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2020 taught us to adapt, persevere and breath

in Tom Katzenmeyer 3 min read

We came into 2020 full of hope, energy and vision. We had fought and won to get additional arts funding, and we developed a host of new programs that we were excited to roll out. Life is what happens while you are making other plans.

Tom Katzenmeyer, CEO, president of the Arts Council

Tom Katzenmeyer, CEO, president of the Arts Council

This year we have lived through challenges we could not have imagined. We have seen a global pandemic financially cripple arts and culture. Political unrest and rising COVID numbers have left us physically and emotionally depleted. And yet, the critical importance of the arts and the role it plays in our city has never been clearer.

If the Greater Columbus Arts Council had a mantra in 2020 it was: adapt. And thanks to you, to this incredible community, we did adapt.

As the city shut down, we adjusted our artist support to provide grants for basic needs like housing, food, and medicine. As this need quickly outgrew our funds, we dived immediately into fundraising for the Emergency Relief Fund for Artists. Thanks to you we were able to get 428 Franklin County artists nearly $330,000.

When we realized that there was no way to safely hold the Columbus Arts Festival, our first thought was to help the artists in whatever ways we could. All juried artists were immediately accepted in to the 2021 Arts Festival. We used social media and other online resources to promote virtual shopping with our artists, the music of bands scheduled to play and share memories of Festivals past to keep those Arts Fest home fires burning.

As protests erupted in Columbus, we helped an effort to pay artists to paint plywood covered windows with messages of support for the Black Lives Matter movement. The discussion that resulted in this work led us to adapt, work with community leaders, and support Marshall Shorts and Marron Arts Group in creating a larger comprehensive campaign—Deliver Black Dreams. To date, many the Art Unites Cbus Murals have been documented, preserved and are on exhibit in new locations throughout the city. The first of several Deliver Black Dreams murals has been completed.

This work segued nicely to the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work that our board and staff began in 2018.

This year, two major funding streams for the Arts Council (the bed tax and ticket fee) were decimated by the pandemic. Due to the generosity of the mayor, city council and the county commissioners, and the redirection of our CARES ACT funding, we were still able to provide operating support and support to individual artists. However many meaningful programs had to be cut in order to meet the needs of our partners.

This drove home the simple fact that it is more important than ever for us to have diverse sources of income. If our work is to be sustained, we cannot leave our funding vulnerable. To do so will impact our ability to consistently fund arts organizations and artists as well diminish the  marketing, messaging and advocacy work that we do daily with elected officials, community leaders and corporate partners.

We must adapt and as a result I want to share with you our endowment fund goal of $2 million by the end of 2021. The returns on your investment in The GCAC Community Fund at the Columbus Foundation will sustain our critical work in the arts community.

This fall our board approved a new strategic plan for the organization. Our vision is “a thriving Columbus where the arts matter to all of us.” We believe that the arts play an essential role in examining the issues of our time, encouraging thoughtful dialogue and prompting change as a pathway to equity. We believe that art is a catalyst for social change and opens the door for continual, authentic dialogue in ways few other activities do.

We end this strange year still, surprisingly, full of hope, energy and vision. There is light at the end of the tunnel. We have a clear path to the future and the knowledge that we can adapt when obstacles block that path.

We are grateful to have you with us on this journey.

— Tom Katzenmeyer, connect with Tom on LinkedIn.