2014 Year in Review: A Look Back

SC1766-Ohio Arts Council Portraits-07-29-14-Dan Katona-287As the holiday leftovers are finished up, the snow and snow days begin accumulating, and another new year begins to take shape, let’s take a moment to look back. For Ohio’s arts and cultural sector, 2014 was a year of accolades and accomplishments, recognition and transition, and, above all, community and creativity. While 2015 is still in its infancy, it’s a perfect time to reflect on just a few noteworthy moments from the last 12 months:

The frigid start to 2014 was one of many new beginnings in the arts in Ohio – and for the Ohio Arts Council (OAC) as well. The Cleveland Museum of Art released its ArtLens mobile app, so anyone anywhere could browse their world-class collection. Nearby, the fifth annual Brite Winter arts festival doubled in size, becoming the biggest event all year in Ohio City. The second phase of the Arts in Autism initiative kicked off, a partnership between the OAC and VSA Ohio studying access to the arts by students and young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder. We loved the new analysis by Wright State University’s Center for Urban and Public Affairs, estimating that greater Dayton’s creative industries generated a whopping 18,000 jobs and $22 million in tax revenues. Ohio’s ninth annual Poetry Out Loud recitation contest crowned its champion: Lake Wilburn, a high school junior from Columbus. And in February, our own transition: Donna S. Collins was selected to become the agency’s new executive director, bringing with her 20 years of arts leadership, insight, and experience.

Spring was a time for celebrating, beginning with the OAC’s Riffe Gallery, which marked its 25th anniversary. The gallery, housed in the lobby of the Vern Riffe Center for Government and the Arts, first opened on March 17, 1989. Ohio Poetry Out Loud champion Lake Wilburn finished as runner-up in the national finals held in Washington, DC, reciting Philip Levine’s “They Feed They Lion” in the final round. Ohio received the second-highest state arts partnership grant in the nation from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) – $949,700, all of which was distributed to Ohio grantees – for an impressive fifth year in a row. The Ohioana Library celebrated its 85th anniversary and staged its 8th annual book festival, the largest in Ohio. Tickets to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s laser-infused LumenoCity 2014 sold out in an incredible 12 minutes. And the Governor’s Awards for the Arts in Ohio honored six outstanding artists, arts organizations, arts patrons, and businesses that support the arts in Ohio. Held in partnership with the Ohio Citizens for the Arts Foundation on Arts Day, all involved enjoyed another smashing success.

The spirit of celebration continued into the heat of summertime. The last day of the Ohio State Fair featured incredible performances by traditional master artists Baba Jubal Harris and his students. The OAC announced 481 grants totaling $9.4 million for Ohio arts organizations, arts education programs, and artists, made possible by a 31.8 percent increase in biennial funding from the Ohio Governor and General Assembly. At the federal level, the NEA announced that two of its 66 Our Town grants would go to Ohio organizations: Cleveland’s L.A.N.D. Studio, Inc. ($100,000) and the Westcott House Foundation in Springfield ($75,000). WOSU won Emmy Awards for its cultural weekly series “Broad & High” and documentary “John Glenn: A Life of Service.”  New NEA chairman Jane Chu visited Ohio to address students and arts leaders at The Ohio State University’s Barnett Center. West Chester’s Carolyn Mazloomi, nationally known authority on African-American quilts and quilt-making, was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship Award. The streets were filled during the 14th annual Washboard Music Festival in Logan, home to the nation’s last remaining washboard manufacturing facility. And Ohio Governor John Kasich led the unveiling of the $2.1 million Ohio Holocaust and Liberator’s Memorial on the grounds of the statehouse in downtown Columbus, featuring a striking sculpture by Daniel Libeskind, the son of Holocaust survivors.

And as the leaves changed and the school buses returned, the good work continued. The 95th Toledo Area Artists Exhibition – described as one of the last shows of its kind in the nation – opened at the Toledo Museum of Art. The OAC’s International Music and Performing Arts in Communities Tour (IMPACT), featuring Ecuadorian musicians Andes Manta, conducted performances and outreach in Ashland, Wilmington, Marietta, Pemberville, Cridersville, and Lorain. We cheered as 20-year old newcomer Kaley Voorhees of Aurora landed a leading role in Broadway’s The Phantom of the Opera. And we paused to remember Athens’ ubiquitous Bob Winters – educator, activist, mentor, and tireless regional arts supporter – after his passing. The OAC Engagement Tour visited artists and organizations in and around Dayton, Shawnee, Canton, and Piqua, engaging with community members and discussing the future. And the inaugural Zanesville Prize was awarded, with Best of Show awarded to Christine Golden’s “Kids in the Garden 2”; the $20,000 award was the largest best of show ceramics prize in the Western Hemisphere.

As the year closed, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed Senator Kearney’s legislation, Senate Bill 84, making Ohio the 45th state to establish a state poet laureate, and Zanesville sculptor Alan Cottrill was chosen to create a statue of Thomas Edison for display at Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol.

Though this list barely scratches the surface, 2014 was another incredibly exciting year for the arts in Ohio. Congratulations to your successes last year and good luck with your upcoming projects. We can’t wait to see what the new year brings.

Dan Katona
Deputy Director
Ohio Arts Council


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