Caring for art and architecture: Landmark Columbus Foundation celebrates endowment gifts

THE nonprofit that cares for Columbus’ art and architectural gems enjoyed a diamond day of overflowing generosity at its annual meeting Tuesday at Upland Columbus Pumphouse downtown.

Three longtime community leaders made large gifts to the endowment fund of the Landmark Columbus Foundation that tends to the city’s art and architectural showpieces and its cultural heritage. Philanthropist and business leader Tony Moravec donated $100,000, and longtime community philanthropists and leaders Rick and Alice Johnson donated $50,000.

Rick Johnson also serves as board president for the foundation.

Each announcement was greeted with enthusiastic applause from an estimated crowd of 100 people on the venue’s back deck. Attendees included representatives from the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, the Columbus Area Visitors Center, the Columbus Area Arts Council, business leaders and others.

“This is all about us working together to do great things for a really remarkable place in America,” said Richard McCoy, the foundation’s executive director. “And we think we’re making great progress.”

The multifaceted Landmark Columbus Foundation, launched in 2015, is perhaps best known for its Exhibit Columbus architectural exhibitions and symposiums that have attracted international designers, speakers, tourists and media attention. In fact, the exhibitions alone have seen attendance figures from an estimated 20,000 people to an estimated 40,000 people.

Last year, the foundation received a Lilly Endowment grant, in collaboration with The Heritage Fund: The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, of $524,000 to launch its endowment. The gift came with a challenge to push the overall endowment total to $2 million by 2025.

“That’s a big, ambitious goal,” McCoy said. “But we’ve always tried to be ambitious in what we’re doing.”

The endowment currently stands at about $700,000, according to McCoy.

Johnson told attendees that the foundation’s focus to preserve the city’s Modernist design legacy begs a simple question: “Does the work that we’re doing today deserve to endure over time?”

A healthy endowment, Johnson said, can ensure that the city’s future includes its well-maintained art and architecture. That is especially significant since First Christian Church, the city’s first Modernist structure that was built in 1942, has been undergoing costly refurbishing the past few years because of natural aging to everything from its skylight to its tower.

“I can’t say enough about what this (foundation) team does,” Johnson said.

McCoy mentioned the current challenge to the public is to attempt the match the the just-announced pair of large gifts in the next 12 to 18 months. But that money is not contingent upon matching donations.

Landmark Columbus Foundation also has been instrumental in getting practical help in recent years for the aging structure of North Christian Church.

Besides Exhibit Columbus, the foundation also oversees a program called Columbus Design Institute. It is a technical service initiative “that promotes the value of good design that built Columbus and collaborates with partners through its design process to encourage meaningful investments in the sustainable and equitable development of communities,” according to its promotional material.”

Johnson called the community’s Modernist legacy “a really unique set of architectural assets that have through the years exemplified the excellence that we all strive for.”

McCoy mentioned that Moravec originally planned to attend the event, but had to be away due to a family situation.