Columbus chosen for National Endowment of the Arts grant

Published 4:43 pm Thursday, August 1, 2013

“We’re celebrating the heritage and artistic gifts that already exist here, and reinforcing our number one priority of Columbus as a wonderful place to live,” Kryzenske said.

Each town chosen for the grant awards must have a population less than 2,000 people and a strong heritage. Handmade in America facilitates economic development through support of the arts and crafts of the area, and some seeds of revitalization have begun to take root.

For example, Janelle Wienke, community economic development director for HIA, has started a partnership with Isothermal Community College to encourage entrepreneurship in the arts, so local artists and musicians can learn to make money from doing what they love. The grant opens an opportunity for community members to decide what will work best for Columbus and to initiate the flowering of that vision.

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“It’s so much fun,” Kryzenske said. “No two community identities are the same. We support 14 small towns in 11 counties.”

Every community focuses on something different, and Columbus residents will work together to choose how to actualize revitalization. Projects in other places have included community murals, streetscape plans, public cleanup and beautification, burying power lines and creation of special events celebrating community heritage and the arts.

“We’ll be calling on folks to share their voices, and we will need manpower,” Kryzenske said

Greg Walker Wilson, interim director of Handmade in America, expressed unbridled enthusiasm for partnership with Columbus on developing the resources that exist here.

“HIA’s programs drive tourism, revitalize small towns, broaden markets, and create job opportunities by emphasizing Western North Carolina’s unique cultural assets and distinction as the cradle of craft,” Wilson said. “We are thrilled to receive one of the NEA Our Town grants and look forward to working together.”