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200Columbus Wrap-up: The Bicentennial Celebration

Walker Evans Walker Evans 200Columbus Wrap-up: The Bicentennial Celebration
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Bicentennial Birthday Cake - Photo by Jennifer René Photography

On January 1st, the 200Columbus bicentennial celebration officially ended, but the spirit of the program was designed to live on. We caught up with bicentennial organizers Jamie Green, Mike Brown and Sarah Bongiorno to find out their thoughts on how well the various 200Columbus events were attended, how the message of collaboration was received and what we can take forward with us into 2013 to carry on with the positive momentum created last year.

WE: How did the 200Columbus initiative go over as a whole? Did the various events, celebrations and programs go as planned, and was it all well received by the general public?

Jamie Greene: 200Columbus was conceived to be a platform for any individual or organization to advance their interests in the context of the Bicentennial. It was exciting and gratifying to see so many take initiative to celebrate Columbus in their unique way.

Mike Brown: It is important to note that it was decided — with great intention — that this not be one big party or event, but instead be a more subtle celebration, with touches among thousands of events in schools, libraries, neighborhoods, festivals, districts and partner events. People who take action and choose to be a part of something have great power, and we saw an amazing exercise of collective ambition during 2012. There were a few big parties, but we are really pleased with the great breadth of engagement and the pride that we saw in thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds as we celebrated our past, present and future potential.

WE: What did 200Columbus accomplish this year in terms of raising awareness about the history and future of the City of Columbus?

JG: In terms of broad, local awareness, we left positive impressions with hundreds of thousands of people through the media campaigns, web, and our presence at festivals and events. These positive impressions in the minds of residents will help them be better ambassadors in the future. If we all walk with a bit more confidence, or as the Mayor says “swagger”, it is a huge long-term benefit.

There were also targeted local awareness efforts. 200Columbus partnered with dozens of local groups to enhance or add special elements of the year to their existing events… JazzMoves, the work of Columbus Historical Society, idUS… this increased collaboration is one of the great legacies of the year and will not end with 200Columbus.

The collaborations are critical to the work of Experience Columbus, Chamber, Columbus Partnership, GCAC and other groups in advancing the Columbus story nationally. This community worked together like never before and is continuing that effort going into 2013. 200Columbus also helped test and refine the “story” of a Smart and Open community, which was part of the plan from the beginning of 200Columbus.

WE: Moving forward into 2013 and beyond, what specific pieces of 200Columbus will have an ongoing component?

JG: There is great enthusiasm for idUS to become an annual program. The collaborators (CCAD, Wexner Center, COSI, TechColumbus, OSU’s Fisher College of Business, Center for Architecture and Design, etc.) who were involved in 2012 have been meeting since October at Battelle to plan idUS 2013. They have targeted Columbus Day Weekend and some have selected dates and booked venues, including: Innovate Columbus (October 9), TEDxYouth (October 10) and TEDx Columbus (October 11). In addition, we have other organizations and individuals that want to join in 2013. Like 200Columbus, idUS is intended to be a platform for the celebration of innovation and design. As it grows, it will advance economic prosperity through building local and attracting national, if not global, attention to the creativity of central Ohio. The collaborators overwhelmingly have expressed the desire to build on this experience and work together on the 2013 version of idUS. If we can gain sustained financial support, idUS is destined to be a legacy of the Bicentennial.

WE: It sounds like idUS went over well in its first year then. Now that we’re looking back at it from a few months out, what challenges were faced in its first year and what do you think worked better than expected? Were there any big surprises?

Sarah Bongiorno: The initial assessment is that idUS realized — if not exceeded — the expectations. This first year could be described as a grassroots effort. Many people, organizations and institutions that were already planning events jumped on board with idUS and it evolved in an organic and authentic way. As one of the collaborators put it “we played well in the sandbox together.” This was emblematic of the community spirit in 2012: unprecedented collaboration. As a collection of independently produced events that shared the idUS umbrella brand and marketing effort, it allowed for autonomy as well as support from idUS through 200Columbus. However, a goal has been set for idUS 2013 that it go beyond merely partnering to a more true definition of collaboration.

The biggest challenge was getting people to understand what idUS was and how they could participate, since it was an entirely new event and therefor unfamiliar to the general public. But even as challenging as that was, there was still great turnout at all the events. It will take time for idUS to have a true following and become a household name in Columbus. But if the first year is any indication of what is to come, idUS will continue to build its solid first year reputation and will continue to attract people from Columbus, the region and across the nation who are interested in innovation and design.

The real surprise was just how strong the collaborative spirit was amongst the idUS collaborators and partners. Everyone involved felt a sense of support and confidence from being a part of idUS. This was not only evident in how successful the first year was, but also can be attributed to just how enthusiastic everyone was to starting planning 2013 only a few short weeks after idUS 2012 ended.

WE: Can you share any teasers as to what we might expect for idUS 2013?

JG: While idUS in 2012 was basically a successful experiment, 2013 with be the transition year and set the stage for more sustained structure in 2014 and beyond.

SB: idUS 2013 will be more highly curated, you can expect the addition of a few more players, and everyone will be collaborating at a much higher level through more targeted programmatic coordination. idUS will also be promoted outside the Columbus market to build an external audience.

WE: What can you tell us about “Revealed: Columbus”, the new photo book that chronicles the past year of celebration?

JG: The book is intended to capture the-year-in-the life of this smart and open community. It is rare for us to celebrate ourselves. We are too humble at times. This book documents this rare moment. It features the work of 25-plus photographers, led my Megan Leigh, in 200 pages (of course!) in eight chapters like, We Create, We Care, We Embrace, We Celebrate, etc. One of key divers of 200Columbus is that we needed to reveal the authentic and powerful assets of the community. The book memorializes the revealing that took place this and, hopefully, inspires more revealing (and sharing!) in the future.

The book can be pre-ordered at shop.200columbus.com. And please take note that 2,000 of the 3,000 copies have already been sold.

WE: Anything else 200Columbus related we should keep in mind for 2013?

JG: A program is in the works for February 14th that will serve as a reflection of the year (the book will be “revealed”!) and sharing of how to continue the great momentum of 200Columbus.

More information can be found online at www.200columbus.com.

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