First, of the full house of individuals gathered there, filling up the tables and bar and jockeying for standing space on the open floor, not only was every single arts discipline represented, but almost every single arts organization in town, large or small, was represented as well. Dancers, visual artists, filmmakers, photographers, theatre artists, writers, musicians, and poets – and more than a handful of head honchos of our leading arts organizations – were all there.
But next, and even more importantly, in a place known for its noise and the rumble of hearty conversation, the only sound that could be heard was that of Andy Smith’s voice as he answered questions on the many ways he can envision improving the lives and work of Columbia artists – and backing up his visions with workable, well thought-out plans.
It was almost thrilling to hear him talk about the dreams many of us have about the future of the arts in our city and realize that, if we elect him, it can be the beginning of making those dreams a reality.
I was there the day the seed of running for office was planted in Andy Smith’s mind. A few of us from the arts community had been gathered in the office of Larry Hembree, when he was still at Trustus, to help another candidate (who is still running) come to some understanding about the arts in Columbia. While this candidate, a good man and possibly my second or third choice for the seat, spoke about the arts in his life mostly involving grandchildren in weekly classes and the occasional trip to see a film at the Nick, it became obvious that the idea of the arts being any part of life – much less the measure of life itself as it is to someone who makes their living as an artist or arts administrator – was foreign to him.
Andy seemed to realize this, too.
While Andy had spent years thinking about ways of improving our city and the major role the arts would play in the machinery that makes a city great, this candidate was on another track entirely and was just at that point beginning to ask if the arts were even important. Try as we might, I don’t think we convinced him they were. And are.
I noticed the difference between Andy and the other candidates again when I attended the City Council Arts Forum that One Columbia hosted a couple weeks ago at 701 Whaley. Once again, candidates spoke about the arts in terms of children’s dance recitals and the one time they took their grandchildren to see The Nutcracker. It didn’t seem to dawn on the candidates that they were speaking to a room almost 100% full of artists, arts administrators, and members of boards of directors for arts organizations.
Until Andy Smith spoke.
Andy spoke about the development of a Cultural Plan for the city which would build the development of the arts into both a flow chart of city improvement as well as a budget for getting it done. He talked about the city investing in its arts and artists both financially and philosophically. He discussed the importance of reforming Hospitality Tax policies, creating incentives for property owners to provide affordable space for artists and new arts organizations in under-resourced communities, and working with school board officials to make the arts a larger and more valued part of public education. And perhaps most importantly, Andy Smith talked then and continues to talk about ways to bolster artists of color and more meaningfully support non-profit organizations led by people of color.
And people listen.
That’s why it is with so much pleasure that Jasper Magazine – The Word on Columbia Arts offers our endorsement of Andy Smith for the Columbia City Council At- Large Seat in the election on November 3rd.
The election of Andy Smith to City Council means more than just seeing our colleague in a position of power from which he will so thoughtfully help govern.
It means the beginning of a paradigm shift in the way our city council approaches growth, development, and quality of life.
It means recognition of the integral role the arts play in building the type of community we want to work, live, and raise children in.
It means a future in which our artists are valued, applauded, and paid for their contributions to culture.
I invite you to join me in supporting Andy Smith for Columbia City Council and helping spread the word about the difference Andy can make in the future of the city we call home. Vote on November 3rd and make sure your friends, families and neighbors vote.
Cindi Boiter is the founder and editor-in-chief of Jasper Magazine - The Word on Columbia Arts, and the 2014 recipient of the Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Governor's Award for the Arts.
More information on Andy Smith is here.