Some things continue to get better with age. Now in its 40th year, unCommon Cause, the Columbus Area Arts Council’s largest fundraiser, surely counts among those things.

Set for Oct. 16 with The Commons’ Nugent Custer Performance Hall as the backdrop, this year’s unCommon Cause promises to be an elegant evening of auctions, dinner and dancing — all to support Columbus’s arts community.

“The arts are important on so many levels,” said Sarah Cannon, Arts Council board president. “The quality of all our lives is enhanced by the arts. Economically, they help businesses attract top talent. And they shape how people view the world.”

Plus, unCommon Cause is just a good time.

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“It’s absolutely always a great party,” Cannon said.

The past

In 1975, a group of arts supporters threw a benefit ball at the original Commons to raise funds for programming at The Commons. The next year, the idea was expanded, and the first unCommon Cause dinner and auction was set. Hank and Dede Abts and Robert and Barbara Stewart chaired the event with a “Yankee Peddler” theme.“I thought, ‘It’ll either be really great — or maybe a big flop,” said this year’s honorary chairperson, Dede Abts.The event did not flop. In fact, unCommon Cause was one of the best-performing fundraisers in the area. The fledgling event outperformed all expectations, raising $20,000 in its first year.

“It’s always been very successful,” event coordinator Geri Handley said. “I heard that it would sell out immediately.”

Past themes included “Evening in Paris,” “Fasching Nacht,” “Boogie Nights,” “Chaos Reigns — Steampunk Rules” and “Embellishment.” The roster of chairpersons reads like a who’s who of Columbus movers and shakers.

Through the years, the event has generated nearly $2 million for Arts Council programming. The 2014 dinner raised nearly $100,000, up about $17,000 from the 2013 dinner.

The theme

Lots of 40-somethings opt to lie about their ages. The organizers of unCommon Cause, however, feel no need to lie on behalf of the event as unCommon Cause’s age is wrapped into the theme. “Fabulous at Forty” will, Handley said, honor all of the past organizers in a retrospective of photos and acknowledgments. As always, unCommon cause will include dancing (with live music from Indy-based band Zanna-Doo!), a silent auction (this year’s silent auction will have an online component via that allows patrons not in attendance to bid) and a live auction.For the evening, the Nugent Custer Performance Hall will be decked out in elegant silvery gray, red, white and black decorations. The dinner, which will be served after mingling, features a menu crafted by Dan Grunden, Harrison Lake Country Club chef. It opens with a salad of honey poached pear, fig, duck breast, frisse and bacon vinaigrette. It’s followed by a pan-roasted Merino lamb loin with huckleberry compote, pea and mint puree, white truffle whipped potatoes and smoked micro vegetables. Finally, guests will have a spread of gourmet cupcakes with assorted liquor pipettes and spun sugar to round out the dinner.Handley, who has co-chaired the event twice, admits that it’s a lot of work. Of course, it’s worth it. Organizers expect the event to match funds raised at last year’s event.

“I really think the arts are one of the most important things in everyone’s life,” she said. “It helps the Arts Council provide a lot of free programming. The arts have always been a big part of my life, and it benefits people in so many ways.”

If you go

unCommon Cause: Fabulous at Forty

When: 6 to 11 p.m. Oct. 16

Where: The Commons, 300 Washington St.

Tickets: $125 per person

Information: 812-376-2539, or

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Jenny Elig is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at or 812-379-5671.