Columbus Arts District Receives Official State Designation

The Columbus Arts District has earned official state designation as an Indiana Cultural District, recognizing the significance of the city’s rich collection of arts, architecture, entertainment and cultural offerings, and its vision for the future. The designation, announced Friday, December 7, by the Indiana Arts Commission, makes the Columbus Arts District one of only five official Indiana Cultural Districts in the state, and along with Nashville, the first to receive the designation since 2009.

Mayor Kristen Brown’s larger vision is to expand arts and cultural offerings across the Columbus community and provide opportunities for every adult and child in Columbus to participate in a wide-ranging variety of accessible art, culture and entertainment.

“We are deeply honored to receive this designation from the Indiana Arts Commission,” Mayor Brown said. “This recognition serves as great validation of our tremendous collection of cultural assets we have today, and of our long-term vision to be the cultural and creative capital of the Midwest.”

An Indiana Cultural District is a well-recognized, labeled, mixed-use area of a community in which high concentrations of cultural assets serve as the anchor. Indiana Cultural Districts promote the exploration of and participation in the arts and humanities through unique cultural experiences that support community life and economic vitality.

The Columbus Arts District, located in Downtown Columbus, encompasses more than 360 arts programs and cultural assets within four corridors focused on attracting, growing, shaping and engaging the public. The Commerce Corridor is located primarily on Washington Street and spans 15 blocks north and south within the Arts District. The Arts and Education Corridor can be found along Jackson Street with major assets such as the Indiana University Center for Art+Design Columbus, the YES Cinema independent movie theatre and the Jacksson Contemporary Art Gallery. Fifth Street is home to the Architecture Corridor and is recognized as one of the most architecturally significant streets in America. Fourth Street, which has received a major makeover to become an urban events and pedestrian plaza, features the Entertainment Corridor. 

The official state designation provides significant opportunity for marketing, promotion, and potentially leveraging resources through various partnerships. While no funding is associated with the Indiana Cultural District designation, benefits of the program include Columbus being showcased in statewide marketing as an arts and culture tourist destination, increased economic activities that come with being part of a branded program with a statewide emphasis, a potential collaboration with the Indiana Artisan program, and the opportunity to apply for interstate signage.

The Mayor’s Arts and Culture Advisory Committee, led by Karen Shrode, John Burnett and Jack Hess, drafted a strategic plan for the Columbus Arts District, which was created with public input and submitted as part of the application for designation to the Indiana Arts Commission.

The Indiana Arts Commission selected the Columbus Arts District and Nashville to designate as Indiana Cultural Districts from a total of seven applicants. The Columbus Arts District application received high scores from a review panel, and the Indiana Arts Commissioners unanimously voted to recognize the Arts District based on the scope, strength and sustainability of its cultural assets and programs.

“The efforts of many individuals were critical to the success of our application and, once again, Columbus demonstrated what it does so well—working together on a common goal for the greater good of our City,” said Karen Shrode, executive director of the Columbus Area Arts Council and chairwoman of the Mayor’s Arts and Culture Advisory Committee. “This is a great day for the Arts!”

Mayor Brown noted the excellent work of the Arts and Culture Advisory Committee in helping the city receive statewide recognition.

“This team of people deserves our heartfelt gratitude,” Mayor Brown said. “They brought life to our vision of a Columbus Arts District, and their hard work was vital to our city receiving the Indiana Cultural District designation.”

The Indiana Cultural Districts program was established in 2008, and the Indiana Arts Commission voted to designate three initial communities into the program in December 2009. With the designation announced Friday, the Columbus Arts District and Nashville join the recognized districts in Bloomington, Carmel and Lafayette/West Lafayette as Indiana Cultural Districts.

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