The Gahanna Area Arts Council is taking the next step toward a sustainable partnership that would make the organization partly funded through the city of Gahanna next year.

"People often mistakenly assume we're currently funded by the city already," said Rebekah McBride-Smith, GAAC communications chairwoman. "Many of the people who come to our programs don't realize that right now we're an all-volunteer, independent 501(c)(3) organization."

She said all current revenue is raised through community fundraisers, private donations and program sponsorships.

"We really rely on the generosity of our community," McBride-Smith said.

Christian Peck, GAAC development chairman, said part of the confusion comes because the group's funding model isn't typical of most arts councils.

"The largest single source of revenue for most local arts agencies is local government support," he said.

Peck said 1% of a city's general revenue is a typical figure the GAAC found among other regional communities investing in their arts councils.

"It's the point at which data suggests Gahanna needs to invest in order to keep up with the arts and culture opportunities that are being created in the surrounding communities with which we compete to attract business and residents," he said.

Right now, Peck said, the GAAC is proposing to start with about one-fourth of that, or $74,755, in a proposed contract with the city for next year.

Kevin Dengel, GAAC president, said the bulk of grant funding for arts agencies like Gahanna's is available only to those with a government affiliation.

McBride-Smith said the arts council has a really good history with grant funding thus far.

"We've applied for two grants, and we've won both of them," she said. "Just this summer, we earned one of the highest scores of the year from the Ohio Arts Council's annual grant-review process."

Cait Masarik, GAAC community-involvement chairwoman, said both grants directly have benefited the community.

"The paint-by-numbers style mural on the side of the Tencza Eye Associates would not have been possible without a grant from Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health of Franklin County, and the live music at this summer's Second Saturdays festivals was paid for in-part with the award from the Ohio Arts Council," she said.

Peck said the GAAC is starting small.

"The proposal we've put forth for next year is less than one-quarter of 1% of the city's estimated budget," he said.

Dengel said this is the first step of a strategic vision for integrating arts and culture into Gahanna's overall community planning.

"A partnership with its local arts council is typically one of the best ways a city can stretch tax dollars because arts councils are uniquely eligible for matching grant programs that can quickly double and sometimes triple the city's funds," he said.

If City Council chooses to move forward, Peck said, it would see an immediate and significant return on investment for the community.

McBride-Smith said the partnership would be mutually beneficial.

"If they accept our proposal, the community will receive a new permanent public-art installation next year -- a mural on the facade of the Creekside Cafe that welcomes people as they cross the bridge -- and the arts council will be equipped to pursue that matching revenue and sustaining funds for the future."

Dengel said the arts council is looking forward to a formal partnership with the city.

"When you invest in the arts, everyone wins," he said.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla