The focus will be as important as ever for discovering and supporting the local arts. But the mix-and-mingle atmosphere will be less structured and formal than in past years for the 42nd annual Uncommon Cause auction fundraiser, “Designing the Future,” Oct. 21 at the Columbus Learning Center.

Tickets, priced at $100 each, less than in previous years, are available online with room for at least 350 people amid the center’s first floor lobby and hallway, according to organizers.

Proceeds will help the nonprofit Columbus Area Arts Council “to integrate art and cultural experiences into community life,” according to its new mission statement.

That includes free children-oriented Old National Bank First Friday for Families presentations and JCB NeighborFEST street concerts.

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Last year’s sold-out fundraiser with 340 people at The Commons raised $77,000.

The event has taken on even more importance in recent years as general city funding of the arts council’s budget has been discontinued. But the city does provide support for select activities such as the Live on the Plaza concert.

“We have to simply think of it today as every donated dollar being very important,” said Kathryn Armstrong, the arts council’s executive director.

People unable to attend can make donations through the arts council’s website, artsincolumbus.org.

Co-chairs of the Cause this year are Rick and Alice Johnson and Josh Ratliff and Brooke Hawkins, reflecting a mix of past and current arts leadership and newer arts advocates.

“Overall, the response (to a new format) this year has been very positive,” Ratliff said.

He added that organizers have seen more interest from younger ticket buyers this year — one of the aims of the new pricing, including a limited number of $60 tickets for Columbus Young Professionals members.

Lounge seating will be provided throughout the building at this year’s event as organizers encourage guests to enjoy an eclectic musical mix from disc jockey Eric Salazar; creative eats, prepared right before diners, from noted chef Gethin Thomas of Henry Social Club; and a cash bar, plus the live and silent auctions, featuring art excursions, design-centered experiences and one-of-a-kind artworks by artists connected to Columbus.

Local artists Laurie Wright and Chris Beach have gathered more than 40 items, including sculpture, woodworking, and 24 art prints of various kinds, for the silent auction. That includes a Wright abstract serigraph, “Red Triangle.”

Wright understands the importance of a vibrant arts scene.

“I’ve never ever lived in a community with this much going on (in the arts),” Wright said.

That helps explain why she has been a part of helping organize Uncommon Cause off and on for the past 30 years, including the early days when it unfolded as a black-tie-and-formal-dresses affair with a sit-down dinner at the original Commons. Today’s arts leaders have moved to make the event more accessible to a more general audience.

“I like the change (today),” Wright said, adding that everything has its time and purpose. “I’m out of my high, spikey heels these days. Now, I’m into sneakers.”

Organizers of this year’s gathering suggest casual cocktail attire.

Armstrong wants people to see the new gathering as one of discovery of the arts council’s aim and mission.

“This is not just a fundraiser,” she said. “We want people to learn more about what our organization does.”

A chance to show Uncommon support

What: 42nd annual Uncommon Cause arts fundraiser for the nonprofit Columbus Area Arts Council.

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

Where: Columbus Learning Center, 4555 Central Ave.

Tickets: $100, available at artsincolumbus.org/designingthefuture.

Information: 812-376-2539 or artsincolumbus.org/designingthefuture.

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