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Letter: Columbus Arts District plan paints bold vision

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Note: The statements, views, and opinions contained in this letter to the editor are those of the author and are not endorsed by, nor do they necessarily reflect, the opinions of The Republic.

From: Mayor Kristen Brown


Received: April 12

Those of us who call Columbus home are fortunate to have more than 70 buildings and pieces of public art by world-renowned architects and artists woven into the fabric of our daily lives.

Our downtown benefits from the highest concentration of these works of art and design, hundreds of other compelling cultural assets and programs, as well as a newly developed urban infrastructure.

As a result, downtown has become our city’s central core, bringing us together to enjoy community events, cultural activities, the arts and


Last year, the city of Columbus designated a defined area of downtown as the Columbus Arts District and applied to the Indiana Arts Commission for statewide designation as an Indiana Cultural District.

In December the Indiana Arts Commission awarded the Columbus Arts District that prestigious designation.

The Columbus Arts District is now one of only five Indiana Cultural Districts.

We pride ourselves on this achievement and appreciate all the ways that our arts district enhances our quality of life, sense of community and economic vitality.

 But we also envision today’s arts district to be the strong foundation for an even more remarkable combination of people and place.

One where more art of all varieties is produced by students, adults and artists; one where more art is enjoyed by residents and visitors; one where our heritage and diversity are celebrated more pervasively; and one where other rich elements of urban life flourish.

That bold vision has been painted in the recently completed Columbus Arts District Strategic Plan created by the Columbus Arts District Planning Committee.

I convened this committee, consisting of more than two dozen community members representing the breadth of arts and culture in Columbus, just over a year ago.

The committee drew heavily from the ideas of a variety of stakeholders and the public about their visions for what the arts district should become.

Valuable ideas and recommendations were gathered through stakeholder dialogues, visioning workshops, public surveys and public open houses.

As a result of the community discussion, a shared vision emerged for our arts and cultural district, one that has the potential to ultimately transform Columbus into the cultural and creative capital of the Midwest.

We all benefit from such a transformation.

The arts and cultural activities enrich our lives, attract and retain a diverse array of talented people, and strengthen our local economy and tax base.

A newly created public-private coalition consisting of 11 members, including myself and leaders of a diverse group of stakeholder organizations, will use this plan as the framework to prioritize, budget, schedule and resource its implementation.

The coalition will coordinate the work of six teams totaling more than 50 community members, which will focus on recommended projects and initiatives within the district that will leverage both public and private funding.

These projects and initiatives are broken into six categories: facilities development and preservation, art and programming, art and design education, art and artisan retail, urban infrastructure, and arts tourism.

The creation of detailed, project-level blueprints with your help is our next step.

These project blueprints must ensure financial feasibility and leverage and complement all of our existing arts and cultural assets.

They must yield a variety of experiences that are appealing, affordable and accessible to everyone in our community, our visitors and those considering making Columbus their home.

The strategic plan is now available on the city of Columbus website, I hope you have the opportunity to review it and provide us with your thoughts.

Success depends on all of us working to harness the collective power of our community.

Let’s make it happen together!

Kristen Brown is the mayor of Columbus. She can be reached by phone at 376-2500 or by email at

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