By Marilyn Delk
GREENVILLE—Ronald Reagan once said that the most terrorizing words in the English language are “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” Although there is some truth behind this statement, it is obvious that Ronald Reagan never met with the Ohio Arts Council. Rather than fear any contact with the CAO and its staff, the Darke County Center for the Arts and many other arts organizations in our state welcome the agency’s benevolent interference in their operations. Politicians, government officials and legislators on all sides understand the value of the Ohio Arts Council, and therefore can be counted on to ensure that substantial funds are made available for the fulfillment of the OAC’s mission: to fund and support quality artistic experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally and economically.
Funding from the Ohio Arts Council comprises a tiny portion of Ohio’s budget, but produces an excellent return on the state’s investment. Ohio’s arts sector supports nearly 290,000 jobs, contributing nearly $41 billion to the state’s economy. Arts education helps students achieve better learning outcomes, with research showing that low-income high school students without arts credits are five times less likely to graduate than those exposed to the arts. In our economy fueled by innovation, education that includes the arts produces critical thinkers and problem solvers, workers who are attractive to employers. Ohioans understand the value of investing in the arts, with 91% of respondents supporting public funding of arts programs and projects, thereby supporting OAC’s mission and purpose.
The Darke County Arts Center receives funding through the CAO’s Sustainability Grants Program, which essentially supports everything DCCA does through its Artist Series Concerts, Coffeehouse Series Shows, its family theater performances and arts-in-education programs; in 2021-2022, DCCA received $10,790 from this program to subsidize necessary expenses. In addition, the OAC’s much-coveted and praised Ohio Touring Artists Program has provided the DCCA with 33% of Ohio-sanctioned artist fees ($12,598 this year), allowing our small, underserved rural community to afford the presentation of prestigious bands such as the Toledo Symphony Orchestra.
Other OAC programs benefiting our community include funding obtained by Mississinawa Valley art teacher Ashley Austerman, allowing her students to work on diverse and awe-inspiring projects that continue to impact lives. Three years ago, OAC funds enabled MV students to make quilts that now grace the walls of Wayne Hospital. a year later, Mississinawa art students created and installed a mural honoring their community’s heritage and ultimately sprucing up a previously unappealing underpass leading to Union City. Over the past year, student projects have appropriately illuminated the MV Gymnasium in an awe-inspiring exhibition in which ‘light’ has been explored as metaphor, physical phenomenon and artistic resource. Another asset produced by the MV projects is that the latter two have brought Timothy Wells into our community as a guest artist endowed with the CAO; Tim’s visit benefits our community to this day as he continues to offer his guidance and expertise in helping DCCA develop the Darke County Art Trail.
The Ohio Arts Council was established in 1965 with funds from the Ohio Legislature and the National Endowment of the Arts to foster and encourage the development of the arts and help preserve Ohio’s cultural heritage. Since then, the OAC has fulfilled this mission successfully, arousing the envy and admiration of the whole country.
More recently, OAC has demonstrated that the arts can and do heal by working to counter the negative impact experienced by the arts community during the COVID-19 pandemic, implementing several initiatives to help artists and organizations artists as they struggle to survive. The Darke County Center for the Arts is truly grateful for the assistance provided over the years by this accessible and helpful public agency, whose assistance ultimately makes possible the fulfillment of DCCA’s mission to present and promote the arts, encouraging cultural enrichment in our community.