Sustaining Ohio’s Arts and Culture Ecosystem


Sustaining Ohio’s Arts and Culture Ecosystem conference. Image credit: Heritage Ohio

by Missy Ricksecker

On December 9, 2014, a sold-out crowd came together at the Ohio History Center for a first-of-its-kind statewide conference on sustainability strategies for the staff, boards, and volunteers of Ohio’s arts and cultural organizations. “Sustaining Ohio’s Arts and Culture Ecosystem,” hosted by the Ohio Arts Council (OAC), Ohio Citizens for the Arts (OCA), the Ohio History Connection (OHC), and Heritage Ohio, featured compelling presentations on the power of arts and culture to build strong, vibrant, and engaged communities, and practical advice on how to garner the support of funders and advocates for arts and cultural projects.


Keynote speaker Jamie Bennett Image Credit: ideastream

Jamie Bennett, executive director of ArtPlace America, delivered a stirring keynote address titled Creative Placemaking: Connecting Arts, Culture, and Community. From Sandy Duncan to Serena Williams, Bennett examined where and how we identify artists in our communities and how we can foster community development that drives our creativity as well as our local economies. Watch Bennett’s TEDx talk on creative placemaking here. As a follow-up to the keynote, panelists Jim Sweeney, executive director, Franklinton Development Association; Tim Tramble, executive director, Burton Bell Carr Development; and Matthew Fluharty, executive director, Art of the Rural, discussed their own successful creative placemaking projects, from reimagined neighborhoods in urban Cleveland and Columbus to rural towns and villages across the U.S. transformed by arts and cultural engagement.

The day began with Pecha Kucha-style presentations from Tim Peacock, executive director, Stuart’s Opera House in Nelsonville; Susan Gottlieb, curator and organizer, Zanesville Prize for Contemporary Ceramics; and Denise Rehg, vice president of development, Columbus Association for the Performing Arts. Speakers engaged the audience with stories and discussion about how cultural institutions–large and small, established and unconventional–connect people and build strong communities.

Breakout sessions focused on the nuts and bolts of how to create, maintain, and grow a healthy arts and cultural community. Experts from both sides of the funding equation discussed how to navigate funding sources and build strong advocacy networks in their communities.
Sessions included:

  • Financing Arts and Culture: Challenges, Opportunities, and Pitfalls, with Hugh Grefe, ‎senior executive director at Local Initiatives Support Corporation (Toledo); Jason Rittenberg, research & resources coordinator, Council of Development Finance Agencies (Columbus); David Alexander, commercial banking relationship manager for the Eastern Ohio Region of U.S. Bank (Cambridge); and Mark Barbash, executive vice president for strategic initiatives, Finance Fund (Columbus)
  • Organizing and Coordinating Your Proposal with Your Strategic Plan, with Andy Vernhoff, local history coordinator, OHC; and Wendy Zucal, executive director, Dennison Railroad Depot Museum
  • Building a Strong Advocacy Network, with William Blair, legislative counsel, OCA; Tom Katzenmeyer, president, Greater Columbus Arts Council; and Linda Woggon, executive director, OCA
  • Arts and Cultural Facility Funding through the State Capital Bill, with Tom Johnson and Denny Griffith, co-chairs, Capital Arts and Culture Committee; Jeff Westhoven, deputy director, Ohio Facilities Construction Commission; and Stephen George, senior advisor to the CEO, OHC.
  • Fundraising Campaigns and Board Engagement, with Chris Schmenk, board member, and Cara Dingus Brook, president and CEO, Foundation for Appalachian Ohio
  • Ohio Arts Council Resources, with Dan Katona, deputy director, OAC
  • Show Me the Money, with Pat Williamsen, executive director, Ohio Humanities Council

Participants gathered at the end of the day for a discussion about the OAC: Engaging Through Investment and Innovation, led by Donna Collins, OAC executive director, and Dan Katona, OAC deputy director. The interactive session was the culminating event of the OAC’s 2014 Fall Engagement Tour, which was designed to provide the agency with a better understanding of a broad range of Ohioans’ needs. The OAC staff plans on seeing you in 2015 as we travel the state to discover more of Ohio’s arts and cultural treasures!


2 thoughts on “Sustaining Ohio’s Arts and Culture Ecosystem

  1. The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco has dedicated Volume 10, Issue 2 of the “Community Development Investment Review” to creative placemaking.

    Tune in (URL below) live on Wednesday, January 14, at 2:00p.m.PST/5:00 EST for this launch event featuring conversations with leaders in the creative placemaking field.


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