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City helps arts organizations

The CCLC initially sought $1 million from the Columbus City Council, Franklin County Commissioners and corporate sponsors as part of its Thrive in Five initiative. Arts leaders hope the initiative will financially stabilize arts organizations while they work towards a long- term solution to increase financial support.

The city is required by law to pledge 30% of its hotel-room tax to arts funding. The CCLC received $700,00 from Columbus City Council as part of its 2008 budget amendments.

Councilman Kevin Boyce says more than $350 million of the city's economy is generated by Columbus' creative community. He says an economic review committe will be set up to anayze future arts funding which could mean a change in the law.

Press Southworth, director of Opera Columbus, is the consortium's leader. He says if county and corporate sponsors match the city's support, the CCLC will have $2.8 million dollars to allocate to its organizations. He says the symphony could receive about $1.1 million. That's the largest chunk of funds but still not enough to make up for the symphony's projected budget shortfall. The board recently came up with a plan to cut about two dozen musicians and shorten the performance season to make up for the deficit. Southworth says that plan will still proceed and, along with the CCLC funds, will help the symphony stabilize for now.

"That's partly what this funding will do is help them keep the symphony going while they implement the plan which is a reasonable plan going forward for keeping the symphony here in Columbus," he said.

Buzz Trafford is the chairman of the symphony board. He says even though the symphony will absorb a large part of the projected funds, they may not be the only arts organization in need of emergency funds.

"The symphony's plight today could be some other arts group's plight tomorrow," he said.

In recent years, the Columbus Symphony faced dwindling corporate sponsorship due to unstable finances. Trafford says the Thrive in Five initiatives is a better approach for soliciting corporate support.

"I think they for a long time have thought that the various arts groups ought to collaborate and come together," he said. "So I think they welcome this and I think they would reach out to encourage it."

Steven Anderson is the artistic director for the Phoenix Theater for Children a smaller organization within the consortium. If the CCLC receives its targeted amount of support the theater will receive about $40,000. Even though this amount is significantly less than what the Columbus Symphony could receive, Anderson says the arts community is dependent on keeping the symphony financially afloat.

"We all rise or fall on the same tide," he said. "It happens that right now the symphony is in grave need. That's no surprise to anyone, but that's how we agreed it would move forward."

Sixteen cultural organizations including COSI, BalletMet and the Franklin Park Conservatory make up the consortium.