Columbia is growing- in size, in stature, in diversity, in population, in national attention... Many stake holders in many different fields and facets have ushered in this growth (developers, cultural leaders, city and university officials...), and we as a community need to strategically elect representatives moving forward that will ensure we stay on track in sustaining this growth.
I went to the arts forum of City Council candidates at 701 Whaley and had my eyes opened to this fact- to just how necessary it is that I be engaged and active in choosing my community leadership. I generally take a back seat, keep my voting opinions to myself, and let our democratic process carry out, but the forum made me realize I need to be more proactive. Who we select can really make a big difference in our community, and vocalizing our needs and wants can identify shared interests and strengthen our voice, so i've decided to speak up and share my own needs and wants for this city with you all, in hopes that it might highlight some common interests.
I know Andy Smith, socially and professionally. I've watched him grow the Nickelodeon and Indie Grits Festival into national tourist destinations, and affectionately blame him for why I finally decided to leave New York and return to Columbia. I met with him in 2012 when I came to visit my parents for the holidays, and was intoxicated by his enthusiasm for the concept that it's not the location of the city, it's what you make of it that makes a city home.
Knowing him already and knowing what he can do, I was still really impressed with Andy's vision for Columbia. He hit target points of need- developing a cohesive cultural plan for the city, adopting a percent for art program (which allocates 1% of all new construction costs to a public art fund for the city), and identifying how creative place making can benefit multiple fields and industries. His understanding of community and inclusion and his tenacious zeal to make this city a dynamic and fulfilling place to live made him stand out.
His belief in this city's potential is infectious, and I definitely caught it.
I moved back to be a part of this growth, to get the opportunity to have a supporting role in the construction of Columbia's new cultural landscape, to foster diversity, opportunity, and innovation. This is everything that Andy Smith has labored to achieve during his tenure as Executive Director of the Nickelodeon and it is what he will continue to achieve as City Council Member At Large.
If you can vote in the run off on November 17th, read all the material you can on Andy Smith, reach out to ask him questions (he's totally accessible!), and seriously consider voting for him. We need smart, forward-thinking representatives ensuring Columbia's quality of life only becomes more dynamic, rich and fulfilling.
Caitlin Bright is the executive director of the Tapp's Arts Center