Speaker: Artwork shapes outlook

Whether it’s Henry Moore’s Large Arch or Dessa Kirk’s Eos, public art is part of “our physical world that really does shape our mental world.”

So said Richard McCoy, director of Landmark Columbus, a Heritage Fund-sponsored organization which cares for Columbus’ artistic and architectural sites. He served as keynote speaker on the value and impact of public art during a presentation at Thursday’s annual meeting of the Columbus Area Arts Council at YES Cinema downtown.

McCoy’s words echo those of late, wealthy industrialist J. Irwin Miller, who mentioned that architecture influences behavior. Miller was the leader who decades ago launched the local architectural program that helped attract up-and-coming design stars to design churches, schools, city structures and other public buildings in the Columbus area.

And at least one audience member afterward immediately thought of Miller’s impact that later made beautiful public art possible.

“We always have to remember him,” Rovene Quigley said.

McCoy’s background includes stints at both the Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, two of the largest and most prestigious art galleries in the United States. He mentioned that public art matters for one big reason.

“It helps us define our past,” McCoy said. “It describes our current state. And it has the potential to point to the future.”

He acknowledged that it also carries the potential for disagreements and bits of controversy.

He used as an example a pruned-tree-style sculpture piece placed in front of Columbus City Hall as part of the local Sculpture Biennial. The work, known as Decathexis and unpopular to some, was moved last year to 11th and Jackson streets.

“Part of the challenge of (public) art is to represent cities and government and people,” McCoy said. “And so I feel like this is a really interesting example for us to think about, and ask, ‘Why didn’t that work? And what do we want in front of City Hall in the future of Columbus?”

He also highlighted local art that does work, including Eos, purchased after residents fell it love with it at the end of the Sculpture Invitational, and Ruth Migdal’s flaming red Flamenco in front of The Commons. A fund drive is underway to buy and keep that piece in Columbus, anchored by an event May 13 at The Commons.

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During Thursday’s annual meeting, the Columbus Area Arts Council:

  • Thanked outgoing board members Erin Hawkins, Bryan Brunner, Ebony Williams and Umar Farooq for their service.
  • Welcomed new board members Tricia Gilson, Quazi Fawad and Roy Ice.
  • Announced the slate of officers with Sarah Cannon serving again as president; Scott Poling as vice president; Roy Ice as treasurer; and Diane Robbins as secretary.
  • Honored Volunteer of the Year Kasey Johnson for her work at a variety of events, including Artz Daze, Johnson-Witkemper Biggest Block Party Ever, and Rock the Park.

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The Columbus Area Arts Council celebrated the following financial successes during the annual meeting:

  • Finishing the year in the black without cutting programs after passing a budget with an anticipated $50,000 deficit.
  • A near-record profit of $30,000 for the Johnson-Witkemper Biggest Block Party Ever.
  • A record profit of $35,000 for the Rock the Park concert featuring Charlie Daniels, made possible when sponsors agreed to allow the arts council to take all profits for the event, rather than a percentage as it did in the past.
  • A record profit of $118,000 at the unCommon Cause fundraiser.