The event was called "A WAY FORWARD: Arts and Economic Development" featuring Rocco Landesman (Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts), The Honorable Michael B. Coleman (Mayor of Columbus), Leslie H. Wexner (Chairman and CEO, Limited Brands) and Douglas F. Kridler (President and CEO, the Columbus Foundation).
The four panelists and their moderator, Executive Director of the Ohio Arts Council Julie Henahan, made it clear to the audience that the arts do indeed stimulate economic development in ways both measurable and immeasurable. What makes people love where they live? The arts are a major factor, for sure, but it often seems difficult to gauge their actual value. Well, here are some amazing statistics: 11,000 jobs in Columbus are “directly tied to the arts,” generating $330 million annually in economic activity and producing $36 million in tax revenue for Columbus and the state.
During the rally several local organizations were mentioned with great pride, including OSU and its Wexner Center for the Arts, the Columbus Museum of Art, the Columbus College of Art and Design and COSI. The Short North Arts District, an area just north of downtown which was radically transformed into a thriving neighborhood and tourist destination by its many art galleries, shops and unique examples of street art, was cited numerous times as the envy of other U.S. cities.
It's exciting to live in a city like Columbus which has such a thriving arts scene. I do wish, however, that the Columbus Symphony could be a little better integrated into the community. Ideally, the Columbus Symphony would be present at major community events such as the Columbus Arts Festival, First Night Columbus and Red White and Boom. I'd love to see the orchestra presenting free concerts in various locations throughout the community, even on college campuses like OSU. Wouldn't it be fantastic if the Columbus Symphony performed at a Short North Gallery Hop one of these months?
One important step has already been taken, as the symphony prepares to move its popular summer series, Picnic with the Pops, to the new downtown park, Columbus Commons. The symphony's role in the development of a vibrant downtown aptly demonstrates the tremendous importance of the arts.
As stated by Rocco Landesman, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, "Columbus provides a model for other communities seeking to marshal the arts for economic development." May the arts in Columbus and in other communities throughout the country continue to thrive.