Betsy Pandora, Executive Director of the Short North Alliance, allowed Now It’s Dark to pick her brain about the happenings down in the Short North Arts District and her experiences as the head of the SNA.
While I’m well aware of a lot of the significant work the Short North Alliance does in the arts community, I decided to go about this interview as if I’d never been to the Short North in order to coax out all the information that an out-of-towner might desire. It turns out that they have a hand in much more than I had previously been aware. From organizing local events to commissioning public artwork, the Short North Alliance makes an enormous difference to the Short North community.
What does the Short North Alliance do?
The Short North Alliance is a 501c3 non-profit organization that serves the business and property owners in the Short North Arts District. Our mission is to promote a vibrant business, residential and cultural community and to promote the Short North Arts District as a regional and national destination through advocacy, public realm improvements, arts and cultural community engagement, creative marketing and programming and resource development. From managing shortnorth.org, creative events like Gallery Hop and promotional initiatives for the business community, to leading a team of ambassadors to promote a clean and safe neighborhood and advocating for policies which improve parking and transportation – we accomplish a lot of diverse projects in order to keep the Short North Arts District vibrant.
When was it formed?
The Short North Alliance was formed in 2012 through the merger of the former Short North Business Association and Short North Special Improvement District.
If you had to choose one of your accomplishments since your start as Executive Director of the SNA in 2013, which would it be?
At present, I think I am most proud of the collaborative work that the Short North Alliance has been leading with our exciting community of gallery owners. In January of this year we launched Start with Art, a new promotional campaign lighting the countless and diverse arts experiences visitors and locals alike can have on any given day of the week in the Short North Arts District. Stay tuned for engaging videos, promotions, events and public art projects rolling out throughout 2015.
Are there any major roadblocks the Short North is currently facing?
The Short North Arts District continues to grow and thrive. New businesses and buildings open at what feels like a constant pace. As we continue to grow, parking and transportation access in, out and around the district need to be a priority for improvement. 2014 alone saw the addition of a new parking garage (on the heels of one that opened in late 2013) and one that broke ground and will open later this year as well as the near completion of a neighborhood-wide parking study and the addition of the CBUS circulator from COTA. Parking and transit improvements are here with many more to come.
How many businesses are involved with the SNA?
Businesses located within our special improvement district boundary receive the full suite of our services and businesses outside of that boundary can participate in our Friends of the Short North program where they receive marketing benefits. Overall we serve about 255 businesses within the Short North Arts District and over 600 individual property owners.
Whats the next big thing for SNA?
The Short North Alliance has been a huge champion for improving the public realm in the Short North Arts District. From dynamic and exciting public art projects to comprehensive streetscaping, the next big thing for the SNA in 2015 and beyond will be an increased focus on the hardscape that you see on High Street.
The HighBall has been a big success for a few years now, do you have any insight on the key to its success?
HighBall is incredible. What began as a big idea to showcase just how unique of a community we have here in the Short North Arts District has grown into a gigantic celebration which has achieved national accolades both this and last year. Truly, the way in which our community has embraced HighBall as something special to both the Short North Arts District and Columbus is one key factor to its successes. I think the other is how authentic of an event it is. People come far and wide to transform themselves on High Street or to take in the spectacle that surrounds them, on stage and on the street. No other event mixes those elements as well as HighBall does.
What should visitors expect to see at HighBall this year?
We’re just getting under way with 2015 planning and there are already some really big ideas being proposed for our 8th year of HighBall. Dates are Oct. 23 to 24, 2015 and visitors can expect the nation’s fiercest costume party to again up the ante on programming and experience.
Are there any new festivals planned for the Short North in the coming year?
We’re already home to so many great ones – I think we’re in good company with all that we presently have. As we continued to develop larger, more high profile public art projects, I can foresee more individual events tied specifically to them. But, nothing new for 2015.
The Short North features a slew of galleries, boutiques, restaurants and bars. Are there any establishments or public offerings that you feel are missing or that you’d like to see more of?
We have such vibrant night life but would love to see more daytime activity during the weekdays in the District. More offices, including business and professional services help to fuel a daytime presence, which in turn supports all of our retail shops, restaurants and galleries. We’ve started to see those opportunities already develop and I think we will continue to see more.
If you could say one thing to all first time visitors to the Short North before their visit, what would that be?
The Short North Arts District is in many ways the perfect embodiment of Columbus. We house some of our city’s most creative entrepreneurs, diverse arts experiences, incredible food and nightlife, outstanding festivals and celebrations and a strong and allied LGBT community … all in one of the most walkable, visually exciting and transit-connected areas of our region.
We are the art and soul of Columbus.
About Eli Rousculp
Eli Rousculp writes reviews, articles and photographs for NID Magazine.