The 42nd annual Uncommon Cause arts fundraiser turned into a night for being blue, but hardly because of sadness.

No, blue sported by many in the near-capacity crowd of about 350 people Saturday at the Columbus Learning Center seemed to signify that the sky was the limit at “Designing the Future” for the nonprofit Columbus Area Arts Council.

“We are so grateful for the investment you have made to today (in the arts) and the future,” said Kathryn Armstrong, the arts council’s executive director.

The auctions-music-and-food gathering was meant “to define the color in a whole new way,” said Joshua Ratliff, one of four organizers of the gathering for generating support for the Columbus Area Arts Council.

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Organizers said fundraising totals will be available later.

Attendees were asked to wear some form of blue, which is part of the arts council’s new logo and branding unveiled in the spring.

Susie Signorino sported sassy Smurfy blue hair — and rocked the look so well that she planned to keep it for the time being in her role as an art teacher at ABC Stewart School.

“People have said tonight, ‘I wish I could do that.’ I told them, ‘Oh, just do it.’”

Just do it? Arts supporters just did it when it came to stepping up for the cause. One of the night’s better examples surfaced when two people engaged in a friendly bidding war for one of the live auction’s big-ticket items: an in-home dining experience with local chef Gethin Thomas, who prepared the event’s eclectic menu, sommelier Ratliff as a wine selector and others.

Hutch Schumaker and John McCormick then bid shoulder to shoulder for the experience. But, in the end, as their bids deadlocked near the $3,000 mark, they finally asked organizers that, if they each agreed to bid $2,900, could they both win the package? Well, who could say no to not one, but two winning bids?

Those became the largest auction bids of the night.

“I didn’t know that one of my best friends was going to be bidding against me,” said Schumaker with a laugh.

“It’s all a great part of what we’re giving to,” McCormick said.

Victoria Griffin gave $2,000 for what was billed as “Creche the Halls at the Miller House” — a private event for 24 people during the holidays at the popular Modernist home once belonging to longtime community leaders J. Irwin and Xenia Miller. The well-publicized creche collection of Xenia Miller was long a staple of the house during the Christmas season, and has become so again.

Griffin was more than excited about the holiday gift for one big reason.

“The only time I’ve ever even seen the inside of the Miller House was in the ‘Columbus’ movie,” Griffin said.

A silent auction featured items from newer local painters such as Chelsea DeVillez, a part of the event planning committee, and veteran woodworker Bill Griffith.

A free-for-all-style donation period that followed the live auction featured a $10,000 matching gift from Bob and Elizabeth Crider for a $20,000 added total to the rest of the evening’s fundraising.

One other element of the Cause that found itself in the spotlight was the fact that organizers ditched the more formal sit-down dinner format for a mix-and-mingle-as-you-eat affair along the hallway, ramp and mezzanine of the Columbus Learning Center. Food tables featuring seafood, chicken and other dishes were stationed all along the way.

“It’s more lively,” said Pica Saddler.

And another notable part of the event was organizers’ push to attract more young arts supporters, partly with discounted tickets. Some attendees noted that it apparently worked.

“I’m seeing a lot of younger faces,” Denise Kocur said.

Uncommon Cause by the numbers


Number of event chairs


Numbers of items in the live auction


Number of years for the fundraiser


Estimated crowd

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