HOME OF THE MAD HOT TANGO MARATHON
WWW.MADHOTTANGOMARATHON.COM From left: clipping showing a young John Whitehead; season brochure; scrapbook and photo of the original city opera house. Photos by Bonnie Boiter-Jolley
legislative stature in the 1960s, its funding has derived from state, county, and city budget line items, as well as hospitality tax revenue and SC Arts Commission grants. Governance is provided by a board of directors and commissioners appointed by both the City of Columbia and Richland County. When asked about key leaders over the years, Whitehead smiles, and points to dozens of plaques and photos lining the office walls, acknowledging the hundreds of civic leaders and volunteers throughout the organization›s history, but then notes especially the progressive vision of the board in the 1990s, when Thom Jones was President. Whitehead feels that CMFA is now positioned to take their next step. “We count zip codes like everyone else,” he observes, and as a result, knows that the Pulaski Street building was used by more than 22,500 people last year, more than many city facilities. Visitors came from Argentina to Prague to Hong Kong, and from across America; if one were to add up participants and attendees at all affiliate events, the number would surely be well past a hundred thousand. His goal is to be able to upgrade the building›s interior facilities, adding more space for storage, and more space to work on sets, costumes and props. He hopes to add more
rehearsal space, and/or a bigger black box. He wants to be able to host more events like one in late April, near the end of One Month, One Columbia, where all the dance groups in town came together at the CMFA ArtSpace to perform excerpts from shows. As he describes his vision for the future, the sounds of classical music echo from the rehearsal hall next to his office, where young dancers are participating in a summer enrichment program. Whitehead is quite happy that Columbia is finally realizing “the strength, the volume, and in particular the economic impact of the arts audience.” He points to teetering stacks of hospitality tax applications, which he reviews in his capacity as committee chair. He realizes, however, that the greater challenge is taking awareness of the arts, as well as hits to websites and followers on social media, and translating that into filling seats and selling tickets. As Columbia literally rose from its ashes more than a century ago, forward-thinking leaders instinctively knew that arts were a vital part of any community›s existence, and strove to create a structure where they might thrive. The Columbia Music Festival Association remains a sterling example of how government can work with citizens for the betterment of all.
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Vol. 002 No. 006