhibits on the first Saturday of every month to help cross-promote their businesses and build a more unified community. This loose coordination later evolved into the Gallery Hop which is still held every first Saturday of the month. The Gallery Hop today features most businesses keeping their doors open late into the night, jam-packed streets, and sidewalks populated with street musicians and other performers.

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