Organizers of the annual unCommon Cause arts fundraiser hardly are sitting still — literally.

And they would like other, like-minded supporters to stay slightly on the move, especially at the new, revamped Cause event, “Designing the Future” at 7 p.m. Oct. 21. Instead of The Commons, unCommon Cause will be at a new location, the entryway and hallway area first and second floors of the Columbus Learning Center, 4555 Central Ave.

Planners figure there’s room for about 350 people.

The new format replaces the sit-down formal dinner model in favor of a more relaxed, interactive, eat-and-move-as-you-mingle, casual affair.

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And the word gala, linked with the proceedings for most of its 42 years, has been left in the event’s scrapbooks — in hopes of increasing the appeal to younger generation with a different taste in arts events.

The money-raising silent and live auction will remain part of the proceedings, which last year raised $77,000 for the Columbus Area Arts Council’s programming.

The arts council is known for its free programming such as its Old National Bank First Fridays for Families performances and JCB NeighborFESTs summer street concerts.

The last time the unCommon Cause was conducted somewhere other than the current or original Commons was in 2010, when it unfolded at the Cummins Inc. Airport Hangar, when the current Commons was under construction.

The new theme is a purposeful connection to the Exhibit Columbus exhibition that officially begins Saturday and runs through Nov. 26. The name also is a nod to the new Indiana University master’s of architecture program.

“It’s a way of aligning ourselves with the design legacy of Columbus,” said Kathryn Armstrong, the arts council’s executive director.

And a lower ticket price of $100 per person, down from a previous $120, will be reduced even further to $60 for a select number of young professionals with the help of tickets partially funded by generous donors. A beginning date for sales will be announced soon.

“We really don’t want our big, annual fundraiser to feel as if it’s only for a percentage of Columbus residents,” Armstrong said, adding that some feedback in recent years indicated that some younger residents viewed it as an exclusive gathering for affluent residents. “We want people to certainly feel that it’s something everyone can come to.”

Even a more-established group of veteran arts council donors welcome changes to the event, Armstrong said.

“They’re looking for the next generation (of supporters),” she said.

Co-chairs of the event are well-known, longtime business and arts leaders and philanthropists Rick and Alice Johnson, along with arts community staffers and supporters Josh Ratliff and Brooke Hawkins.

Ratliff is director of hospitality for the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Hawkins, his wife, is a graphic design specialist for Landmark Columbus and Exhibit Columbus and is president of the Columbus Museum of Art & Design.

Ratliff and Hawkins, who are in their 30s, both have been involved in the local arts scene for years in a variety of ways, from music to art. They represent an example of the young professionals whom event organizers are trying to attract to the fundraiser, Armstrong said.

“I love a blank slate,” Ratliff said of the new beginning. “Seeing a new canvas is inspiring.”

He understands that all things go through changes.

“More than anything else, we have to be really honest, beyond all our previous traditions, about what really makes sense today for (arts) fundraising and for event design,” Ratliff said.

About the cause

What: New version of the annual unCommon Cause auction and arts fundraiser

When: 7 to 11 p.m. Oct. 21

Where: First- and second-floor entryway and hallway area of the Columbus Learning Center, 4555 Central Ave

Tickets: $100 per person, with a forthcoming announcement about availability (some discounted tickets will be available for young professionals).

Information: 812-379-2539 or

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5672.