We are coming to the close of another year, and as we step toward a new decade I am feeling hopeful and full of gratitude.
It took many years and many hands, but we head into 2020 with new revenue streams to support the arts in Columbus. This is monumental. When I think back to a year ago, as 2018 came to a close, what I remember (more than the hours of meetings and years of research) is all of the people—from artists to educators to arts leaders—who showed up at City Hall to testify. It took all of us to make this happen and I couldn’t be more grateful.
I also remember the incredible support the arts got from City Council and in particular Council President Shannon Hardin. What was clear to me, as he listened to the public during hearings and came back to us with a thoughtfully revised plan, was that President Hardin understood the importance of the arts to our community. His proposal wasn’t about supporting the Greater Columbus Arts Council, it was about supporting Columbus through the arts—the Arts Council has simply been entrusted to carry out that mission.
It’s this mission that I look forward to as we head into 2020. My team and I spent 2019 contemplating all of the feedback we have gotten from our constituents in the last few years, and using that data to develop new and exciting programs.
One of the new programs that I am especially excited about is THRIVE: a grant program specifically for organizations serving and led by people of color. This program is meant to address disparities in access to and levels of funding for historically marginalized communities.
There’s a lot to love about THRIVE, but what I really like is that it gives grantee organizations the option of participating for up to three years and then eventually helping to mentor the next generation of grantees.
We also recently launched, in partnership with the Columbus Museum of Art, the Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson fellowship and residency programs for African American professional visual artists.
The grants team has adjusted some of our funding programs to better meet the needs of artists and organizations. They have also worked hard on our guidelines to make them easier to digest. I urge everyone to check out the guidelines. Even if you are not a potential grant recipient, you may know someone who should be applying.
In 2019 we celebrated the 25th anniversary of our international artist exchange with Dresden and to honor this milestone we created a website celebrating all past participants. You can find out more about the great artists who have participated in that program at Dresden.gcac.org.
We hosted our most successful Columbus Arts Festival ever in terms of both revenue and attendance, with nearly 500,000 people enjoying our outdoor gallery on the riverfront over three days. Of course the Arts Festival is an unending project, and not long after this year’s festival had closed the team had secured a new partnership with AEP, who committed to a five-year renewal as presenting sponsor.
And, after over two years of work, we launched a public art database on ColumbusMakesArt.com to help people find public art around the city. There are nearly a 1,000 pieces of art in Franklin County alone, so don’t ever let anyone tell you we don’t have any public art in Columbus—just direct them to columbusmakesart.com/public-art. But 1,000 pieces of art doesn’t mean we don’t have work to do both in diversity of artists and neighborhoods with public art. So, in 2020 we’ll make our first steps to build on that and begin to provide funding for public art.
In 2020 we will also be moving to 182 E. Long St., where we can make visiting us easier with free parking and regular open house hours twice a month. And, we will be working on a strategic plan, deepening our commitment to the citywide arts marketing campaign (Art Makes Columbus/Columbus Makes Art), producing the 2020 Columbus Arts Festival (at the riverfront June 12-14), celebrating the Columbus community’s support of the arts with the Community Arts Partnership awards; and, of course, everything we do, each day, to support and advance the arts and cultural fabric of Columbus.
2020 will be busy, but we are heading into it with full hearts and clear vision.
— Tom Katzenmeyer, connect with Tom on LinkedIn.
Photo (top right): Urban Strings performing at the Arts Council’s Public Forum, which was held at Columbus State Community College’s Mitchell Hall on Dec. 10, 2019.