State of the arts in Columbia

Mar 22, 2012

Columbia’s arts and culture crowd gathered for an arts town hall meeting Wednesday night.

The lobby of Orr Street Studios is packed: every folding chair is occupied and people keep trailing in, standing at the back of the room or sitting on the floor.

Chris Stevens, the city’s new manager of the Office of Cultural Affairs, is presenting “the state of the arts” in Columbia. He reviews how the department nurtures local artists and cultural organizations and discusses current issues the office is facing. These include searching for a new cultural affairs specialist and dealing with a potential $12,00 shortfall next year.

Then he opens it up to the floor.

“What do you feel is the temperature of the arts in Columbia, where do you think we stand? So anybody pipe in, tell me what you think…"

"One of the concerns that I think comes up for me is just awareness and access to information,” says an audience member.

A lot of the talk centers around better marketing to get more participation in the arts—everything from working with the convention and visitors bureau to creating a master calendar of events.

It was Lindsay Akens' first meeting. She’s an art coordinator for the city’s C.A.R.E. program as well as an advisor at MU’s Craft Studio. She says she was energized to see a roomful of people there to support the arts.        

“I think when people realize how they can be supportive that’s the key to keeping arts alive you know anywhere especially in Columbia. That’s my mission and message I think.”

Stevens says his first priority is to fill the open position, something he hopes will be completed by early May. And then?

“Show up for the arts, that’s gonna be my new theme—showing up for the arts. Take a chance: go see the ballet, go see a play, walk into a gallery, don’t be intimidated by the arts, show up because you’ll be glad once you did.”