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Art Makes Columbus: Amy Lay Turns Performance Art into a Career

Walker Evans Walker Evans Art Makes Columbus: Amy Lay Turns Performance Art into a Career
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columbus-makes-artArt Makes Columbus. Columbus Makes Art. The Greater Columbus Arts Council (GCAC) is launching a new five-year marketing campaign to highlight the innovation and connectedness in the local arts community. The new program will highlight both individual artists and organizations from a wide variety of visual and performing arts mediums, with a goal of increasing awareness and boosting arts patronage all across Columbus.

This week, Columbus Underground is presenting a series of interviews with local creatives to find out what being an artist means to them, what they face as challenges, and what their hopes for the future are.

If you’ve been to a Shadowbox Live show, then you definitely recognize Amy Lay as a key performer in the ensemble. As a singer, dancer and sketch comedian, she’s been a part of the cast for 13 years now, working as a full time performance artist right here in Columbus. While the role comes natural to her, some theatergoers are still surprised that artistic endeavors can be viable careers in our city.

“After some the shows when I’m talking to the audience they do ask me if this my full-time gig,” she says. “But they’re not really looking at what goes on behind the scenes. This is also a business, so there are many hours going toward ticket sales or advertising as well.”

Shadowbox Live is actually the largest resident theater company in the entire United States, which means that it employs the largest number of full and part time staff year-round to keep its busy schedule of over 50 productions per year running smoothly. Lay says that her growth in administrative roles has put her in touch with many facets of how the organization operates.

“I started in corporate sales, and helped with hiring for the box office,” she says. “I worked in the costume department and then trained a team to take that over, which I now oversee. I also took on the role of Art Director. It’s a pretty grueling schedule to not only learn the shows but also administer, but I love it.”

Lay says that while Shadowbox Live has become a well known entertainment institution in Columbus over the past 25 years, one of their biggest challenges is their continued efforts to reach new audiences who are unfamiliar with their wide variety of show styles and performances. It’s something she hopes the new Art Makes Columbus/Columbus Makes Art campaign can help with.

“Yes, Shadowbox is loud, and we’re out there, but we’re still not touching many parts of Columbus,” she explains. “There are lots of people who haven’t been yet, because this is a fairly large city. When I get a night off and I venture outside my normal social groups, I hear from a number of people who haven’t heard of Shadowbox.”


While Shadowbox has traditionally been more focused on their staple brand of sketch-comedy-mixed-with-rock-and-roll productions, the number of musical and performance art endeavors has continued to evolve since their relocation to The Brewery District in 2011. One of their current shows is a large collaborative project with the Video Department at The Columbus College of Art & Design, which mixes live Pink Floyd covers with video footage from The Wizard of Oz.

“The Pink Floyd show alone has one of the biggest ranges of entertainment in terms of spectacle,” says Lay. “It could certainly reach a more expanded audience.”

Creating unique experiences is something that the arts community as a whole has to continue to work on in Columbus, especially when considering the vast number of entertainment options available on any given day of the week.

“We have our own battle to fight — live entertainment and sports often go head to head,” said Lay. “People in Columbus love their sports, and there’s always a lot going on, so the arts is sometimes that third wheel.”

One of the ways Shadowbox works on creating the next generation of art aficionados is through hands-on experiences with their Shadowbox Academy Arts Education Program.

“We have a large interest in that — training high school ages up through early college with classes in sketch comedy and rock and roll,” she said. “They’re excited to learn, and we’re touching their audience when they share their experience with their friends. I think a lot of people see Shadowbox as being too crass or too adult, but we have been growing our more artful experience with these experiential shows.”

To read more of Amy’s story, CLICK HERE to visit www.columbusmakesart.com.

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