Columbia (MO) Designated “Creative Community”
By Marie Nau Hunter
April 5, 2010
In his unprecedented 15 years as mayor of Columbia (MO), Darwin Hindman has championed many important and worthwhile causes. Among them has been nurturing Columbias creative industry and arts-oriented tourism. What makes Hindmans support of Columbia arts-based economy particularly significant is the fact that the city just reached the 100,000 population mark in 2009. Programming that is so often associated with a “big city” seems even more significant in a city the size of Columbia.
“I am a firm believer that quality of life issues are vital to Columbias overall success. By supporting the arts, we help ensure that people will continue to choose to live, work, play, learn and do business in our community,” Hindman said.
When Hindman took office in 1995, Columbias Office of Cultural Affairs (OCA) was still a new component of city government, with just two years of operation completed and one employee. Since then, the OCAs budget has nearly tripled and three are on staff to keep pace with the growing programs and services. Columbia remains the only city in Missouri to have an OCA as a component of its municipal government.
With Hindman at the helm, more than $1.1 million of the OCAs budget has been awarded by the city to support local arts organizations programming in fiscal years 1996 to 2010. In this manner, Columbia is the only municipality in Missouri to budget annual funding of arts organizations from its general revenue.
During Hindman’s tenure, a Tourism Development Fund (TDF) was established as a program of the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau. Annually, TDF awards are approved by city council, with a total of more than $1.2 million of the hotel/motel tax being allocated to arts organizations since 2000 for arts-related special events, festivals and concert series. The funded activities attract residents and visitors alike.
Just two years after Hindman first took office in 1997, the Columbia City Council established a Percent for Art ordinance. Hindman championed the idea for Percent for Art after he visited other U.S. cities with similar efforts. Since 1997, 12 large'scale publicly accessible works of art have been placed in or are in progress for city parks and buildings, with nearly $700,000 of city capital improvement project budgets committed over the years. Columbia remains one of just two Missouri cities with Percent for Art, and the only one outside of a major metropolitan area.
Hindman’s public support of the arts may be equaled only by that of his wife, Axie. In recent years, Axie has co-chaired a capital campaign to renovate Columbia’s historic Missouri Theater, the main performing arts venue in Columbia and a major anchor in the downtown area. To date, the campaign has raised nearly $10 million.
Not surprisingly, Columbia was named Missouri’s first-ever “Creative Community” in 2007 by the Missouri Arts Council. Missouri’s then-Governor Matt Blunt recognized Hindman with the award at a ceremony held in the rotunda of the state capitol in Jefferson City. Street signs heralding the designation were installed at main entrance points to Columbia shortly after the award was announced.
“The title ‘Creative Columbia’ certainly applies to Columbia,” Hindman said of the award. “We are fortunate to have an abundance of artistic talent, cultural diversity and energetic arts enthusiasts who willingly contribute time, passion and money to the success of our local arts industry.”
When Hindman leaves office this year, many legacies of his leadership will remain. Among them will be a vibrant arts industry that is uniquely supported by city government, and which, in turn, contributes significantly to Columbia’s economy and quality of life.
Marie Nau Hunter is the Cultural Affairs Manager for Columbia (MO).