The Arts in Columbus Thrive With Agility, Innovation and Collaboration

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On Friday I attended the Ohio Art League’s X Space event, during which they launched their new space and opened a new exhibition. This event was particularly poignant to me because it was a celebration of rebirth, resilience and cooperation.

The Ohio Art League is one of the oldest arts nonprofits in Columbus and has included some illustrious artists among its members (George Bellows, Roy Lichtenstein, Alice Schille, Aminah Robinson to name a few). Over the last several years, however, the league has faced numerous challenges and we were in danger of losing an incredible asset and an organization with deep roots in the community.

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The opening of OAL’s X Space

Fortunately for Columbus, the Ohio Art League and their board not only stayed the course, but chose to explore ways to evolve the organization ensuring it not only survives, but remains relevant to artists and the community and thrives.

As a member-based organization, OAL is founded on the concept of collaboration. So it is no surprise that many of their initial measures to transform are rooted in partnerships. Thanks to a partnership with 400 W. Rich St. OAL has found a home for exhibitions in Franklinton—and it is a perfect fit. The space, aptly named, X Space is purposefully designed to be agile—bending to the will of the artists and serving as an incubator for experimentation.

A partnership with Phaidon Press provides members and donors book discounts. This added value to membership will help OAL grow.

The Wexner Center for the Arts is another great collaborator adding value to an OAL membership by offering reciprocal membership benefits and co-sponsoring events. Kudos to the Wexner Center for recognizing the importance of the Ohio Art League and its member artists and forming a partnership that will benefit both organizations, as well as strengthen our city’s arts community.

I know I’ve said it before, but I will never get tired of pointing out that collaboration is something our city’s arts and cultural organizations do really, really well.

Despite needing to compete for consumer dollars like any business, the arts organizations in Columbus recognize that united they are stronger.

Some examples, like Twisted and Armide (which brought multiple performing arts companies together) are on stage for our audiences to see, while others are more subtle as organizations large and small share space, resources, and knowledge with each other. At the heart of the citywide arts marketing campaign Art Makes Columbus/Columbus Makes Art there are 18 local arts organizations who are collaborating to raise awareness for the entire Columbus arts community.

In Columbus I see an arts community that acts like family— quick to lend their sibling organizations a hand because we are all in this together.

These are pretty heart-warming thoughts to have this holiday season.

Images courtesy of the Ohio Art League.

— Tom Katzenmeyer, Keep up with Tom’s adventures on Twitter: @tomkatzenmeyer