The Greater Columbus Arts Council is receiving $2 million in public funds that will be used to revive Artists in the Community, continue its BOOST program and provide the first round of stabilizing funds for current operating-support recipients.
Franklin County commissioners Kevin Boyce, president Marilyn Brown and John O’Grady voted unanimously Oct. 22 to provide the arts council with the additional funds to promote the organization’s stability, arts and cultural projects and individual artists.
The money will come from the general fund, according to county commissioners spokesman Tyler Lowry.
It’s the first time since 2012 the county commissioners have provided funding to the arts council. That year Ohio Alliance for Arts Education took over the educational programs that once were run by the arts council, said spokeswoman Jami Goldstein.
According to the commissioners’ resolution, the arts council since 1973 has fostered and encouraged the development of the arts in Franklin County and its programs provide access to the arts for “people of all cultural backgrounds, economic status, sexual orientation, age and physical ability” and “by supporting Franklin County artists, as well as arts and culture organizations, GCAC enhances the cultural image of the Greater Columbus area.”
The funding is described in the resolution as a “one-year contract.”
“Our grants are really contracts,” Lowry said. “ So we see it as a grant and talk about it that way, but it really is a contract. ... Generally, it says that the county will give $2 million to GCAC, and in return, GCAC will provide that money in funding to nonprofit arts organizations and individual artists through its own grant programs.”
“Franklin County recognizes that a sustainable and vibrant arts and cultural community is a key factor in attracting residents, visitors and businesses,” Brown said in an Oct. 22 news release from the arts council.
“The county feels strongly about investing in the success of our arts and cultural organizations and artists because we know the creative sector is a cornerstone of central Ohio’s economic-development efforts now and into the future.”
Meanwhile, the arts council spent the entire Artists in the Community budget – $284,000 – by May, Goldstein said. She said 170 first-time applicants were in the current round of grants. Of the $2 million, $100,000 will be used to restore Arts in the Community, she said.
BOOST – or Broadening Organizations’ Overall Skills and Technology – is described by the arts council as a capacity-building program that supports the governance, leadership, technology and professional development needs of nonprofit arts and culture organizations.
The program will receive $25,000, Goldstein said. The maximum award is $3,500, she said.
The bulk of the $2 million will go toward the first round of stabilizing funds for current operating-support recipients, such as BalletMet, which received $260,000 in the last round of funding, Goldstein said.
“They have the most rigorous grant (application) process,” Goldstein said. Those organizations are required to submit audits and offer a full disclosure of their operating funds, she said.
Lowry said the board of commissioners approves about $3 million to arts organizations each year, including the Columbus Museum of Art, the King Arts Complex and the Lincoln Theatre.
The goal, starting in 2020, is to give that money to the Greater Columbus Arts Council so it can disburse those funds and supervise those applications, Lowry said.
“Commissioners have long supported arts funding in the community,” he said. “We’re just changing the way we do it.
“They’re a local partner who already are experts in this space,” Lowry said of the council, “so this is an opportunity to work with them, help us direct where these funds can best be used in the community.”
He said the difference moving forward is the method.
“Instead of making a bunch of individual grants, we see it as more efficient and more effective to rely on our local expert partner to help direct the funding, and the intention is to continue that funding method going forward,” he said.
Although $2 million might raise some taxpayers’ eyebrows, Lowry said, commissioners believe it is money well spent.
“The commissioners believe that arts are important to the economy, a draw for residents, business and visitors, and the creative sector is a cornerstone of Franklin County’s economic-development efforts,” he said.
Goldstein said arts organizations rely solely on corporate and other private funding to make ends meet.
“It takes a strong ecosystem of funding for nonprofit organizations, and that includes arts and culture and depends on diverse funding sources,” she said. “That means corporate support, individual giving and public dollars, and all those things need to be there for the financial security of organizations.”
ThisWeek assistant managing editor Scott Hummel contributed to this story.