What would our community look like without the Columbus Area Arts Council? That’s an important question to mull these days.
This nonprofit organization has been successfully serving the area for 42 years by providing artistic events for people of all ages to experience. Its efforts raise awareness of the arts and attract art to the community.
Consider some of the events the arts council presents:
Biggest Block Party Ever
First Fridays for Families
Rock the Park
Simply, the arts council has helped to make the community more vibrant, enhance the quality of life for residents and attract visitors to Columbus with events that have great appeal.
The council has accomplished this with the help of a board of directors that has broad community representation. The board oversees the council leadership and holds the fiscal side of the organization in check. This collaborative approach has served this city well for decades.
One would think an organization such as this, which contributes a great deal to the community, would have strong support from the city’s administration. Unfortunately, after successful partnerships with four previous mayoral administrations, that no longer appears to be the case.
Mayor Kristen Brown’s proposed 2015 city budget drastically cuts the amount of funding available to the Columbus Area Arts Council, with no guarantees of any city funds at all.
The arts council received $148,140 in city funds this year in economic development tax grant funds. However, the line item for arts grants from income tax money was cut from the proposed 2015 budget. Instead, $50,000 was made available to artists or arts groups. The arts council will have to compete with other groups for that money, if the budget is approved as proposed.
Nonprofits such as the arts council need consistent funding and support to deliver high-quality programming throughout the community. They base their budgets on amounts they reasonably expect to receive from funding sources. Drastic reductions throw those budgets out of whack and affect the amount of programming that can be offered.
The mayor said the arts council would be eligible for programming grants if seeking money for a “defined program that the community wants,” which meets a variety of needs.
Based on the attendance of events such as Rock the Park, Biggest Block Party Ever and NeighborFEST, the council already provides programs the community wants. All but five of the council’s 29 programs are offered for free — a great benefit to residents. And, the arts council commissioned local artist Martin Beach to create Modern Totem to celebrate this year’s reopening of the public plaza adjacent to the Cleo Rogers Memorial Library.
Making the arts council jump through hoops in hopes of securing a fraction of its previous funding is ridiculous.
The irony in all this is that Mayor Brown pushed for creation of a downtown arts district as a way to attract visitors to Columbus. However, the message being sent now doesn’t paint the city as one that is quite as friendly to the arts as it was, which is disappointing and potentially damaging.