We were thrilled when Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams won a Greater Columbus Arts Council Community Arts Partnership Award in the fall for its support of the Wex and arts groups around the community. Indeed, art infuses nearly everything Jeni Britton Bauer and her team do. Following the honor—and on the heels of a January feature on Jeni on Condé Nast Traveler’s website—we thought we’d share a recent interview about her involvement with the Wex over the years.
By now, most people in Columbus—and many far beyond—are familiar with Jeni Britton Bauer. Nothing less than culinary royalty, she won a James Beard Award in 2012 for her book Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home and has been featured in Food & Wine, People, and the New York Times. Her ice creams are served up in 16 gorgeously designed “scoop shops” (including locations in Chicago, Nashville, Atlanta, and soon in Charleston) and in more than 1,100 stores across the country.
During her time at Ohio State as an art history major, Bauer worked at the Wex as a student employee in patron services. In that job, she said, “I felt that I represented Columbus itself, as well as a world-class institution. I also learned that I should stand up straight, look people in the eye, and be a good ambassador. I carried that feeling with me when I started Jeni’s—that every job is emotional, that every relationship matters.”
Bauer’s aesthetic approach was also nurtured at the Wex: “I look at ice cream like art. Maybe it is more craft than art, but layering sensory experiences is very much what we do.” She adds, “The Wex inspires me in many ways, primarily in taking risks and finding new ways to approach subjects. When the William Wegman show was here (in 2007), I was surprised how it affected me. I wasn’t expecting it, but that’s what you get at the Wex—new perspectives.”
Bauer has been a featured speaker at the Wex (on topics ranging from agriculture to entrepreneurship), held her book-release party here, and, in 2012, was appointed to the Wexner Center Foundation Board of Trustees. On top of all of that, she and her husband Charly Bauer are also raising two children. “When Greta was just 2 months old, we had her with us at the Wex while we handed out ice cream during the kids’ programs. Now she studies art and loves abstract art. I think Greta and Dash will grow up with the Wex as part of their balanced lives."