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City lands fifth Indiana Cultural District designation

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The Indiana University Center for Art and Design at the corner of Third and Jackson Streets, pictured Oct. 17, 2012.
The Indiana University Center for Art and Design at the corner of Third and Jackson Streets, pictured Oct. 17, 2012.

The Columbus Arts District is officially an Indiana Cultural District.

The state designation, bestowed Friday by the Indiana Arts Commission, recognized the city’s vast collection of arts, architecture, entertainment and cultural offerings. The commission also recognized the city’s commitment to developing and sustaining the arts and culture.

The Columbus Arts District is one of only five official Indiana Cultural Districts in the state. The program was established in 2008. Columbus and Nashville are the first communities to receive the designation since December 2009. They join districts in Bloomington, Carmel and Lafayette/West Lafayette.

“We are deeply honored to receive this designation from the Indiana Arts Commission,” Columbus Mayor Kristen Brown said. “This recognition serves as great validation of our tremendous collection of cultural assets we have today, and of our long-term vision to be the cultural and creative capital of the Midwest.”

Columbus was one of seven applicants seeking a cultural district designation.

“This is a great day for the arts,” said Karen Shrode, executive director of the Columbus Area Arts Council and chairwoman of the Mayor’s Arts and Culture Advisory Committee.

A cultural district is a well-recognized, labeled, mixed-use area of a community, in which high concentrations of cultural assets serve as the anchor, according to an Indiana Arts Commission press release.

Cultural districts promote the exploration of and participation in the arts and humanities through cultural experiences that are special to communities. They also support community life and economic vitality, the release said.

“(Columbus and Nashville) have embraced the arts and cultural resources as an integral part of their overall community, economic and cultural development,” Lewis C. Ricci, executive director of the Indiana Arts Commission, said in a news release. “The state designation is an important tool for a community to use to capitalize on resources that encourage and expand economic prosperity and quality of life.”

While no funding currently is associated with the statewide cultural district designation, benefits of the program include tourism, marketing and economic activities; a potential collaboration with the Indiana Artisan program; and the opportunity to apply for highway signage.

Brown has pushed to expand arts and cultural offerings in Columbus since taking office in January. Providing art, culture and entertainment opportunities for adults and children has been one of her goals with the Columbus Arts District.

The Columbus Arts District, in downtown Columbus, encompasses more than 360 arts programs and cultural assets that focus on attracting, growing, shaping and engaging the public. Those assets are in four corridors:

Commerce Corridor: Primarily on Washington Street, it spans 15 blocks north and south.

Arts and Education Corridor: Along Jackson Street, it includes major assets such as the Indiana University Center for Art and Design — Columbus, the YES Cinema independent movie theater and the Jacksson Contemporary Art Gallery.

Architecture Corridor: Along Fifth Street, which is recognized as one of the most architecturally significant streets in the United States.

Entertainment Corridor — Along Fourth Street, which received a major makeover to become an urban events and pedestrian plaza.

The Columbus Arts District encompasses more than 70 buildings and pieces of public art by internationally prominent architects and artists throughout the city. Its future plans include investing in the arts by engaging local and international artists to create a variety of experiences for residents and visitors of all ages, according to a news release from the city.

The Mayor’s Arts and Culture Advisory Committee, led by Shrode, John Burnett and Jack Hess, drafted a strategic plan for the Columbus Arts District. It included public input and was submitted as part of the application to the Indiana Arts Commission.

Shrode said the collaboration of many individuals led to the success of the city’s application and demonstrated “a common goal for the greater good of our city.”

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