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Information about Music/Artist Performances at The Arts Festival

Home Forums General Columbus Discussion Art & Artists Information about Music/Artist Performances at The Arts Festival

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    Walker Evans
    Walker Evans

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    The Greater Columbus Arts Council believes in supporting artists. Through the Arts Council grant programs we provide touring assistance, professional development and supply grants, fellowship programs, and a paid street performer program. As producer of the Columbus Arts Festival our goal is to provide a diverse and free arts experience for everyone in the community.

    The Arts Festival is completely privately supported. There are no public funds in the Festival. Even with corporate sponsorships and food and artist vendor fees, the Arts Festival starts every year at a financial loss. Our only other revenue streams, which depend on weather and attendees, are beverage, concession and souvenirs sales. If it rains, we lose money (sometimes a lot). If the weather is fine, and our promotions bring in the hundreds of thousands of people as we have in the past, we make money and the Arts Council invests those funds in arts, artists and arts education programming in the community.

    When the Festival moved to the Discovery District, possible locations for music stages were lost and, with the exception of the Club stage which remained for one more year in 2007, only the Main stage existed for musical acts. There were multiple Arts Council and Festival staff transitions over the following years. In 2012 the Festival returned to the Riverfront. With more room, we added the Community stage back in, but with the combination of the cost of the move and multiple budget shortfalls over a series of years, we asked performers to perform for free on the Community stage. During the time the Festival has been back on the Riverfront the Community stage has remained an unpaid venue.

    In the past five years, we have worked diligently to re-emphasize the “s” in arts by adding a dance stage, and this year a theater stage, the Jazz and Blues Club and Acoustic Lounge. These two new music stages replace the former Community stage—which had become a mix of music, and dance, theater and community groups. We hope these more targeted venues will enhance the experience for Festival goers and for artists.

    The performance application form clearly states that the Main stage is currently the only paid venue, and any performer interested in playing can choose to only accept a spot on the Main stage when they apply. Unfortunately, there are a limited number of spots on the Main Stage and many more applications than we can support on all of the stages. Many performers indicate their desire to play on any of the stages, regardless of compensation.
    We are currently exploring the best funding models for the new stages, with our goal being secure sponsorship and paid contracts with artists. Since these are new venues at the festival, they have not yet attracted sponsorship. Neal McCoy’s performance on the Main stage did not divert any funds available for local performers. His performance is being supported by Worthington Industries, a corporate sponsor with connections to the artist.

    Sponsorship is the ultimate goal. But we also hope that the venues are a success in drawing crowds who stay to enjoy the performances, patronize the bars in those locations, and create enough revenue to cover the costs of production and enable the festival to share revenue between the charitable programs of the Greater Columbus Arts Council and the artists who help us to raise those funds. We do allow CD sales and donation requests at all stages.

    The Arts Council and the Festival are grateful to performers in the community who are willing to lend their talent to help create an amazing free arts experience for our community. But, of course, it is absolutely every performer’s right to choose not to play without compensation.

    Please email us at [email protected] if you would like to continue this discussion. We are happy to continue the dialogue and always welcome creative ideas for generating revenue we can use to support artists.

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