By Marilyn Delk
Ronald Reagan once said that the most terrorizing words in the English language are “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” Although some truth lies behind that statement, it’s obvious that Ronald Reagan never met the Ohio Arts Council. Rather than fearing contact with OAC and its staff, Darke County Center for the Arts and many other arts organizations throughout our state welcome the agency’s benevolent interference in their operations. Politicians, government officials, and legislators of all stripes understand the value of the Ohio Arts Council, and therefore can be counted upon to see that substantial sums are made available for the fulfillment of OAC’s mission: to fund and support quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically.
Funding for the Ohio Arts Council comprises a minuscule portion of the Ohio budget, but produces a great return on the state’s investment. Ohio’s arts sector supports nearly 290,000 jobs, contributing nearly $41 billion to the state’s economy. Arts education helps students achieve better learning outcomes, with research showing that low-income high school students without arts credits are five times less likely to graduate than those achieving exposure to the arts. In our innovation-fueled economy, education that includes the arts produces critical thinkers and problem solvers, workers that are attractive to employers. Ohioans understand the value of investing in the arts, with 91% of those surveyed supporting public funding for arts programs and projects, thereby supporting the mission and purpose of OAC.
Darke County Center for the Arts receives funding through OAC’s Sustainability Grant program, which essentially underwrites all that DCCA achieves through its Artists Series concerts, Coffeehouse Series shows, Family Theatre performances, and Arts In Education programs; in 2021-2022, DCCA was granted $10,790 from this program to subsidize necessary expenses. Additionally, OAC’s highly envied and lauded Ohio Artists on Tour program provided DCCA with 33% of fees paid to sanctioned Ohio artists ($12,598 this year), making it possible for our small, underserved rural community to afford presentation of prestigious groups such as the Toledo Symphony Orchestra.
Other OAC programs benefitting our community include funding secured by Mississinawa Valley art teacher Ashley Austerman, enabling her students to work on diverse and impressive projects that continue to reverberate in lives. Three years ago, OAC funds made it possible for MV students to make quilts that now enhance the walls of Wayne Hospital; a year later, art students at Mississinawa created and installed a mural honoring their community’s legacy, and ultimately beautifying a previously unappealing underpass leading into Union City. This past year, students’ projects appropriately lit up the MV gymnasium in an awesome exhibit in which “Light” was explored as a metaphor, a physical phenomenon, and an artistic resource. Another asset produced by the MV projects is that the last two brought Timothy Wells to our community as the OAC-endowed visiting artist; Tim’s visit benefits our community to this day, as he continues to offer his advice and expertise helping DCCA develop the Darke County Art Trail.
The Ohio Arts Council was created in 1965 with funds from the Ohio legislature and the National Endowment of the Arts to foster and encourage the development of the arts and assist the preservation of Ohio’s cultural heritage. Since that time, OAC has successfully fulfilled that mission, earning envy and admiration from around the nation. Most recently, OAC has demonstrated that the arts can and do heal as it works to counter the negative impact experienced by the arts community during the COVID-19 pandemic, implementing several initiatives to assist artists and arts organizations as they struggle to survive. Darke County Center for the Arts is truly grateful for the assistance provided through the years by this accessible, useful state agency, whose help ultimately makes possible the fulfillment of DCCA’s mission to present and promote the arts, encouraging cultural enrichment in our community.