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We are going to invest more in Columbus artists

in Tom Katzenmeyer 2 min read

It is time for the Greater Columbus Arts Council to deepen its private funding pool and build a robust, diverse revenue stream, and it is time for us to raise our level of investment in individual artists.

Tom Katzenmeyer, CEO, president of the Arts Council

Tom Katzenmeyer, CEO, president of the Arts Council

I have written many words about the importance of funding the arts and the ripple effect that a healthy arts ecosystem has on the economy, community and social fabric of our city. I, with the help of MANY people, dedicated countless hours over many years advocating for increased public investment in the arts. It is time to turn that attention and energy to private funding.

The Arts Council has always known this was the next step after we secured the additional public funding through the city of Columbus admissions fee. The pandemic, however, brought matters to a head in two ways. First, it underscored how critical it was to have funds in reserve that can help lessen the impact to our grants programs when the public dollars dip. Second, when we launched the short-term Emergency Relief Fund for Artists, to help artists meet basic needs while their gigs were shut down, we saw how passionate our community is about helping artists do their work.

With this in mind we are launching Artists Elevated, an endowment campaign to uplift individual artists through investment. We currently have a modest endowment, the GCAC Community Fund, at the Columbus Foundation. Our goal is to double it this year.

Awards from our endowment will be focused on providing more substantial funds to Columbus-based artists who have been working professionally for at least three years. Our goal is to provide a more financially meaningful investment in moving an artist forward in their career. And, we plan to start now. In 2021 we are committed to awarding two artists $20,000 each.

The Arts Council is among a small number of local arts councils nationwide that provide noncompetitive grants to individual artists. Our Support for Professional Artists grants have long been a point of pride for us. The endowment will allow us to deepen our support to individual artists. Artists elevate our conversations, remind us of our shared humanity and enrich our daily lives. I firmly believe that investing in their careers is also an investment in our community.

A nomination process will identify Columbus-based artists to apply for the awards and then a jury, with national and diverse representation, will choose the recipients. The awards will be unrestricted because each artist knows best what they need to propel their art to the next level. I remember Aminah Robinson telling me that she used her MacArthur Fellowship to add a studio space to her home and to travel—a profound experience that was clearly reflected in her incredible body of work.

While our Artists Elevated campaign is focused on building the GCAC Community Fund at the Columbus Foundation, our beautiful new giving website provides other options for donors, including donating to existing grant programs that support individual artists and unrestricted gifts. I am personally making an annual gift to the endowment and have made a planned gift. Your donations to these areas enable us to be nimble when we need to fund something that does not fall within the grants guidelines—like the #ArtUnitesCbus project. These options ensure that anyone who is inclined to give, at any level, can invest their dollars in an area of work that we do that inspires them.

— Tom Katzenmeyer, connect with Tom on LinkedIn.