City of Upper Arlington, Ohio

Permanent Art Collection

Short North Mona-Tennyson Williams
Short North Mona,
Tennyson Williams

"When I was asked to write some introductory remarks for this updated catalogue of the City of Upper Arlington's permanent visual collection, I was flattered. As a resident of Upper Arlington and a member of the Upper Arlington Cultural Arts Commission, I am proud of our City's ongoing support of the arts and of individual artists. The motivation behind producing an updated catalogue was to document the growth of the collection in both number and value since 1997, when the first catalogue was produced. Equally important, however, is the opportunity provided by this catalogue to reaffirm Upper Arlington's commitment to arts, not only for their extrinsic value, but also for their absolute intrinsic value to the community.

At present, the collection is comprised of slightly more than 100 works of art. In 2005, when the collection was last appraised, its value stood at more than $40,000. Several of the oldest pieces have seen the most dramatic increases in value: works by Sid Chafetz, Ann Dewald, John Freeman and Gene Friley have doubled or tripled in value since they were purchased by the city. It should be pointed out that works of art have entered the city's permanent collection in a variety of ways: some as outright purchases by the city, but many have been obtained through purchase grants from foundations or as gifts from private citizens or artists. In fact, over the thirty plus years since the collection was initiated, the city has spent on average less than $500 per year. On the most basic, monetary level, the permanent collection has provided good returns for the community.

However, the permanent collection's primary value lies elsewhere. Upper Arlington residents tend to be fiercely loyal to and proud of our community and its traditions. Our excellent schools and outstanding youth athletics programs form the bedrock of Upper Arlington's public identity. Annual events such as our Fourth of July celebration, which has existed in one form or another since the founding of Upper Arlington, contribute significantly to community spirit and proclaim our pride in our city. The arts, too, have carved out a place in our community, most visibly in the Upper Arlington Labor Day Arts Festival. Measured in terms of attendance, the Labor Day Arts Festival is the only other community event to rival the Fourth of July celebration. Originating as a tiny art fair in 1966, The Upper Arlington Labor Day Arts Festival now attracts as many as 25,000 people and was listed in the February 2007 issue of AmericanStyle Magazine as a "Can't Miss Craft Show." The Upper Arlington Labor Day Arts Festival has arguably attained a greater level of recognition than other nearby suburban art fairs. The community can be justifiably proud of the success of its very public support of the arts.

In much the same way, Upper Arlington's permanent collection demonstrates that our community values the arts. The city began to purchase work in 1976, after the completion of the "new" municipal center in 1973. As stated in the original catalogue of the collection, produced in 1997, "A number of early acquisitions were chosen for specific sites in the Upper Arlington Municipal Services Center. Later, as wall spaces filled up and office spaces expanded, a suitable place to display a work also came into play as a selection criteria." In other words, there was a functional, decorative aspect of those early purchases. However, as it is pointed out in the 1997 catalogue, the new building could easily have been filled with "fine art reproductions, posters, or tasteful prints." The city chose instead to buy original works of art. Just as a well maintained house and yard proclaim pride of ownership, beautified public spaces proclaim that ours is a city with resources, a city that takes care of itself.

The decision to purchase original art for the Municipal Services Center seems to have gone hand in hand with the creation of the Upper Arlington Cultural Arts Commission in 1972. The original City ordinance states that the Commission was founded "in the belief that an interest in the arts is essential to the public welfare in Upper Arlington." One of its primary goals is "to provide ways and means for the arts to serve the residents of the community while they, in turn, advance the arts." Doris Nelson, a founding member of the Commission and the city's first Arts Manager, a position she held from 1977 to 1996, was certainly the guiding light for the early acquisitions. It is easy to see how, from the beginning, the purchase of original works of art was part of the mission of the Cultural Arts Commission: it is a question of putting your money where your mouth is. Through its many ongoing public programs - student and professional art exhibitions at the Municipal Services Center, a program of Artists-in-Residence in the city schools, Arts in Community Spaces, Arts in Work Spaces and a summer concert series featuring both student and professional musicians, to name but a few - the city continues to fulfill the mandate of the Cultural Arts Commission. The ongoing collection of original art is not only part and parcel of Upper Arlington's civic pride and cultural heritage, it is a fulfillment of the city's belief that the arts improve the quality of life for the residents of Upper Arlington. We on the Cultural Arts Commission invite you to make use of this catalogue to explore the City of Upper Arlington's permanent collection, to make your art collection a source of pleasure and inspiration."

Past Cultural Arts Commissioner Marie Wiggins

To preview the Collection catalog, click here.

To download a pdf of the Permanent Collection Brochure, click here

Interested in learning how to add to your own Permanent Collection?

Artsy is a free online platform designed to connect users to art. Artsy's search engine and database draw connections and map relationships among works of art.  Led by Carter Cleveland, computer science graduate from Princeton and Sebastian Cwilich, former executive of Christie's and Haunch of Venison director. Artsy aims “to make all the world’s art accessible to anyone with an internet connection." You can link to Artsy here

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