Up until 2014 the Word is Art Stage of the Columbus Arts Festival was on an upswing. Many good people volunteered their time and abilities to make the weekend a destination stop for poetry in Columbus during an exciting festival weekend. Poets, storytellers and writers who were not only from Columbus, but from all over the state and represented some of the best literary talent that Ohio had to offer.
Good strong bones had been developed for future festival organizers and committee members to build upon. A solid blueprint had finally begun to form after years of erratic scheduling and committees. While far from perfection, there was a sense that local poetry and literary performances were an event at the festival, and not an afterthought.
Last year, the marrow was sucked out of the bones by a committee that reduced the number of poets on the stage in favor of writing and publication workshops - which are good and fine, but not necessarily at an outdoor festival. The regression in programming quality had begun. Little has changed from last year. In fact it’s much worse. The current schedule on the festival’s website is not complete, but it does not inspire confidence.
This year six poets have been scheduled to read over the course of the weekend. In 2014 over 50 poets graced the stage.The profound drop off in numbers is deliberate. No disrespect is meant to any of the poets who will be performing. There has once again been little promotion for applying to be on the stage or announcements of anyone performing on the Word is Art Stage via social media. All the while the Festival has been tweeting about their 5K and promoting other artists, none of the posts have mentioned a poet or writer.
As an example of the shortcomings of the organizers; this year marks the debut of the Poet Laureate in Ohio. He lives in Dublin, is local to Columbus and he was not contacted to read by anyone associated with the festival. This would have been a golden programming coup, if the committee had the intent of promoting Ohio poetry.
It can no longer be considered a missed opportunity, but a failure by the Columbus Arts Festival organizers to recognize or develop any effort in publicizing those appearing on the Word is Art stage. A failure due to a lack of respect of poetry by the executive committee of the festival. Add nepotism and hubris as probable causes of the dismantling of successful programming, then it becomes obvious that once solid bones have been decidedly broken. New structure is needed, once again, to rebuild an sound and vital cultural arts tradition that the Columbus Arts Festival has disconnected from its visitors.