For a good cause

The 41st annual unCommon Cause netted $77,000 for the nonprofit Columbus Area Arts Council, organizers said.

Arts council executive director Kathryn Armstrong said she was pleased with the level of support at the Oct. 22 sold-out event at The Commons that drew 340 people — the highest attendance in more than a decade. The theme was “Experience the ’60s: From Mods to Motown, Buzz Cuts to Bellbottoms.”

The gathering had 17 corporate tables — also the highest number in years, said the arts council’s Geri Handley, who helped plan the event.

Last year’s unCommon Cause netted a record $118,000.

[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]

But the arts council staff has acknowledged that this year’s support was especially generous because arts supporter Mark Elwood stood at the end of the event and declared that everyone should raise more money — and then boosted funds by another $20,000 in a free-form auction in which Mark and John Elwood matched all bids.

“I think our total is great,” said Armstrong, who marked her first such event since assuming her post June 1. “We understood this year would be a little different because people helped us with Rock The Park.”

The arts council lost money on the Aug. 6 concert event at Mill Race Park, which was rained out.

It had to use about $30,000 from its operating budget to cover expenses incurred despite the cancellation. A fund drive launched by local business leaders helped replace that money.

The arts council uses money from the fundraiser for a broad range of local programming. The agency is best known for its Old National Bank First Fridays For Families free monthly children’s entertainment at The Commons and for the monthly summertime JCB NeighborFEST street concerts.

It also coordinates free educational programs such as Martin Luther King Day dramas highlighting elements of history.

Armstrong said part of the proceeds from the event eventually will be channeled to enhancing arts education and youth programming — two keys she spotlighted when she accepted her post.

This year’s proceeds include more than $12,000 pledged for what is known as Fund a Need. That is a specially designated cause each year. This year, the recipient of Fund a Need is the nonprofit Dancers Studio Inc., which teaches a wide range of dance, even incorporating people with various challenges into classes, and also presents “The Nutcracker” each December.

Handley highlighted attendees’ enthusiasm for dressing according to the Sixties theme. She estimated that more than half the crowd adopted some sort of themed outfit for the evening, from bellbottoms to ‘60s wigs to even astronaut space suits.

She added that Tami Sharp, the arts council’s program director, deserves credit for booking the band Living Proof that played a mix of Sixties and Seventies tunes and earned positive crowd feedback. Handley also said that the arts council staff and board will begin discussing a 2018 theme as early as January.

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”You still can help” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

In years past, some people have offered support even after unCommon Cause has finished. So you can still help if you wish by sending a check to the Columbus Area Arts Council, The Commons, 300 Washington St., Columbus IN 47201.