Franklin County, OH: The Arts Shine Brightly

Guest post by Marilyn Brown, Franklin County Commissioner (OH)

There is no debating it: 450,000 is a whole lot of people.  That’s enough to fill Ohio State’s massive football stadium four times over.  But they didn’t come for OSU Buckeye football, they came for the arts!

2017’s annual Arts Festival in downtown Columbus drew 450,000 people as we celebrated the artists, musicians, dancers, and food that makes Franklin County a beautiful and vibrant place to live, visit, and experience.  We are immensely proud of our arts and culture in Franklin County because we know that the arts are a critical factor in the vitality of any community.  Our community is shining.

We know that the arts are an economic engine for our region.  According to a recently released study from Americans for the Arts, the nonprofit arts and cultural sector in the greater Columbus region annually supports nearly 15,000 jobs and generates over $412 Million in economic activity.  Those jobs support our families, and those dollars support critical government programs and services for our residents.

Here in Franklin County, we invest in art that makes our community more vibrant, including beautiful installations in public buildings.  I am particularly proud of the collections of local artworks in our new courthouse and our state-of-the-art convention center.  Quality public art enriches every space and every place.

It is our commitment to public art that drives our commitment to making our beautiful arts institutions accessible to everyone in the community.  Our beautiful, award-winning, recently-expanded Columbus Museum of Art is free every Sunday for our entire community to appreciate.  We have so many public arts festivals that I quickly lose count, the vast majority of which are also free to the public (Arts Fest being but one of many).  

This is especially important for our children as we inspire and support young artists and celebrate arts education for our next generations.  Through our commitment, we are creating adults who value and appreciate the arts because they deserve the quality of life that comes from living and partaking in a vibrant community.

Annually Franklin County Commissioners celebrates our “High School Artists and Scholars.”  In partnership with our 16 public school districts, we take time to recognize talented students from across the county for their unique accomplishments in the studio, on stage, and in the classroom.  “Sports kids” frequently receive attention, but we know that the “arts kids” will make an outsized impact on our community… if we are wise enough to recognize and encourage their gifts. This recognition program is one close to my heart!

As America’s third city of fashion, we are home to outstanding institutions such as the Columbus College of Art & Design and fashion juggernaut L Brands.  Yes, we have shopping and boutiques galore and we invite you to come discover what makes us so fashionable.  But we don’t have to dress it up, Franklin County is vibrant and we shine.


Marilyn Brown is a member of the Arts & Culture Commission for the National Association of Counties (NACo).