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About GCAC

GCAC's History

The year was 1960, 13 years before the founding of the Greater Columbus Arts Council. The Columbus Symphony was only nine years old; the Ohio and Palace Theaters were still movie houses, and the Southern Theater was a venue for live performances of country music. The Columbus skyline consisted of the Leveque-Lincoln Tower.

In that year, an organization known as the Columbus Arts Council was formed by the Downtown Action Committee and the Columbus Junior League for the purposes of creating a community arts calendar and producing a downtown Summer Arts Festival. The first community calendar was printed in the fall of 1961. The first Arts Festival was held in 1962 on the statehouse lawn. The festival was initially modeled on the Three Rivers Arts Festival in Pittsburgh. Within a few years, although the Arts Festival continued, the Columbus Arts Council became inactive.

During that time the city of Columbus financially supported the community’s three major arts institutions—The Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts (Columbus Museum of Art), the Center of Science & Industry (COSI), and the Columbus Symphony Orchestra—in return for specific public service events. In 1973, City Council recognized that the Columbus arts community extended beyond these three organizations and that the needs of the three institutions extended beyond the small sums allocated. Greater Columbus Arts Council was officially incorporated as a nonprofit in 1973.

Today, hundreds of arts organizations and individual artists share millions of dollars in city and county support. While this represents a small percentage of operating budgets, it reaffirms continuing bipartisan support for the arts and the role they play in civic development. From Support for professional artists to operating and project support for organizations, these funds provide the financial bedrock from which our community pursues its creative goals.

Use our timeline below to discover more about how GCAC has evolved through the years. For complete annual reports please visit our publications page. For most of the research referenced in the history please refer to our research page. 

GCAC Timeline


What began as an extremely promising new year, ripe with possibility and new funds to invest in the community quickly became the year of the pandemic. Starting in March nearly all arts and cultural activities ceased as COVID infections began rising and closings were mandated across Columbus and the nation. GCAC’s two major funding streams dropped to nearly zero.

The pandemic hit artists particularly hard and GCAC quickly established the Emergency Relief Fund for Artists to help with basic needs like rent, food and medical bills. With the support of numerous individuals and businesses, more than $325,000 was raised in just over three months to support 438 artists with these grants.

The GCAC office moved in April to its new home at 182 E. Long St. providing better accessibility to the community and a free meeting space for constituents.

The Aminah Robinson home restoration was completed and while the first selected fellow could not come to Columbus, Bryan Christopher Moss, a local artist was provided the residency space into early 2021.

Franklin County Commissioners commit to $4 million in funding for GCAC grant programs, providing critical financial support during the pandemic GCAC Code of Regulations were revised allowing three county appointees.

The Art Makes Columbus website quickly pivoted to enable and promote virtual events as artists and arts organizations figured out ways to continue to supply programming to the community.

In June as a result of the protests following the deaths of Black citizens at the hands of law enforcement, GCAC partnered with CAPA to present Art Unites Cbus, paying artists to cover the plywood on businesses downtown. GCAC stepped up to document, preserve and plan exhibits for the temporary murals. Art Unites Cbus expanded to offer cash awards to Black filmmakers and Photographers for their documentation of the protests in Columbus.

While the murals have all come down, and the temporary mural exhibitions have concluded, the map of their original locations lives on at The Art Unites Cbus effort led to deeper discussions in the community and a larger public art and aspirational racial equity campaign, Deliver Black Dreams. Deliver Black Dreams used public art as a launch point for a sustained and future-oriented approach to achieving racial equity in Columbus.

GCAC joined the Can’t Stop Cbus effort, a community-wide volunteer effort to provide solutions during the pandemic to numerous sectors. A very active portion of Can’t Stop Cbus was the Cbus Arts Hub, Gravity Uplifts murals and Curbside Concerts, paying musicians to take free personalized concerts to sheltered seniors.

The Community Arts Partnership Awards were presented virtually for the first time, and a new award was launched, named after Dale E. Heydlauff, recipient of the 2020 Michael B. Coleman Arts Partner award. The Dale E. Heydlauff Community Arts Innovation Award will be presented annually.

Visual artist Queen Brooks receives the 12th annual Ray Hanley Award.


Operating Support awarded 25 grants for approximately $5.6 million, the highest amount in this grant category since the Arts Council’s inception in 1973. An additional $583,880 was awarded to 55 organizations in Project Support and 554 grants were made to artists totaling $434,873—another high mark in the Arts Council’s history. Nearly 75 percent of the artists applying were new applicants. Ticket fee admissions began to be collected on July 1. The Franklin County commissioners provided $3 million to support GCAC grant programs.

The Arts Council produced the most successful Arts Festival in more than 10 years. Mother Nature smiled on the festival with fair temperatures and light cloud cover, bringing an estimated 500,000 people to the downtown riverfront. Additionally, Festival sponsorship revenues increased 12 percent and overall revenue increased 19 percent.

GCAC launched a citywide and statewide database for public art that cataloged more than 1,000 pieces of public art at more than 700 sites in Franklin County alone. Presented on the website, the site combines arts and cultural events with public art across Ohio and is the only one of its kind in the country. Columbus Open Studio & Stage celebrated its 4th year.

GCAC began comprehensive culture and equity work for the arts sector that encompassed both internal and external goals for inclusivity and access. This work will cross all aspects of the Arts Council’s efforts from recruitment to events, from the Arts Festival to grant programs for many years to come. Work began on a 2020-2025 Strategic Plan.

The Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson Fellowship and Residency programs for African American visual artists were launched in December.

Musician and long time Columbus Jazz Orchestra member Bobby Floyd receives the 11th annual Ray Hanley Award.

The Dresden program celebrates its 25th anniversary. By the end of 2019, GCAC will have hosted 52 German artists and sent 47 Columbus artists to Dresden. (*Columbus did not have artists travel to Dresden in 1996, 1997 or 2020.)

GCAC’s expenditures were $10,880,627, with $8,241,162 of its revenues consisting of City of Columbus bed tax revenues and for the first time ever admissions fee revenues (which totaled $1,038,474). Additional funding from the City totaled $200,000 for the Columbus Film and Music Commissions. An additional $3 million was received from Franklin County. Arts Festival revenues and expenditures were $1,263,379 and $1,160,361 respectively.


In December 2018 GCAC celebrated an historic victory with the passage by City Council of a 5% admissions fee to benefit arts and culture in Columbus. The work of more than 15 years of research and three years of concerted work with the community to come to consensus on a plan, the ticket fee will be significant to the sustainability and vitality of the arts sector.

Operating Support awarded 26 grants for approximately $3.4 million and Project Support awarded 69 grants for $587,216. The number of artists funded in 2018 increased significantly with 332 awards in the Artists in Community program.

GCAC was a major partner in I, Too, Sing America: The Harlem Renaissance at 100, the first ever community-wide celebration focusing on the contributions of African American artists past and present. The Arts Council helped provide planning, administrative and marketing assistance for the project which engaged more than 30 organizations and hundreds of artists.

The 2018 Columbus Arts Festival hosted two national headliners for the first time ever, partnered with Columbus Children’s Choir and the Wexner Center for the Arts and opened up the Patron Party to the community enabling the Festival to double its exhibiting artist awards to $21,000.

Filmmaker Dani ReStack receives the 10th annual Ray Hanley Award.

GCAC’s expenditures were $8,763,351, with $6,908,869 of its revenues consisting of City of Columbus bed tax revenues. Additional funding from the City totaled $175,000 for the Columbus Film and Music Commissions. Arts Festival revenues and expenditures were $1,050,997 and $1,003,028 respectively.


In 2017 the results of Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 were released. This was the fourth time the Arts Council participated in the research report completed by Americans for the Arts in partnership with the Arts Council. AEP 5 (completed with 2015 data) showed that the arts and cultural sector in central Ohio is a major contributor to the economy with $412.3 million in economic activity annually, supporting 14,980 full-time jobs and generating $373 million in household income. Comparing attendance figures from AEP 5 with publicly available sports attendance (professional and college) data shows that the non-profit arts and culture have a 1.6x annual attendance than all central Ohio sports combined. The new data would be instrumental in the work to secure a new funding source for the arts.

Operating Support awarded 27 grants for approximately $3.4 million and Project Support awarded 61 grants for $635,471. In grant dollars awarded, this is an 8.8 percent increase over 2016.

The 2017 Columbus Arts Festival was one GCAC’s most successful ever with the addition of American Electric Power as the presenting sponsor and a 48 percent increase in overall sponsorship revenue. Sign Your Art was presented for the 2nd time, engaging nearly 800 people in creating 5 x 7” pieces of art for consideration in the city-wide public art display.

The Art Makes Columbus/Columbus Makes Art campaign continued to gain traction and accolades with many more stories about Columbus artists are appearing regionally and nationally and strong arts organizations ticket sales with new collaborations and many sell-out shows. Columbus Open Studio & Stage artists saw a 23 percent increase in ticket sales.

Poet/writer Kathy Fagan receives the 9th annual Ray Hanley Award.

GCAC’s expenditures were $8,547,625 with $6,771,256 of its revenues consisting of City of Columbus bed tax revenues. Additional funding from the City totaled $200,000 for the Columbus Film and Music Commissions. Arts Festival revenues and expenditures were $1,131,901 and $1,045,062respectively.


In 2016 grant support by GCAC for arts organizations and artists reached and all time high at that point with 27 operating support grants awarded for total mount of $3.1 million, and 57 project support grants for a total of $561,842. The highly successful Art Makes Columbus / Columbus Makes Art campaign continued to promote the arts in Columbus using a wide variety of media and was responsible for nearly 400 stories in the media, $9.1 million in publicity, and 350 million earned media impressions. Also in 2016, as part of Art Makes Columbus, GCAC initiated the Artists of Columbus blog, expanding the diversity of artistic voices contributing to the campaign, and launched Columbus Open Studio & Stage, a two-day program featuring self-guided tours of 26 artist studios, seven stages, and seven community partners throughout Columbus.

Musician and long time member of the Columbus Symphony Tom Battenberg receives the 8th annual Ray Hanley Award.

GCAC’s expenditures were $7,607,000, with $6,444,000 of its revenues consisting of City of Columbus bed tax revenues. Additional funding from the City totaled $95,000. Arts Festival revenues and expenditures were $965,496 and $913,580 respectively.


In 2015, GCAC, partnered with the Columbus Cultural Leadership Consortium to launch the Art Makes Columbus / Columbus Makes Art campaign. This unprecedented public private partnership in a marketing program for the arts generated nearly 30 million earned media impressions in its first six months as well as launching a brand new event calendar and artist database at

The first Creative Industries report for Franklin County is issued by American’s for the Arts indicating 2,730 for and nonprofit arts-related businesses directly employ 13,714 people.

The 54th Columbus Arts Festival debuted Sign Your Art, a first of its kind street art project that engaged local artists and members of the public to create a pieces for unique art installation across the entire city. GCAC and the project were added to the international Google Cultural Institute online database.

The Community Arts Partnership Awards changed the name of the Arts Partner award to honor Michael B. Coleman, Columbus’ long-time mayor.

Visual artist Dorothy Gill Barnes receives the 7th annual Ray Hanley Award.

GCAC’s expenditures were $7,197,000, with $6,206,000 of its revenues consisting of City of Columbus bed tax revenues. Additional funding from the City totaled $94,000. Arts Festival revenues and expenditures were $834,031 and $894,793 respectively.


GCAC began expanding its role as a convener of arts activities and advocate for the arts and embarked on various programs to encourage collaboration between cultural organizations. One example of such collaboration was the acclaimed Twisted program jointly produced by BalletMet, the Columbus Symphony and Opera Columbus.

The 53rd Columbus Art Festival showcased more than 1,000 exhibiting and performing artists with record-breaking crowds on Friday and Saturday.

An Annual Public Forum held in February on the topic of Arts in our Community: Roles and Results generated an attendance of more than 200 people.

The City of Columbus provided $100,000 in additional support for a new Community Impact grant program.

The community and Street Performer database was launched to bring vibrancy to Columbus public places, connect community partners with performers and compensate artists.

Playwright/actor and artistic director at Columbus Children’s Theatre William Goldsmith receives the 6th annual Ray Hanley Award.

GCAC’s expenditures were $6,409,000, with $5,596,000 of its revenues consisting of City of Columbus bed tax revenues. Additional funding from the City totaled $169,000.During 2014, GCAC increased community funding of the arts by more than 10%. Arts Festival revenues and expenditures were $850,067 and $729,213 respectively.


Milt Baughman announces his retirement and Tom Katzenmeyer is hired as president and CEO.

GCAC creates a fiscal sponsorship program to assist new arts organizations in the process of obtaining tax-exempt status., an online marketplace is devoted to supporting Franklin County non-profit organizations’ web-based fundraising efforts, was launched with the support of funding partners including the City of Columbus, Cardinal Health, JPMorgan Chase Foundation, PNC, Loann Crane and The Columbus Foundation.

In collaboration with CCLC, GCAC begins work to create a marketing and branding campaign for the arts sector to focus on building awareness and engagement from patrons, donors and corporate and community partners. ArtZine, the long running WOSU program sponsored by GCAC becomes Broad & High.

An increase in hotel/motel bed tax is allocated to GCAC and the removal of a cap results in over $600,000 of additional revenue.

Dancer/choreographer Susan Van Pelt Petry received the 5th annual Ray Hanley Award.

GCAC’s expenditures were $6,000,000, with $5,130,000 of its revenues consisting of City of Columbus funds. Growth in community funding was 24.5%. Arts Festival revenues and expenditures were $873,793 and $670,989 respectively.


2012 was the city’s Bicentennial and important milestone in the community. With the financial support of the city and the collaborative energy of many community partners, GCAC was given the opportunity to celebrate what makes Columbus unique and a vibrant place to live, work and play.

The results of Arts & Economic Prosperity 4 were released. AEP 4 (completed with 2010 data) indicated the central Ohio nonprofit arts sector is major contributor to the economy with $226.3 million in economic activity annually, supporting 8,532 full-time jobs and generating $207 million in household income.

GCAC also took a leadership role to identify funding solutions to sustain the arts, both short-term and long-term. In addition to participating in the Funding Review and Advisory Committee in collaboration with city leadership, Experience Columbus and the human services sector to address the funding needs in the community, GCAC published an update to its public funding request that began to layout the strategy to seek an new public funding source for the arts.

In response to two studies that pointed to a need for GCAC to focus on its mission as a granting agency and its current work to secure a lasting arts funding solution that will make the entire Columbus cultural community more vital, the Community Arts Education programs of GCAC were transferred to a new home with the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education (OAAE) in July 2012. The components of the program, including Artists-in-Schools, Art in the House, Professional Development for Teachers and the Franklin County Neighborhood Arts grants continue under the leadership of OAAE.

Photographer Kojo Kamau received the 4th annual Ray Hanley Award.

The city opened the newly renovated Scioto Mile and Bicentennial Park in 2012 and the Columbus Arts Festival moved back to its long time home. More than 400,000 people attended the Festival.

For 2012, GCAC’s expenditures were $6,026,000, with $4,507,000 of its revenues consisting of City of Columbus funds. Arts Festival revenues and expenditures for that year were $664,665 and $573,812, respectively.


The Columbus Arts Festival celebrated 50 years, and a final year in the Discovery District. As part of the Anniversary Celebration the Festival launched a number of new initiatives including the Emerging Artist program to assist Central Ohio artists in learning how to present their work at Festivals.

GCAC’s services expand with the redesign of and the launch of the multi-disciplinary artist directory serving artists in the disciplines of visual arts, dance, theatre, literature and music. The Arts Legal Assistance program is launched in partnership with the Columbus Bar Association.

GCAC began planning for the city’s Bicentennial and receives a $150,000 Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support Finding Time: Public Art 2012. In addition, GCAC launches the JP Morgan Chase Neighborhood grant program with $200,000 from JP Morgan Chase to support Bicentennial activities in Central Ohio neighborhoods.

GCAC’s Ohio Association of Nonprofit Organization’s certification is renewed, establishing the organization as a highly respected and trusted non-profit in Ohio.

The Columbus Foundation commissioned a report on the sustainability of Columbus arts community by AMS Planning & Research Corporation titled The Columbus Arts Market Sustainability Analysis.

The Funding Review and Advisory Committee was established by the City of Columbus and Franklin County to help determine the distribution of funding for the arts, tourism (Experience Columbus) and the human services sector in Columbus. Tom Katzenmeyer was appointed chair of the committee.

Dancer/choreographer and artistic director at BalletMet Gerard Charles received the 3rd annual Ray Hanley Award.

GCAC’s expenditures were $5,286,000, with $4,150,000 of its revenues consisting of City of Columbus funds. Arts Festival revenues and expenditures were $553,630 and $528,377 respectively.


In 2010, Milt Baughman was named President of GCAC and the Arts Council began publishing Front Row Center, an e-newsletter containing previews of upcoming arts events, articles on arts-related issues and profiles of members of the arts community. Changes were made in the grants program and in order to improve the flow of information between GCAC and its grantees, GCAC initiated a program whereby a GCAC Board and staff member would meet annually with representatives of each of GCAC’s twenty-two operating support recipients.

GCAC took a leadership role with the city’s Bicentennial Celebration Committee with the goal to include a significant cultural component during the Bicentennial in 2012.

In early 2010 GCAC released the Final Report on the Future of the Arts in Columbus, Financial Analysis and Plan conducted by Wolf Brown and initiated a review of the Arts Council programs to help determine priorities for programming at GCAC. The Columbus Foundation published A Community Report – The Arts, based on the previous five years of research and which laid out priorities for the arts sector on its path to additional funding. By the end of 2010, the result of the sustained efforts of Milt Baughman and the GCAC Board was significantly to increase the confidence of the city’s business, government and cultural leadership in the ability of GCAC to encourage and manage the further growth of the City’s arts sector.

Actor/playwright Geoff Nelson received the 2nd annual Ray Hanley Award.

For 2010, GCAC’s expenditures were $4,864,000, with $3,720,000 of its revenues consisting of City of Columbus funds. Arts Festival revenues and expenditures for that year were $472,439 and $469,365, respectively.


Milt Baughman is hired as interim president and GCAC’s Art in the House programming began a partnership with TRANSIT ARTS and the Columbus Federation of Settlements. By the end of the year, Art in the House was operating out of four Settlement Houses.

Somali photographer Abdi Roble won the first Raymond J. Hanley Award. The award was established for individual artists who live or work in the Columbus area and who has demonstrated an unusual level of achievement. It is administered by GCAC and supported through the Hanley Arts Fund of the Columbus Arts Endowment. The Columbus Arts Endowment was created to honor former GCAC President Raymond Hanley upon his death in 2006.

GCAC hosted its first Community Arts Partnership awards, an expansion of the former Business Arts Partnership awards. Three individual awards were added: Arts Educator, Arts Partner and Emerging Arts Leader.

GCAC and Columbus celebrated the Big Read, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, in May. Columbus residents were encouraged to read Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club. Big Read programming culminates in a visit by Tan.

Creative Columbus: A Picture of the Creative Economy in Central Ohio was released by Columbus College of Art & Design.

Due the recession that began in 2008, general budget cuts by the City of Columbus resulted in GCAC expenditures being reduced to $4,672,000, with $3,150,000 of its revenues consisting of City of Columbus funds. Arts Festival revenues and expenditures were $505,972 and $426,539, respectively.


In early 2008 GCAC received funding from the Franklin County Board of Commissioners to for its new arts education program Art in the House and partner program TRANSIT ARTS.

Columbus is named a top 10 “City for the Arts” by AmericanStyle magazine. GCAC’s professional development series for artists, OPPArt (Opportunities for Artists) continued to grow and expand.

GCAC changed the name of its Business Arts Partnership awards to the Community Arts Partnership awards and announced it would expand to six award categories – three for individuals and three for businesses.

GCAC was certified as having achieved the Standards of Excellence of the Ohio Association of Nonprofit Organizations.

GCAC’s expenditures had risen to $5,905,000, with $3,501,000 of its revenues consisting of City of Columbus funds. The Arts Festival moved to the Discovery District to accomodate the renovation of the riverfront and the Scioto Mile and revenues and expenditures for that year were $491,260 and $520,881 respectively.


GCAC began a long-range strategic planning process early in the year and the Grants Department unveiled a new system for reviewing and awarding Project Grants. Criteria for reviewing applications are now tied to a scoring system and allocations are made according to score. A new Project Grants process that involved staff and board, as well as peer review panels drawn from the Columbus Metropolitan Service Area sought to achieve a more thorough evaluation of artistic and organizational performance while providing greater transparency in the grant-making process. The strategic plan’s title was Supporting Art. Advancing Culture, and it became a foundation of GCAC communications for more than 15 years to follow.

Several key research efforts were released in 2007, including the Artspace Feasibility Report, dedicated to identifying affordable arts spaces; GCAC’s first every survey of local artists; the Columbus Creative Economy, an evaluation commissioned by the City of Columbus; and Arts & Economic Prosperity III, using 2010 data showing that the nonprofit arts generated annual economic activity of $330.4 million, support 11,068 full time jobs and generate $222.6 million in annual household income.

The Columbus Cultural Leadership Consortium proposed to business leaders, government authorities and other funders a five-year funding program named “Thrive in Five.” The funding was to be distributed by the CCLC principally to provide large-scale additional funding to the large organizations that were then most deeply in financial crisis. GCAC acted as fiscal agent for the distribution of these funds. The City of Columbus contributed $700,000 to this program, but reduced funding to GCAC by a comparable amount. The program provided a meaningful distribution of funds only in 2008, its first year of operation.

GCAC and WOSU’s monthly television magazine program ArtZine wins two regional Emmy awards.


President Ray Hanley dies tragically and unexpectedly. Bryan Knicely is hired as president after a national search. In May, GCAC awards the largest grant amount in its history to artists and cultural organizations in Columbus. The expanded grant amount is made possible by an increase in funding from GCAC’s contract with the City of Columbus, and the release of temporarily restricted funds.

GCAC begins offering arts and cultural groups the opportunity to apply for grants online and for the first time, artists apply for the Columbus Arts Festival through ZAPPlication, an online application process that revolutionizes the jury review. GCAC publishes it’s first online annual report.

Columbus City Council created the Creative Columbus Policy Steering Committee to study the future of the arts in the City, including the appropriate role for GCAC.

Also in 2006, the 15 largest Columbus arts organizations formed the Columbus Cultural Leadership Consortium and published a white paper, Arts and Culture in Columbus. The group was supported by the Columbus Partnership and began to meet regularly. GCAC was eventually added as a member, but discussions within the CCLC emphasized the perceived need for the largest arts organizations to have a separate voice in seeking funding from governmental and other funders.

GCAC and 18 arts organizations commissioned AMS Planning & Research to conduct a participation analysis of the arts in Columbus. The resulting report was titled Audience Insight: 2006 Market Research Effort.

ArtZine, GCAC and WOSU television’s partnership to showcase the arts and culture in Columbus, wins another regional Emmy award.

GCAC’s expenditures declined to $4,742,000, with $3,405,000 of its revenues consisting of City of Columbus funds. Arts Festival revenues and expenditures for that year were $557,813 and $567,598 respectively.


GCAC launched an early online ticketing system through for the Columbus Museum of Art’s Renoir’s Women exhibition. It was made available to other arts organizations although never really caught on and was discontinued several years later.

The Community Arts Education Department began a professional development program in partnership Columbus Public Schools, BalletMet Columbus, Opera Columbus, and the Jazz Arts Group to benefit more than 200 Columbus Public Schools teachers and local professional teaching artists over a three-year period. The program was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

A research report on cultural endowments in Columbus and six peer cities, Building Creative Capital, was commissioned by GCAC and conducted by Benefactors Counsel.

President & CEO Ray Hanley announced his intention to retire in 2007.


In 2004, GCAC formed a partnership with WOSU to create a televised program, ArtZine, to promote greater appreciation of the cultural opportunities available in Central Ohio (the program has gone on to win numerous regional Emmy awards and is now called Broad & High).

GCAC launched the Franklin County Neighborhood Arts Grants Program to create funding opportunities for educational and avocational nonprofit arts organizations. The small-grant program supported the efforts of countless groups who enliven Columbus neighborhoods through creative and educational activities. The program was funded by the Franklin County Commissioners.

In addition to using the Public Forum to receive community input, GCAC hosts a Board-to-Board discussion with arts and cultural organizations that had recently received operating support from GCAC. The meeting featured small table discussions, each of which involved several arts organizations and was moderated by a GCAC Board member about issues facing the cultural community in Columbus.

Additionally this year, GCAC Board of Trustees Chairman David Citino received the 2004 Ohio Governor’s Award for Individual Artist and GCAC’s Associate Artist Jim Arter received the Ohio Governor’s Award for Arts In Education.


In January of 2003, a delegation from Columbus including City Council President Pro-Tem Michael C. Mentel traveled to Washington, D.C. to accept the 2003 Excellence in Arts Programs for Youth award for GCAC’s Americorps program, Children of the Future, led by long-time GCAC employee and arts educator Jim Arter. This prestigious award, given annually by Americans for the Arts & the U.S. Conference of Mayors, recognized Children of the Future’s ongoing commitment to changing the lives of young people in central Ohio through arts-based after-school programming. However, despite the President’s call for an increase in federal funding for Americorps, GCAC was informed that the 2004 allocation for Americorps has been reduced by 80%, and federal Americorps funding for Children of the Future was being eliminated. In its 9th year, Children of the Future employed 30 full time artists, averaged more than 400 individual contacts with children per week, and reached 2,500 children per year.

As part of the ongoing arts education work, GCAC staff and consultants surveyed 3,227 organizations and every school district in Franklin County to gather all available data about existing community arts education programs. The result was an on-line, searchable data base that was maintained until the arts education programs were moved to the Ohio Alliance of Arts Education in 2012.

In the fall, legislation is submitted to City Council regarding the creation of a public art program for the city of Columbus. The proposed legislation is the culmination of several years of research on public art undertaken by the city’s Department of Development and GCAC.


In 2002, GCAC amended its Code of Regulations to provide that Columbus City Council had the right to make two appointments of trustees to the GCAC Board, increasing total Board membership to 26. In July, GCAC moved into new administrative office space on the 22nd floor of the Bank One building at 100 E. Broad St. Taking advantage of a new space that was both cost-effective and functional, GCAC expanded working, meeting and storage space. GCAC also began to offer free usage of a new large conference room to the non-profit arts community, a practice it continues to this day.

At the request of Mayor Coleman, GCAC works with the City of Columbus to develop a Public Art Program. GCAC partners with staff from the Columbus Department of Planning and Development to design a program unique to Columbus, but based on the experience of successful programs in other cities.


GCAC continued as an active partner in the redevelopment and revitalization of downtown. GCAC President Ray Hanley joined the Downtown Task Force, which is responsible for providing input to the Mayor about his overall plan for downtown. GCAC continued to explore ways in which the arts can provide energy and activity to downtown, and opportunities to link other revitalization projects to the already successful arts and cultural activities in the city and began studying the feasibility of creating affordable artist live/work space in downtown Columbus. A two-day information and public-interaction session conducted by Chris Velasco of Artspace Consultants, Inc. yields a high level of community interest in an artist live/work project.

2001 marked the end of the decade long Columbus Arts Stabilization project. With continued input from National Arts Stabilization, GCAC agreed to continue to manage the three grants remaining in the Columbus Stabilization program.


Sunshine Artist magazine, the premier publication for art shows and festivals, releases their “200 Best” and the Columbus Arts Festival earns the #1 ranking in the fine craft category and #5 in the fine art category. The magazine annually ranks the best arts festivals in the country on the basis of artist sales as reported by participating artists. GCAC’s grant proposal for funding of Children of the Future is approved for the full amount of up to $987,679 over three years. This represents an increase of nearly $45,000 per year in potential federal support for the program. GCAC launches a major new television ad campaign to increase awareness and positive image of central Ohio’s arts offerings. The campaign served as the primary source for driving viewers to a new arts Web site, Created by GCAC in partnership with the Columbus Arts Marketing Council, it was, and has remained, the most comprehensive site for audiences to explore the collective experience of the variety and breadth of arts entertainment options available in Columbus. GCAC’s expenditures were $5,639,000, with $3,734,000 of its revenues consisting of City of Columbus funds. Arts Festival revenues and expenditures for that year were $500,673 and $564,758 respectively.


In 1999, the One for One program launched to increase memberships in 15 participating arts organizations and Columbus City Council passed legislation in March to provide GCAC with $500,000 for the campaign. In the same year the opening of the Southern Theater provided a prime new venue for arts events with smaller audiences than those held in the Ohio and Palace Theaters.

The Columbus Arts Endowment was formed in 1999 at the suggestion of GCAC President Ray Hanley and with the approval of the Board of Trustees of GCAC. The members and trustees of the Endowment were all to be past chairs of the GCAC Board of Trustees. The new organization was formed to manage an endowment to be established by GCAC and to provide smaller arts organizations a vehicle that could hold and manage endowments that they might wish to create. In 1999, GCAC’s expenditures were $7,360,000 with $3,238,000 of its revenues were City of Columbus funds. A total of $2,198,000 in grants and technical assistance were awarded using National Arts Stabilization funds.

The Columbus College of Art and Design and Columbus Symphony Orchestra each qualified for Columbus Stabilization grants of $1 million, awarded over a four-year period, as restricted working capital reserve. The Children of the Future program expands its reach to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Columbus’ Westside unit.


GCAC commissioned the release of the Cultural and Arts Market Study for Columbus, a comprehensive market research analysis that identifies both the obstacles and opportunities that will challenge Columbus’ arts and cultural entities over the next decade. The research provides the first-ever, in-depth view of current audience participants, attendees and contributors to Columbus’ arts and cultural organizations: their demographics, lifestyles, perceptions, knowledge/interest base and the factors that influence their buying habits. The 400-page report noted the significant opportunity for Columbus arts organizations to attract audience from newcomers to the city, especially those who have moved to Columbus in the last five years. The study also highlighted the potential to attract younger audiences. At GCAC’s 25th Anniversary celebration, Bank One introduced its One for One membership initiative, a three-year $750,000-plus program designed to increase and sustain new members and subscribers who become local participants in local arts organizations.


In 1997, the Artists-in-Schools’ Artists Preview Night is presented in the Riffe Center for the first time and an evaluation of the Children of the Future program shows significant positive changes in the behaviors and attitudes of children who participate in the program. GCAC commissioned an independent study to examine the potential for an expanded cultural district in a portion of downtown Columbus. The Columbus Cultural Trust was launched as a result of this study. Stabilization grants are awarded to BalletMet, CAPA, the King Arts Complex and the Columbus Museum of Art. GCAC becomes a partner in the speaker series Growing Inward: Rebuilding the Center City, a two-year lecture series featuring nationally and regionally recognized experts on urban issues. Planning efforts start for the celebration of GCAC’s 25th anniversary.


At the request of City Council, GCAC commissioned a re-use study for the old Police Station building. Opera Columbus and the Jazz Arts Group receive the first stabilization grants to be awarded by the Columbus Arts Stabilization Project and National Arts Stabilization. The Columbus Arts Festival celebrated its 35th year. The city of Columbus hosted the first forum of the American Canvas project, a series of six regional forums sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts. GCAC also hosted Working Off Balance: a Dialogue on Arts Stabilization which brought together 21 major communities using Columbus’ arts stabilization project as a basis for discussion.


In 1995, GCAC expanded its relationships with Columbus’s sister cities in Denmark, Spain and Germany. The Dresden exchange program solidified the Greater Columbus Arts Council’s partnership with the State of Saxony (Kulturstiftung des Freistaates Sachsen ) and sponsored Columbus artists Richard Harned and Linda Fowler to participate in a residency in Dresden.

At the invitation of the Franklin County Engineer, GCAC took on the management of the artist selection process for sculpture on the Broad Street bridge. Ultimately, however, the design selected in the public selection process was not accepted by the County Engineer.

GCAC’s expenditures were $3,417,000, with $2,232,000 of its revenues consisting of City of Columbus funds. Arts Festival revenues and expenditures for that year were $442,221 and $407,951 respectively.


In 1994, the National Arts Stabilization Fund approved Columbus as the site of a $6.9 million stabilization project aimed at nine organizations. Columbus was the eighth city chosen to participate in what became a 10-year program. GCAC itself then initiated a pilot working capital reserve program for mid-size and smaller arts organizations. The stabilization project was supported by an $800,000 grant to GCAC from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Fund for Working Capital Reserves, an innovative stabilization program for smaller arts organizations, gets underway with a special one-time grant from the City of Columbus. The SOS! program is completed with the help of many dedicated volunteers in Franklin and seven contiguous counties.

The Children of the Future program continued to create safe neighborhood havens for youth to develop constructive communication and conflict resolution skills and provides fun, safe, educational arts activities. GCAC received $286,294 in 1995 and $315,167 in 1996 from the AmeriCorps grant.

Three German artists traveled to Columbus as part of a residency pilot program. With this visit, Veit Hoffman, Stefan Plenkers and Rainer Zille set into motion an enduring artist exchange between Columbus and its sister city Dresden, formalized the following year.

The Columbus Jazz Orchestra tours Columbus’ sister cities of Odense, Denmark and Seville, Spain as part of the international exchange program begun by Ray Hanley. The Franklin County Board of Commissioners provides $100,000 to support the Artists-in-Schools program.


GCAC celebrated its 20th anniversary in 1992. The National Endowment for the Arts awarded an $800,000 challenge grant to GCAC, signaling the start of the Columbus Arts Stabilization Project.The year commenced with a series of five public forums on arts issues, sponsored by Mayor Buck Rinehart.

Work is started on the central Ohio portion of the Save Outdoor Sculpture! (SOS!) program to survey and catalogue publicly accessible outdoor sculpture.

Upon securing a $332,000 federal AmeriCorps™ grant, Children of the Future was launched through the collaborative efforts of GCAC, the City of Columbus Department of Recreation and Parks, Columbus Department of Public Safety and the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority. A component of the grant, the Artists-in-Schools program, places an artist-in-residence at Sullivant Gardens Recreation Center to work with children.

The Festival added an international component, featuring Canadian artists. Business First signed on as the sponsor of the Business Arts Partnership program.

The Arts Festival was expanded to 10 days in length and a national gardening exhibition known as AmeriFlora was held in Franklin Park.


During the late 80s and early 90s, the arts community enjoyed steady growth in the number of dollars generated by the tax. But in 1991, the Board of Trustees faced the challenge of granting sharply decreased revenues to more nonprofit organizations than ever before. By reviewing and modifying grant guideline and application procedures, the Board was able to fairly disperse the reduced dollars that year. The Board reviewed grant guidelines and application procedures annually and with careful consideration and revisions, ensuring the fair treatment for arts entities seeking public funds.

In 1991 GCAC hosted the National Assembly of Local Arts Agencies convention during the Columbus Arts Festival, bringing more than 400 arts leaders from around the country to Columbus. Strides are taken to increase international recognition for Columbus with the exhibition New Currents: Recent Art in Spain, a joint project between GCAC and the Ohio Arts Council; Columbus’ Spanish sister city, Seville, hosts the Jazz Arts Group in November; and, in collaboration with the Luis Cernuda Foundation in Seville, GCAC sponsors the six-week residency of the Sevillian artist Pepa Rubio at the Cultural Arts Center. The Downtown Special Events funding program is created and $64,500 is awarded to nine major downtown special events.


GCAG changes the title of Executive Director to President and the title of Board President to Board Chair. In building toward the quincentennial celebration, the Columbus Arts Festival became a major producer of indoor and outdoor concerts and exhibitions. GCAC produced 26 concerts and two major exhibitions during the Arts Festival’s run that year. The Columbus Arts Festival signed three-year sponsorship contracts worth $1,075,000 with BancOhio National Bank, WSYX TV6 and WSNY FM. GCAC’s expenditures were $2,575,000, with $1,709,000 of its revenues consisting of City of Columbus funds. Arts Festival revenues and expenditures for that year were $339,619 and $481,751 respectively.


GCAC scheduled 73,000 students and teachers to tour Son of Heaven. The Artists-in-Schools program, in conjunction with the Columbus Museum of Art, coordinates all the educational programming for Son of Heaven. GCAC and the Public Art Committee drafted legislation to enact a public art policy for the city. GCAC became actively involved in development of plans for a major downtown riverfront park and cultural facility on the Central High School site. International involvement increased as GCAC worked to develop programming in recognition of the 1992 quincentennial celebrations.

Also in 1989 the need for permanent endowments at the Columbus Symphony and the Columbus Museum of Art, among other funding issues, Columbus business leaders organized a $25 million capital campaign popularly known as “Trilogy” to address these needs. The Trilogy campaign became controversial because it was seen by many as diverting resources from the community solely to benefit three arts organizations.


At the request of City Council, a Public Art Committee, comprised of board members and civic and arts leaders, is created “to develop a policy for the maintenance of a comprehensive program for the creation, preservation and interpretation of works and projects of art in public places and spaces of the city of Columbus.” Early in the year, in cooperation with the Ohio Department of Development, GCAC provided the groundwork for identifying the site for and securing the exhibition Son of Heaven: Imperial Arts of China. GCAC takes on a major role in the cultural planning for Columbus’ quincentennial celebrations in 1992. The Columbus Arts Festival expands to 11 days, with the Streetfair remaining a three-day component.


In 1987, a major capital campaign was faltering and the City and the arts community hoped to mount a major quincentennial celebration in 1992. GCAC organized and hosted a series of open public forums and a three-day retreat at Deer Creek State Park attended by 66 local arts professionals and their board members. One result was a five-year cultural plan for the community. It was published by GCAC under the title, Let Your Voice Be Heard: Community Goals and Objectives. The capital campaign itself was ultimately abandoned. However several other publications were issued: Corporate and Foundation Profiles, a guide to local giving programs; The Arts and the Greater Columbus Economy, a publication showing the results of the 1986 economic impact study; and Capitol Square Performance District, highlighting the performing arts organizations and facilities that are located in the Capitol Square area. The Arts Resource Directory for Greater Columbus, the first comprehensive directory of arts organizations and arts resources in Columbus, is published. This publication became an annual publciation until the mid-2000s published GCAC and its then affiliate, the Columbus Arts Marketing Council, also formed in 1987.


Carol Fineberg Associates was hired to conduct an in-depth evaluation of the A-i-S program and chart a course for its future. For the first time, all performing groups at the Festival are paid a fee and the Streetfair expands from two days to three days. The Individual Artist Fellowship program is established. Civic and community leaders launched a $50 million campaign to build and renovate downtown performance spaces and to provide endowment funds to the Symphony and Museum.

By 1986, Arts Festival attendance had grown to 500,000. GCAC’s expenditures had grown to $1,571,000, with $1,307,000 of its revenues consisting of City of Columbus funds. Arts Festival revenues and expenditures for that year were $121,298 and $120,505 respectively.


In 1985, GCAC hired Ray Hanley as executive director. He was an outspoken advocate for the arts. Shortly after his arrival, the hotel/motel tax is increased from 4% to 6%, with GCAC’s allocation increasing from 20% to 25%. GCAC and the Columbus Foundation begin co-administration of the Community Arts Fund. A Theater Task Force comprised of members of the GCAC Board of Trustees, city government, area arts organizations, the business community and concerned citizens was established to discuss the feasibility of a resident professional theater company in the new State Office Tower (the Vern Riffe Center for Government and the Arts). GCAC moves its offices to the Galbreath Pavilion of the Ohio Theatre.

GCAC’s expenditures for 1985 were $1,038,000, with City funding having grown to $754,000. Arts Festival revenues and expenditures for that year were $128,868 and $152,431 respectively.


GCAC was asked to provide administrative expertise and service in the commissioning of art works for Port Columbus Airport Terminal and the Dublin Road Water Facility.


In 1982, the Board adopted a five-year strategic plan and Tim Sublette was hired as Executive Director. The plan focused on six main areas: the Assistance Program; the Artists-in-Schools Program; City Promotion through the Arts; the Greater Columbus Arts Festival; the Grants Program; and Arts Advocacy and included new GCAC initiatives specifically to address the needs of individual artists.

The Business Arts Partnership program is established and the Columbus Arts Festival moved to the downtown riverfront.GCAC’s expenditures for calendar year 1982 were $647,000, with $420,000 of its revenues consisting of funding from the City of Columbus.


In May 1981, Columbus City Council made another commitment to the arts as an investment in the economic development of the city. Ordinance 947.81, passed unanimously, designated for the first time a fixed percentage of hotel/motel tax revenues (20% of a 4% tax) for the support of the arts to be distributed by GCAC and its grants program. The commitment followed years of a successful funding partnership between GCAC and the City that had brought Columbus distinction as a vanguard city in the support of arts development.

GCAC had always considered itself as supporting artists and arts organizations. However, as a condition to receiving these revenues from the City, GCAC agreed that it would assume responsibility for funding COSI. Also in 1981, Dr. John Rosemond became the first Columbus City Council member to serve as a GCAC trustee.


In 1979, a three-year strategic plan was developed and adopted by GCAC trustees. The GCAC Code of Regulations was amended to eliminate all members other than twenty-four trustees, and GCAC became a self-perpetuating-board form of organization. The strategic plan identified the following five GCAC program areas: the Assistance Program; the Grants Program; Advocacy; the Artists-in-Schools Program; and the Arts Festival and articulated in writing for the first time the agency’s specific goals in the areas of technical assistance, advocacy and grants-making.

New guidelines clearly delineated the criteria on which funding decisions are based, emphasizing the primary importance placed on the impact of the proposed activity on the City of Columbus. Revised application forms were specifically designed to encourage sound project planning and to give proposal evaluators the opportunity to examine carefully the rationale behind each request. In the context of the arts council as the city’s primary arts service provider, the plan defined the mission of the grants program: “To maximize funding for Columbus arts organizations through the responsible administration of a grants-making program…and technical assistance aimed at increasing the level of grantsmanship skills among the GCAC constituency.” in 1978 GCAC also participated in the first national study of the impact of the arts on local economies. The study is sponsored by The Johns Hopkins University and the National Endowment for the Arts; the results are detailed in the GCAC publication, The Arts in Columbus: Impact and Diversity. New guidelines were developed for the grants program.

In reviewing the the Arts Festival, which had been renamed ArtsAffair, the Board determined that GCAC was the organization “that can consistently produce such an event” and that “the arts advocacy needs of the GCAC benefit from a major, public arts festival in downtown Columbus.”

In 1979, GCAC participated in the first national study of the impact of the arts on local economies. The results of the study, sponsored by The John Hopkins University and the National Endowment for the Arts, were detailed in a GCAC publication, The Arts in Columbus: Impact and Diversity. GCAC’s expenditures for the fiscal year that ended on July 31, 1979, were $387,000.


1978 was the first year of funding was received through the hotel/motel tax allocation. GCAC moved its offices to Third Street School in German Village and Ric Wanetik was hired as Executive Director. GCAC developed a general operating support program to supplement its project support program. The five organizations that qualified for operating support were the Columbus Symphony, the Columbus Art Museum, CAPA, Players Theatre and BalletMet. Criteria for both operating support and project grants were refined during this period. GCAC’s founding Board chair, and later its Grants Committee chair, Noverre Musson, repeatedly urged that GCAC always maintain a modest fund to support innovative grant requests.

During the first five years of the grants program, 77 grants totaling $270,000 were awarded to 34 different organizations who served the general cultural interests of Columbus citizens. The City’s commitment to its major organizations continued with the  Columbus Museum of Art (name changed from Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts in 1978), Symphony and COSI receiving a total of $86,095 in grants. Many worthwhile projects that would also serve the needs of the community did not receive grants simply because there were not enough funds.The Grants Committee developed the General Operating Support system, which includes the Columbus Museum of Art, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and the Center of Science & Industry (COSI).

While the allocation of hotel/motel tax funds did not alter the terms of the funding partnership between the City and the Greater Columbus Arts Council, the increase in funding made a dramatic impact on Columbus arts organizations. In the first nine months of 1978 alone, 38 grants were awarded to 27 organizations for a total of $114,871.


In January 1977, City Council officially recognizes the potential of cultural activities “to promote and publicize the city of Columbus as a desirable location for conventions, trade shows, and similar events.” An amendment is made to City Code Section 371.02 to allow arts organizations to share with the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau in revenues from the city’s hotel/motel excise tax. The amendment provides funds of $125,000 in 1978 and $150,000 in 1979. GCAC receives a two-year grant from the Battelle Foundation for staff recruitment and organizational restructuring.

In 1977, Battelle and the Columbus Junior League funded a study of the arts commonly known as “Cultural Explorations.” The City at that time had 104 nonprofit arts groups, with only about half having any professional staff. Of the ten largest, three no longer exist: Players Theatre, First Community Productions and Columbus Institute for the Contemporary Arts. In determining the greatest needs of the arts in Columbus, the study concluded: “Though specific needs were articulated in numerous ways and possible methods of meeting the needs were many and varied, it all seemed to come together under one dominant heading: the need for leadership. The need for someone or some group to take action to improve communications and cooperation within the arts community. The need for an aggressive, articulate person or organization to advocate greater business, government, labor and educational action in support of the arts and investment of funds in the future of the county’s cultural life.”


By the fiscal year that began on June 1, 1976, GCAC’s expenditures had grown to $132,000. The Arts Festival budget was $20,000 and attendance that year over its four-day run on the Ohio Statehouse lawn had grown to 50,000 people.

GCAC initiated the Artists-in-Schools program, providing screening of artists, booking services and subsidy of artists’ fees.


in 1975, Battelle Memorial Institute was required by a settlement reached in litigation in 1975 to make substantial multi-year expenditures in support of Columbus cultural activity. $80 million was distributed over the next few years. GCAC received funds under this program that permitted it to begin the Artists-in-Schools program ($17,500 in each of 1976-77 and 1977-78). The availability of these funds to the cultural community was no doubt at least partly responsible for a surge in the creation and growth of cultural activities in Columbus during that time period. BalletMet, Opera Columbus, ProMusica Chamber Orchestra, CATCO, Thurber House and Actors’ Theatre Company, to name only a few arts organizations, all came into existence in the 10 year period following the surge of Battelle funding. During that same time period, the Ohio Theater underwent substantial renovation and the Columbus Symphony undertook a major expansion of its operations and budget.

In 1975, the following was adopted as the mission statement of GCAC: “Be it resolved that the mission of the Greater Columbus Arts Council is to encourage and support talented artists of professional quality as defined by the Divisions of the Greater Columbus Arts Council, and to encourage and provide exposure through festival, education and other appropriate vehicles.”


GCAC was incorporated as a private, not-for-profit agency on July 5, 1973.  GCAC established offices with the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce at 50 West Broad Street in the Leveque-Lincoln Tower. GCAC had three full-time employees, and most of its administrative services were provided by the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce.Vonnie Sanford was named Executive Director.  Columbus City Council designated funds to be distributed to the Columbus arts community through a grants program administered by GCAC. By contract, City Council provides $50,000 to GCAC for distribution in the grants program. This approximate level of funding continued for four more yesars.

Prior to 1973, the City of Columbus had made annual direct grants to The Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts (now the Columbus Museum of Art), COSI, and the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. In return, those organizations were required to produce certain specific public service events.  The Symphony, the Art Museum and COSI continued to receive separate funding from City Council after the establishment of the the GCAC grant program.

At its formation, GCAC was a membership organization and was not structured to be ultimately controlled by its Board. GCAC had two categories of members: Institutional Members and General Members. The latter category included both corporations and individuals. Each member was required to designate a primary interest in one of the following eight divisions: Music; Visual Arts; Theatre; Dance; Education; Architecture and Planning; Literature and Poetry; Film. The organizational documents provided that the Board was to consist of 32 trustees: eight elected by the GCAC membership; eight elected by the Board of Trustees; eight elected by the institutional members of each of the respective divisions; and eight appointed by the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce. The use of the contemplated membership and arts division structures was never implemented beyond creating a non-voting advisory committee.


The Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce charged its Cultural Affairs Committee to form a permanent community arts agency to serve Columbus. The Greater Columbus Arts Council began its development under the auspices of the Chamber, assuming the administrative responsibilities for the Downtown Festival of the Arts (forerunner of the Columbus Arts Festival) and the compilation of a community calendar of cultural offerings. By contract, City Council set aside funds to be administered in a grants program by GCAC. Properly incorporated, nonprofit arts and arts-related organizations serving the citizens of Columbus would be eligible for funds, which in 1973 totaled $50,000.