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Online survey collecting ideas for downtown district

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A committee looking into the possibility of establishing a downtown arts center is seeking input from residents through an online survey.

An art gallery, gift shop, artist studios, meeting rooms and space for classes, lectures, demonstrations and performances are some of the early ideas being discussed.

The center is part of an ongoing dialogue surrounding the downtown Columbus Arts District being designated in December as an Indiana Cultural District by the Indiana Arts Commission.

The newly formed Columbus Arts District Coalition is examining how to expand arts opportunities for adults and children and has created teams to study commerce and tourism, education, design and architecture, and public art and programming.

“We’re looking at how we move forward from here,” Jayne Farber, a consultant for the Columbus Arts District, said about how the survey is one method for gathering ideas from the public.

Cummins Inc. employee Blair Lauer volunteered her services to lead a Six Sigma quality-improvement study of an arts center concept. The study includes the survey.

Questions focus on the idea of an art center, if it would be an asset to Columbus and how it would be used

Specific questions include what type of programming residents would like, if they would be interested in classes or purchasing art and whether they would be willing to volunteer, pay a fee to be a member or teach a class.

Lauer said the community responses are important to have before they proceed.

“We would want it to be sustainable, so we really want it to be something the city would use,” she said.

The confidential survey has 15 questions and should take no more than 10 minutes to complete, team members said.

A message about the survey will be listed on bills sent out by Columbus City Utilities this month and made available through local schools and colleges. The survey can be completed until March 4.

To see how other communities have developed arts centers, Farber, Lauer and other team members visited centers in Berea, Ky., and Indianapolis, including the Broad Ripple neighborhood.

Other team members are Heather Pope, the city’s redevelopment director, and Karen Shrode, executive director of the Columbus Area Arts


Lauer said they have some general concepts in mind but are waiting for responses from the surveys to refine a proposal they will submit to the Arts District Coalition and Mayor Kristen Brown.

“We envision it as being a hub downtown where people can engage in art, but it won’t be just for people who are into art,” Lauer said.

Along with space for artists activities, an arts center also could have room for meetings, lectures and events or a retail area for people to buy items from local artists.

Lauer added that, during this first phase, there have not been discussions about a location for the center, other than in the downtown arts district. The team also has not looked into whether a building would be renovated or a new structure built.

More specifics about a building and costs will come after initial survey responses are received to gauge community interest, Lauer said.

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