Ohio Arts Council officials visited our community last week, communicating and interacting with local organizations and individuals, gathering and dispensing information. The OAC staff was impressed with what they found, and the Darke County representatives were grateful for what they learned—that OAC is a state agency that exists to help Ohioans gain access to and participate in the arts.
The gathering at newly-renovated Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall was instigated by Darryl Mehaffie, who is a member of the boards for OAC and Darke County Center for the Arts, chair of Edison Community College board, and holds many other positions too numerous to mention. Darke County Center for the Arts personnel organized the get-together, which in addition to DCCA Executive Director Andrea Jordan, Artistic Director Keith Rawlins, and board members Gary Brown and Mehaffie, included Anna Bier Gallery Director Marcia Weidner, Friends of Bear’s Mill Executive Director Marti Goetz, Edison State Community College President Dr. Doreen Larson, Garst Museum Director Dr. Clay Johnson, Isabel Culbertson of Greenville Art Guild, Main Street Greenville Executive Director Amber Garrett, and Darke County Visitors Bureau Executive Director Matt Staugler. Each of these attendees offered an impressive overview of their goals, mission and accomplishments.
When Andrea Jordan expressed thanks to the Ohio Arts Council for making possible the existence of DCCA, OAC Executive Director Donna Collins responded that her organization is grateful to all of those who create and produce art and arts-related activity, saying that her agency is simply a conduit enabling Ohioans to benefit from those creations and productions. OAC Deputy Director Dan Katona stated that his agency’s programs seek to enrich lives across the state, citing the “Fund Every County” initiative that hopes to impact those not currently being reached as an example of those efforts.
Throughout the session, OAC representatives repeatedly reiterated their aim of helping Ohioans achieve their artistic goals, and offered an overview of available programs serving that purpose. Sustainability grants help provide operating support for around 300 large arts organizations, while the “Arts Access” program supports small organizations with few resources who do a lot with a little. “Art Next” funds risk-taking innovative new projects, while “Capacity Building” grants support professional development to help organizations get better at what they do.
“Arts Partnership” seeks to fund outcome-based programs that help meet state educational standards; grants are available for artistic residencies in schools, and “Teach Arts Ohio” places a teaching artist in classrooms. “Big Yellow School Bus” provides exactly what it implies—bus transportation enabling students to attend cultural events.
Darke County certainly benefits from OAC programs; without OAC Fee Support monies, DCCA could not bring stellar Ohio performers such as Toledo Symphony Orchestra to Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall. OAC’s “Main Stage to Main Street” initiative serving rural and under-served regions of the state provided funds for Street Art Saturdays, the exciting new event that presents performing and visual artists in downtown Greenville.
The OAC officials promised that the application process for their grants has been made as painless as humanly possible; evidence that this might actually be true lies in the fact that guidelines for applicants were recently edited down from 147 pages to 50. Although new system “ARTIE” (Arts Resources Through Innovation and Engagement) provides applicants with a user-friendly on-line portal, OAC Regional Organizational Coordinator Jim Szekacs made it quite clear that he is eager to provide personal guidance lessening the stress for grant-writers and helping them achieve their goals.
The Ohio Arts Council representatives strongly communicated that they care passionately about the arts, and are working hard to utilize all their resources to serve constituents across the state; they also demonstrated high regard for what is accomplished by our local organizations. In return, the Darke countians in attendance were mightily impressed by the intense commitment to serve demonstrated by these representatives of state government who really believe that they are here to help.