Ohio Arts Council Engagement Tour

by Molly Rutledge

Donna, Janelle and Ken with Gallery Coordinator Tess Cortes at the Robert and Elaine Stein Gallery at Wright State University

Donna, Janelle, and Ken with Gallery Coordinator Tess Cortes at the Robert and Elaine Stein Gallery at Wright State University

This past November, teams of the Ohio Arts Council’s (OAC) staff hit the road and immersed themselves in the Ohio arts landscape. They traveled to the studios, stages, and classrooms of arts organizations across the state to personally meet and engage with constituents, arts leaders, and community members during the 2014 Fall Engagement Tour. Executive Director Donna Collins and Deputy Director Dan Katona both traveled to each of the four destinations accompanied by a rotation of OAC staff members. The team spent each day visiting a variety of destinations that make up each area’s greater arts community. During these stops, they met with the organizations’ staff, toured facilities, and witnessed art-making in action.

OAC Board member Jane Foulk welcomes folks to the engagement event at the Tecumseh Theater in Shawnee

OAC Board member Jane Foulk welcomes participants to the engagement event at the Tecumseh Theater in Shawnee

Evening public gatherings provided the greater arts community the opportunity to share visions, make suggestions, and engage in conversation. The evening engagements also included fun and informative Pecha Kucha-style presentations from the community’s artists and arts leaders. The Engagement Tour was designed to provide the agency with a better understanding of a broad range of Ohioans’ needs, including communities that have traditionally been underserved by OAC’s public funding. The team ventured to urban and rural Ohio including stops in Dayton, Shawnee, Canton, Piqua, and their surrounding areas.

Value

Brianna and Donna with gallery owner Tiffany Marsh and artist Pach Atomz at Bliss Art Studio and Gallery in Canton

Brianna and Donna with gallery owner Tiffany Marsh and artist Pach Atomz at Bliss Art Studio and Gallery in Canton

During the 2014 Fall Engagement Tour, the OAC staff interacted one-on-one with the people behind the art, performances, and projects. Many participants discussed personal visions for their communities. In Canton, for example, artist Pach Atomz shared his plans to invest in northeast Canton. Through Bliss Arts Studio’s projects, including a mural series, Atomz hopes to strengthen and improve a neighborhood through the transformative power of the arts. Some of the Engagement Tour destinations, like the Raise the Roof Arts/Sidney Historical Theatre in Sidney, do not currently receive funding from the OAC. While the team toured the facility, Raise the Roof Arts Executive Director Sarah Barr discussed the group’s current capital campaign, creative partnerships, and funding sources they use to supplement the ongoing theatre renovation project. These new relationships and conversations spread awareness about OAC funding to possible future constituents, and the OAC learned more about the current funding strategies and attitudes of arts organizations.

Donna and resident artist Mike Major at the Champaign County Arts Council in Urbana

Donna and artist Mike Major at the Champaign County Arts Council in Urbana

Staff will continue to cultivate these personal relationships and goals. Thanks to the Engagement Tour, the OAC became more actively engaged with communities throughout Ohio, and a wonderful dialogue began that will continue into 2015 and beyond. As a whole, communities were enthusiastic to learn and discuss the agency’s plans for the future. Audience member and presenter Tim Peacock, executive director of Stuart’s Opera House in Nelsonville, said during the evening engagement in Shawnee, “The OAC has been extremely supportive of my artistic endeavors, and I am very appreciative of what they provide for the Ohio arts community. I know everyone at the meeting really valued the opportunity to provide feedback. It was comforting to know the OAC is not making change for change’s sake.”  Many important desired changes were voiced, but the most common requests from the Engagement Tour included a simplified OAC grants system, an improved user-friendly website, more interaction with the OAC team in the field, and more data readily available about the arts regionally and statewide. The Ohio arts community validated the OAC’s current vision for the future of the agency and its constituents.

What’s Next

 The OAC has already started planning, and in some cases started implementing, many of the changes the community said they would like to see. OAC Constituent Investment/Grants Associate Janelle Hallett reflected, “The feedback we received very closely aligns with the OAC’s vision and changes for the future. I’m confident that where we are going is exactly what the Ohio arts community wants and needs.”

Technology The OAC was among the first state arts agencies to create an online grants system. Aligning with our history of successfully advancing with changing technologies, a new OAC grants system will be launched after the current grant season.“The new system will allow for online support material uploads, intuitive navigation, stronger data security, and improved mobile access,” said Deputy Director Dan Katona. “It will create a more streamlined and positive application experience.” In addition, new, user-friendly OAC website is in the early stages of planning and development.

Constituent Relations The fall Engagement Tour marks the first of many constituent visits across the state. The staff now works on an 80-10-10 model of time management: 80% will go into constituent-based work, 10% into professional development, and 10% into interacting in the field. Statewide visits will resume next year and will continue to give “a face” to the OAC.

Strategic Plan The 2015-2017 Strategic Plan for the OAC is underway and will reflect the voices of every Ohio arts community thanks in part to the visits, experiences, and conversations during the Engagement Tour. The plan will also include valuable data about the arts in Ohio which will be readily available to the public.

The 2014 Fall Engagement Tour gave the OAC team the tools to continue to be an active, diverse, thoughtful, and inclusive partner in the Ohio arts community. Most importantly, the OAC promises to continue the conversation. We hope you will too. An album of photos from the tour is available here.


Engagement Destinations at-a-glance

Dayton, November 17

OAC representatives

  • Donna Collins, Executive Director
  • Dan Katona, Deputy Director
  • Ken Emerick, Individual Artists/Percent for Art Director
  • Janelle Hallett, Constituent Investment/Grant Associate

Daytime engagement meetings

  • Wright State University’s Robert & Elaine Stein Galleries
  • Human Race Theatre Company
  • Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center
  • Downtown Dayton Partnership
  • CultureWorks
  • K12 Gallery for Young People
  • Dayton Visual Arts Center

Evening engagement

  • Where: University of Dayton River Campus
  • Hosts: OAC board members Sharon Howard and Jon Holt
  • Presenters:  Previous Governor’s Awards for the Arts in Ohio winners Bing Davis, Neal Gittleman, and Michael Lippert

Shawnee, November 18

OAC representatives

  • Donna Collins, Executive Director
  • Dan Katona, Deputy Director
  • Kathy Signorino, Individual Artists/Percent for Art/Traditional Arts Apprenticeships Program Coordinator
  • Kim Turner, Constituent Investment/Grants Associate/ADA 504 Coordinator

Daytime engagement meetings

  • Decorative Arts Center of Ohio, Lancaster
  • Pioneer School, Zanesville
  • Zanesville Museum of Art
  • Muskingum County Community Foundation (MCCF), Zanesville

Organizations came together at MCCF and included representatives from:

  • Powerhouse of Southeastern Ohio, Inc.
  • Pioneer School
  • Artist Colony of Zanesville
  • Zanesville Prize for Contemporary Ceramics
  • Ohio Hill County Heritage Area Civic Tourism

Evening engagement

  • Where: Tecumseh Theater, Shawnee
  • Host: OAC board member Jane Foulk
  • Presenters: Stuart’s Opera House Executive Director Tim Peacock, Zanesville Prize for Contemporary Ceramics organizer Susan Gottlieb, and Michelle Ruskin-Robinson, Ohio Hill County Heritage Area Civic Tourism

Canton, November 21

OAC representatives

  • Donna Collins, Executive Director
  • Dan Katona, Deputy Director
  • Brianna Dance, Eastern Region Organizational Investment Coordinator
  • Justin Nigro, Executive Assistant/Leadership Liaison

Daytime engagement meetings

  • Just Imagine! at the Stark County Board of Development and Disabilities
  • Second April Galerie & Studios
  • Bliss Art Studio
  • Players Guild Theatre
  • Canton Museum of Art
  • Canton Symphony Orchestra

Evening engagement

  • Where: Cultural Center for the Arts
  • Host: OAC board member Robb Hankins
  • Presenters: Executive Director of the Akron Area Arts Alliance Toby Ann Weber, The Troll Hole Owner Sherry Groom, and artist Michele Waalkes

Piqua, November 25

OAC representatives

  • Donna Collins, Executive Director
  • Dan Katona, Deputy Director
  • Dia Foley, Constituent Investment/Grants Office Director
  • Jim Szekacs, Western Region Organizational Investment Coordinator

Daytime engagement meetings

  • Campaign County Art Council
  • Piqua Arts Council
  • Piqua Public Library
  • Troy-Hayner Cultural Arts Center
  • Raise the Roof Arts at the Sidney Historical Theatre

Evening engagement

  • Where: Edison Community College
  • Host: OAC board member Darryl Mehaffie
  • Presenters: Darke County Center for the Arts Executive Director Andrea Jordan and Artistic Director Keith Rawlins, Piqua Arts Council Executive Director Jordan Knepper, Raise the Roof for the Arts Executive Director Sarah Barr
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