Imagining America Ohio State University Exchange

On Friday, November 21, 2008, representatives from the University of Alabama and Tuscaloosa City leaders had the opportunity to visit Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. The exchange was sponsored in part by an Imagining America grant for the two universities to study arts engagement mechanisms and town-gown relations at the sister institution. Representatives had visited Tuscaloosa in April 2008 to explore the student-centric model of the University of Alabama's Creative Campus Initiative.  The Tuscaloosa delegation visited Columbus especially to explore the ways OSU has embedded its arts programs within the urban environment Columbus offers.  Some stops on the one day tour included the newly formed OSU Arts Initiative, Humanities Institute, Short North District, the Wexner Center, North Market and the OSU Urban Arts Space. The traveling party consisted of CC Executive Director Dr. Hank Lazer, CC Coordinator Alexis Clark, CC Intern Stephanie Summer, Director of New College Jim Hall, and Vice Chancellor of UA System Communications Kellee Reinhart.  Additionally, Tuscaloosa city representatives on the exchange were Councilwoman Cynthia Almond, representative to the Alabama State Council of the Arts and gallery owner Jim Harrison, III, and Tuscaloosa's Economic Development Coordinator Theresa Lewis.  These officials gained insight towards possibilities associated with the Culture Builds initiative of the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce and were able to see how close relationships with the university can benefit city infrastructure first hand.  University entities in Columbus have enlivened dilapidated spaces and breathed life into otherwise overlooked opportunities.

One of the first tangible outcomes of the UA/OSU exchange was the enhancement of the already existing Artrageous Riverfront Arts Tour.  This once a month tour offers patrons a free trolley ride to visual art galleries from downtown Tuscaloosa to Northport venues across the river. The Short North District's version of the same successfully integrated non-arts businesses into the tour action by encouraging them to offer live music and other activities in conjunction with gallery crawl nights.  Since the trip, Creative Campus interns have identified student musicians to perform live music at downtown restaurants and in front of other businesses to enhance the Artrageous Tour street scene.  The addition of musicians not only enlivens the atmosphere for passers-by, but invites student participation in this often overlooked gem in Tuscaloosa's rich arts scene.