Art, politics to mix at SC candidates forum in Columbia

Perhaps you have a favorite finger painting by your toddler hanging on the refrigerator or a prized print of Kandinsky’s Yellow-Red-Blue hanging in your living room.

Maybe you spend your evenings relaxing with the likes of Bob Marley or Hank Williams.

Whatever your tastes, you appreciate art in some form.

But while most of us have a favorite painting or style of music, it’s rare that our political candidates are asked about their connections to the arts.

That’s what makes tonight’s Columbia candidates forum so unusual and so worthwhile.

One Columbia for Arts and Culture, the city-backed nonprofit that advocates for the arts in the city, is partnering with The State and the Koger Center to host a city council candidate forum at 7 tonight at the Koger Center on Assembly Street. The event is free and open to the public.

“The arts can add so much to a community including civic engagement,” said Lee Snelgrove, Director of One Columbia for Arts and Culture. His organization maintains an inventory of public art across the city.

At tonight’s forum, candidates will talk about the role arts play in the city’s neighborhoods and in its economy.

Successful art events, for instance, draw visitors to our restaurants and hotels. That means more business and more revenue for the city’s hospitality tax, used to support a variety of local arts organizations.

But the arts are not only a means to driving the economy. Art plays a role in our lives, perhaps more now than ever, as we cope with everything from changing relationships to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Of all the necessities we now feel so keenly aware of, the arts and their contribution to our wellbeing is evident and, in some ways, central to coronavirus confinement for those of us locked in at home,” wrote Louis Netter, Senior Lecturer in Illustration, University of Portsmouth in a 2020 article for The Conversation.

Snelgrove said Columbia has long been home to a vibrant arts community, which makes hosting a political forum with an arts focus so important.

“We have a large number of artists that live and work here,” Snelgrove said. “The arts are a more present part of daily life.”

He pointed to some of the city’s best known public art such as the iconic Tunnelvision mural at 1401 Hampton St. by artist Blue Sky painted in 1974 and 1975 and the monuments that circle the Statehouse on Gervais Street.

“There is a close tie between the city and the arts,” Snelgrove said.

Learn about the candidates and the value they place on arts in the community tonight in person or online on Facebook and YouTube.

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