Downtown Columbus has earned a special Certified Creative District designation from the Nebraska Arts Council that comes with a $250,000 grant to help promote the arts in the area.
Creative Districts are “designated cultural and economic areas where innovation flourishes and neighborhoods come together in the name of art. They provide significant economic impact by creating purposeful spaces like art galleries, theatres, and music venues, attracting employees and businesses,” according to the Nebraska Arts Council.
“It’s a very esteemed honor for Columbus to be an official Creative District,” Columbus Arts Council Executive Director Elley Coffin said. “It takes a lot of work to get that designation and also speaks highly of the direction of growth for the community.”
City of Columbus Planning and Economic Development Coordinator Jean Van Iperen spearheaded the application process, which involved a written explanation of Columbus’ various forms of arts and entertainment, as well as guiding Nebraska Arts Council officials on a tour through the proposed Creative District earlier this year.
The Creative District encompasses all of downtown Columbus while also extending west to 33rd Avenue and including major landmarks like The Platte County Historical Museum, the Kramer Education Center and The Evans House.
“I think it’s going to propel the community forward as far as the arts go. It comes with a very substantial grant amount to help get the district up and going,” Van Iperen said. “I think we will be able to do some good things and make it sustainable for the future."
Van Iperen touted efforts that have been made so far, such as the many murals through downtown, concerts/performances in Frankfort Square and more. She said the grant will help with a planned sculpture walk in the works with the Columbus Arts Council, wayfinding signage and other efforts.
“We are supportive of the arts and we will take steps to embrace the abilities of the people of our community, whether they produce visual art, digital art, sculptures, or do performances, all of that,” Van Iperen. “This is us trying to help them in their professional careers.”
Columbus Mayor Jim Bulkley said the designation was a great achievement for all of the community.
“This is just another arrow in our quiver that allows use to continue addressing the needs of our downtown,” Bulkley said. “Continued improvements are our goal.”
Artzy Haven Owner Kristin Stock was part of the local Creative District committee. She said she believes the designation will do wonders for the community.
“I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for Columbus to highlight and show what Columbus has to offer in terms of the creative arts,” Stock said. “There are so many wonderfully talented people and this will encourage them to get involved. I can’t wait to see where it goes; I look forward to seeing what we have to offer as a Creative District.”
The Nebraska Creative District Program utilizes the arts as an economic driver to support communities in Nebraska by telling their stories and elevating the value of the arts.
Other Nebraska communities that have been designated as Certified Creative Districts include Beatrice, Falls City, Fremont, Nebraska City, Norfolk and Omaha.
The Nebraska Arts Council is a state agency that seeks to promote, cultivate and sustain the arts in Nebraska. The organization in its present form was established in 1974, and is funded by the State of Nebraska, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment.
(ABOUT THE PHOTO: A mural on display in downtown Columbus.)