Columbus Arts Advocate Dead at 58

Greater Columbus Arts Council president Ray Hanley would have celebrated his 59th birthday next week. But the assertive cultural arts leader fell from a fifth floor terrace at the Miranova condos in downtown Columbus early Sunday morning. Franklin County Coroner Bradley Lewis said Hanley’s autopsy revealed he had coronary artery disease which may have contributed to his fall. Lewis said they’re looking further into that theory.

For two decades Hanley was a major force in the Columbus arts scene. BalletMet’s artistic director, Gerard Charles, said members of the arts community are shocked at Hanley’s death.

“It was an absolutely unbelievable piece of news when someone called on the phone and told me. I thought they’d got it wrong,” Charles said.

Charles first met Hanley in the 80s when Charles came to Columbus as a dancer. He said Hanley’s death leaves a vacuum in the Columbus cultural scene.

“I think Ray was a really strong champion for all the arts here in Columbus; and really developed a huge awareness for the arts, even among people who weren’t inclined to know about the arts. He certainly brought that to their attention. And I think he’s going to be very hard to replace, that kind of figure within our art field,” Charles said.

WOSU arts producer, Christopher Purdy, remembered Hanley’s love for all areas of the arts.

“His interests in the arts were very wide ranging. It went from theatre to the visual arts, to opera and symphony and ballet. But it really also included the neighborhoods. The Columbus Arts Festival, which was a big deal here every summer, which is a big deal here every summer, was his baby. And that brought a lot of revenue and a lot of attention on to the city. I think probably that’s, that kind of activity is what he’d like to be remembered for,” Purdy said.

Authorities say Hanley was standing on a planter out on the terrace with a friend’s dog when he fell. One theory is that Hanley may have stepped back – expecting to find railing, but fell over. The railing while standing on the planter it is only one to two feet high. Hanley had announced he was stepping down from his position as GCAC president in May 2007.

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