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Editorial: Arts district can bring benefits for community

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GETTING a cultural district designation from the Indiana Arts Commission is an important step for Columbus.

Now is the time to exploit it.

The designation itself can be viewed as a passive tool to be used by its recipients. It can certainly be trumpeted in promotional literature and signage to attract more tourists.

It also can help in attracting artists and performers who might otherwise not consider a city in South Central Indiana as a premier venue for their talents or works.

But the real key to its importance lies in how it will be used not only to exploit what is already here but to improve it and to add other elements that will truly set the community apart as a place that people not only want to visit but live.

Perhaps critical to the city’s efforts in attaining the designation is that city government, the arts community and other allied organizations already are taking steps in that direction.

Improving the city’s arts and cultural offerings has been a priority in Mayor Kristen Brown’s administration since she took office at the first of this year.

Fortunately, she was able to hit the ground running, because the city already could boast of an exemplary network of organizations and supporters dedicated to the arts.

The contemporary architecture program that has drawn international acclaim certainly is the gem in the city’s art world, but it is complemented by numerous other elements such as two symphony orchestras; an array of outdoor art ranging from Henry Moore’s “Large Arch” to Dessa Kirk’s “Eos”; theater groups; a number of dance studios and the Indiana University Center for Art and Design — Columbus.

The programs have additional advantages through healthy donor bases. Businesses, philanthropic organizations and generous individuals each year pump hundreds of thousands of dollars into arts programming. In addition to donations, the arts groups have developed creative fundraising programs.

Expanding on these benefits and adding others are obvious next steps. The designation might give impetus to a concept that has been raised in years past — creation of an arts and/or artisan center that could house studios or gallery spaces.

Although the potential costs associated with such an undertaking could be tremendous, restoration of the historic Crump Theatre so that it could broaden its offering of stage events is still being discussed.

And ways are being sought for local and visiting artists to provide hands-on experiences for members of their local audiences.

Some might view the arts designation as applicable only to the local arts community.

It really can have tremendous ripple effects through all aspects of community life. At the very least, it is a tremendous boon for the downtown district which has long been seen as an arts showcase.

This designation is definitely about much more than the arts.

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