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Columbus Street Performer Program To Begin In April

Beginning this spring, the Greater Columbus Arts Council kicks off its Street Performer program in Columbus. Venues around the city will showcase the talents of singers, mimes, jugglers and performers of all sorts through the end of the year and beyond if the program takes hold. I’m standing at the corner of Hubbard Avenue and High Street in the Short North. Except for the sound of traffic…it’s relatively quiet here now. But beginning next month this corner may be filled with music like this by Joey Hebdo. Hebdo says the Greater Columbus Arts Council program to pay so-called buskers or street performers is a great start to change the cityscape in Columbus. Music, he says, has the power to change perception. “It does a lot of things. It makes it an experience, if you will, as opposed to just going to the place and admiring the architecture or whatever it is you’re admiring in the place. It makes it memorable,â€? Hebdo said. Hebdo is one of nearly one hundred local artists who have signed up for the program so far. Jamie Goldstein of the Greater Columbus Arts Council says the organization has more than twenty-two thousand dollars to start the Street Performer Program.

“We’re going to pay them fifty dollars an hour per performer. They’ll still be able to accept tips,â€? Goldstein explained.

Fifty dollars an hour per performer. GCAC plans to focus first on staging a variety of performances at Port Columbus, the Convention Center, in the Short North during Galley Hop, the Moonlight Market on Gay Street and the Pearl Alley Market. “The Amazing Giants are a specialty Circus Arts Performance Company," explained Jessica Minshall who is part of the company. “We specialize in stilt walking mostly. We also perform with fire, aerial acts, hula hoop, miming, clowns, juggling. You name it. Circus, we do it," she said. Minshall has been able to quit her day job and make a living performing at corporate events and birthday parties. Juggler Evan Smith hopes to one day practice his craft full time. Right now he’s a cameraman for the city of Columbus. But in his free time rides a unicycle and performs with The Just Jugglers, a group founded by his father. So far, he has worked parades, birthday parties and store openings for tips and whatever people are willing to pay.

“I’m hoping to get a job doing performing for different people in Columbus, kind of living out the dream of being a street performer,â€? Smith said.

Smith demonstrates his talent with balls made of metal. “I do like that my juggling is actually being heard right now too. Not a lot of people express their love for juggling in a melodic sense. So that’s pretty cool,â€? Smith said as he juggled. Ruvane Kurland is a full-time singer, songwriter and record producer who plays about 90 gigs a year here and around the country. He’s already booking appearances for December, but Kurland also signed up for the street performer program. He thinks it sets an important bar for buskers. “Playing a club for fifty dollars and free beer that’s hurting the entire community. It’s not just them securing a gig because then the club owner or the venue manager feels that everybody should play for that amount,â€? Kurland said. GCAC’s Jami Goldstein is confident the twenty thousand dollars set aside for the program will last through the year. “We can calculate because certain events happen once a month like the Gallery Hop. We know that there’s going to be a certain amount spent at the Galley Hop,â€? Goldstein explained. The Street Performer program kicks off with Gallery Hop in April.