2021 brought plenty to be grateful for

Like many, I pause during the holiday season to consider all that I have to be grateful for. As I looked back on 2021, I realized that—despite a slow and uneven recovery from the pandemic—there is plenty to celebrate in the Columbus arts community. Today I’d like to take a moment to acknowledgesome of the wonderful things that we witnessed (and a few that we had a hand in). 

Tom Katzenmeyer, CEO, president of the Arts Council
  • We have so many talented artists in Columbus, a few who had major events and recognition this year are:
    • Hanif Abdurraqib was awarded a MacArthur “genius” grant and was a finalist for a National Book Award in nonfiction for A Little Devil in America
    • Columbus-based poet Maggie Smith got rave reviews for Goldenrod, her latest book of poetry, released this summer, which followed her popular book of essays, Keep Moving, published in 2020. 
    • Andrew Levitt/Nina West was cast as Edna Turnblad in the upcoming North American touring production of Hairspray
    • Columbus-based filmmaker Jon Sherman’s feature film They/Them/Us is making the international festival rounds and earning awards. The movie, filmed in Columbus during the height of the pandemic, was directed by Sherman, a Columbus-based filmmaker, and written by Sherman and Columbus-based artist Melissa Vogely Woods.
  • American Electric Power Foundation committed $1 million, over four years, to the Greater Columbus Arts Council’s newly created Community Fund at the Columbus Foundation. The endowment is privately funded through contributions made to the Artists Elevated campaign and the funds are used to provide significant cash awards to Columbus-based, professional artists working in any discipline.
  • I am especially thankful that the Arts Council was able to give out the first two Artists Elevated awards the same year we launched the campaign thanks in part to a donation from Bath & Body Works, which underwrote one award. The 2021 recipients are Erika Tay Lane, a theater director, writer and actor and Quianna Simpson, a dancer and choreographer. 
  • We hosted the first Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson Residency recipient, Memphis, Tennessee-based  artist Johnathan Payne lived and worked in Aminah’s renovated house and studio for three months this summer.
  • Thanks to a generous donation from the Crane Family, the Arts Council launched the long-awaited Neighborhood Arts Connections fellowships—awarding fellowships to southside artists Jessica Naples Grilli and Ras Jahlani Ben-Levi. This program was originally planned for 2020 (and then we all know what happened). Without the Crane family this fellowship would likely have been pushed back to 2022.
  • The Arts Council was honored to help coordinate the activities for Columbus native Wil Haygood when he made Columbus his first stop on his 25-city tour for the release of his book, Colorization: 100 Years of Black Films in a White World. The series of collaborative events in mid-October involved ten organizations and helped hundreds of people connect with Wil and his wisdom.
  • Two community-centric programs that make Columbus a better place to live were awarded a Dale E. Heydlauff Community Arts Innovation Award (an award we started in 2020 to honor the innovative programs we saw blossom in response to the pandemic). The 2021 recipients were Donte Woods-Spikes for his Art & Empathy Talks and the Lincoln Theatre for PATTERNZ Summer Camps—I am grateful to Donte and the Lincoln Theatre for the ways in which they use the arts to better serve the community.
  • In 2021 the Arts Council and Film Columbus gave out the largest cash awards (in our history) to support Columbus-based filmmakers—Film it in Cbus Film Creation awards.

This is just the short list, I could go on, but it’s time to get back to work. Currently we are diligently planning the 2022 Columbus Arts Festival. I don’t want to jinx us, but I remain hopeful that we will be in the Arena District, June 10-12, shopping the best art, listening to incredible music and in general being grateful for the arts in Columbus. 

—Tom Katzenmeyer, connect with Tom on LinkedIn.