Cheers for the Arts at Mershon Auditorium

| September 20, 2011 | 0 Comments

mershon auditorium

mershon auditorium

This morning’s Columbus Dispatch called yesterday’s panel discussion at Mershon Auditorium “a pep rally for the arts.” Present were Rocco Landesman, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts; Les Wexner, Founder and Chairman of Limited Brands, a man with a worldwide reach; Mayor Michael Coleman; and Doug Kridler, CEO of the Columbus Foundation. The moderator was Julie Henahan, Executive Director of the Ohio Arts Council.

Mershon was filled – about 1400 people. I was pleased to see a lot of young people. Those sitting near me seemed like passionate arts administrators: angry, hungry, mouthy – Myself When Young. Our panel to them seemed like old guys in suits.

And as all such panels do, this was long on theory and self-congratulation. Mr. Wexner came at the discussion as a successful business man whose eye was always on the bottom line. He is unashamedly in business to make money. Who’s going to argue with him? It is from Wexner one heard the clarity of “this is what you should do” in terms of building responsive boards and finding a market niche.

Interestingly, and for the first time, the Chair of the NEA comes from the for profit sector. Mr. Landesman was long-time President of Jujamcyn Theaters. If you can make money on Broadway, the NEA oughta be a snap (NOT!).

The Mayor was entitled to crow over the renovation of the Lincoln Theater and the revival of the King-Lincoln District. This neighborhood is the history of jazz and blues in America writ large. On to Franklinton, said the Mayor. Good. I hope for more opportunities for small businesses and the young and energetic to serve the present community. (I hope the wonderful Rev. LeeAnn Reat at St. John’s Church will have input)

There was a great deal of cheering for the Short North. I love the Short North. The Short North is a commercial enterprise that caters to the moneyed-nothing wrong there. There are plenty of fine galleries, restaurants and specialty stores. I don’t however see how the Short North represents a success for the arts-for urban renewal yes, but for the arts? Not forgetting the many galleries, but the Short is a destination for people looking for upscale kitchen appliances, pricey martinis, and yes, art.

Mr. Kridler and Mayor Coleman both touched on that which Columbus does very well. There is a simmering community of garage art here. By that I mean the people who perform, sing, dance, act, create, and build because they must.

A young artist can make things happen here, get attention and perhaps graduate to a downtown theater, a university campus or a gallery in, yes, the Short North. We have room for the angry and hungry and committed and gritty. Room for the suits, too, but in Columbus the two groups actually talk with one another.

Go Columbus!

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Host of Music in Mid-Ohio, Musica Sacra, Serenata, and the Columbus Symphony Orchestra broadcasts.