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The first of two open houses designed to get feedback from the community about Columbus’ arts identity brought more than 30 residents to City Hall on Monday.
The second open house will be 5:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall.
The open houses are the third and final part of a public engagement phase of efforts to have Columbus named a cultural district by the Indiana Arts Commission. Previous components included interviews with stakeholders and an online survey. So far, only three Indiana communities — Lafayette/West Lafayette, Bloomington and Carmel — have received the distinction.
“This will help us validate the strategies that we have come up with and prioritize where we focus our efforts,” said Jack Hess, member of the Arts and Culture Advisory Committee and president of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce.
Open house attendees are asked to review an inventory of Columbus’ cultural assets, including groups, events and sites; view a slide show of downtown events and sites; and read a summary of the proposed strategy for the arts district. Along the way, they are invited to use stickers to indicate components they feel are the most vital to the district. They also can use large sticky notes to write in suggestions or indicate arts groups and events that may have been left out.
“This will help us find some things that haven’t come to the forefront yet,” said Glenn Gareis, whose company, GMG Architects, consulted with Arts and Culture Advisory Committee on the public engagement efforts.
The final application is due Oct. 2, and a decision will be made by Jan. 1. The application also includes a list of more than 350 arts and cultural organizations, events and sites within the city, as well as letters of support from more than 20 community leaders. The city council passed a resolution in support of the distinction at its Sept. 4 meeting.
Efforts toward earning the official designation began last March, when Mayor Kristen Brown authorized a committee to develop a tangible plan for what an arts district could look like. Communities with official state designation benefit from marketing and promotional opportunities, and such a distinction can promote art tourism and enhance economic growth.
While official designation from the Indiana Arts Commission remains the goal, Karen Shrode, executive director of the Columbus Area Arts Council and chairwoman of the Arts and Culture Advisory Committee, said that community feedback is essential for continued efforts to nurture arts and culture in the downtown area and beyond.
“Whether we get the designation or not, this is important work,” she said.
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