The Columbus Arts Festival is one week away. As the Greater Columbus Arts Council staff and I have been busy finalizing the myriad details that go into producing this massive event, I found myself thinking of my pre-Arts Council days.
I have lived in Columbus for 40 years and have seen the Festival in all of its locations: from the statehouse to the riverfront, to the Discovery District, and now back to the riverfront. Personally I love the riverfront. It is beautiful thanks to the investment the city has made in the Scioto Mile, and there is room for us to grow—east toward the wonderful Columbus Commons, and westward to the exciting growth that’s happening in Franklinton.
And, this year we have certainly grown. We have more exhibiting artists, three new stages that will host more than 160 performances with more than 650 artists throughout the weekend and those stages will have more seating and food vendors . There are several new interactive opportunities including the Sign Your Art Community Art Project and the Six in the City gallery. I could write a novel on everything that’s going on this weekend, but don’t worry I won’t. Go to the website, the blog, the online guidebook pdf and/or our Facebook and Twitter accounts and you will find plenty to explore.
The Festival is something my family always looks forward to. We would spend a full day enjoying everything from the exhibiting artists to hands-on activities, music and of course we look forward to food that isn’t a normal part of our diet–we don’t make funnel cakes at my house.
I will always look forward to these things, but I see them with a different eye now. As I make my way through, talking to each artist, asking about their work. I’m still amazed by these talented and inspiring people. Now I also want to know if they need anything, are their sales are going well, do they have any feedback that can help us do better? I want to help them however I can.
Now that I’m with the Arts Council I have a whole new appreciation for the Festival. I know now how much work goes into building this event throughout the year. I know how many people it takes to make this happen–hundreds and most are volunteers. We have more than 100 committee members who volunteer to put this Festival together and they started almost as soon as the last Festival was over. During the Festival an additional 600 or more volunteers join us. I can’t begin to thank them enough.
Without these amazing people and our sponsors we would not be able to add all of the new features we have this year. We wouldn’t be able to compensate the performers who are making six stages come alive, including award winning country musician, Neal McCoy who is headlining the ABC6 Main Stage on Friday.
I cannot begin to describe the overwhelming feeling of pride I have when I walk through the Festival. Now I don’t see a just fun outing. Now I see the people who make it happen. I see all of their hard work and dedication coming to fruition and I see potential.
I see the potential to grow the Columbus Arts Festival into THE signature event in the Midwest, which would have a positive ripple effect throughout our community.
I can’t pick a favorite part of the Arts Festival, but I will admit that I look forward to treating myself to some Jeni’s ice cream and festival fries–the kind in a cup that you put vinegar and salt on. Those fries always taste best at Arts Fest.
— Tom Katzenmeyer Keep up with Tom’s adventures on Twitter: @tomkatzenmeyer