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Celebrating 50 years by looking ahead to the next 50

in Tom Katzenmeyer July 5, 2023 2 min read

2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the Greater Columbus Arts Council. For me, and the team at GCAC, this is not a time to reflect back, but to look forward.

This is an ideal moment for us to pause and take a thoughtful look at our funding programs. After years of hard work followed by an unprecedented pandemic that shook our world, we are finally seeing the culture fee revenue come in, providing increased funding for our artists and arts organizations. While we have been able to award more funding than ever this year, we have also uncovered challenges that make some of our current funding models unsustainable.

To that end, GCAC will be working on re-imagining our grant, fellowships, residencies, awards and other support programs over the summer. This year, GCAC will distribute nearly 18 million of city of Columbus and Franklin County funds to individual artists and arts organization through nearly 20 programs. With the increase of funding over the past five years, now is the right time to get community feedback and cast a bold new vision.

How do we make the best of all the ideas we receive daily from individuals and organizations? How can we make certain our funding programs are inclusive and meaningful? How do we best serve our community—artists, arts organizations and residents—while also being excellent stewards of these public funds?

To help answer these questions, we plan on doing a lot of listening and data gathering. With the help of a trained facilitator, we will be conducting surveys, hosting artist focus groups and holding community roundtables. Keep an eye out for more details on these initiatives in the near future.

I am proud to work with a team that never says “but that’s how we have always done it.” They listen to the community and are willing to rethink our work and find solutions when we encounter challenges.

It is this solutions-focused approach that got us involved with creating a public art plan for the city. We previously have had little to do with the processes surrounding public art in Columbus, but we heard feedback from community members that pointed to the need for a comprehensive public art plan for central Ohio. With support from the city of Columbus and Franklin County, we are in the process of working with Lord Cultural Resources on Greater Columbus. Greater ART., a 14-month research and data gathering effort and we expect to deliver the final plan in mid-2024. I encourage everyone in the community to take the survey about public art that will be up for the next few months. On July 12 we will launch the community engagement phase of the research with an in-person event from 6-8 p.m. at the main branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, followed by a virtual event on July 13 from 1-2 p.m.

While I cannot predict what the future holds, I can promise that GCAC will always strive to improve our services, to reevaluate our practices, and never to flinch from critiques that can only make our support of the artists and arts of Columbus stronger.

—Tom Katzenmeyer