Indy-art-loving lawyer pays studio rent for artists

December 22, 2008

Part of the mission at Harrison Center for the Arts is to cultivate new patrons, but Executive Director Joanna Taft has always imagined the work would pay off in the distant future, as graduates of the arts-heavy Herron High School achieve financial success.

After receiving an unusual gift from Indianapolis lawyer Paul Hunt, Taft is thinking there might be more patrons like him right under her nose.

Earlier this fall, Hunt stopped by the center to buy art for his office. He told Taft he wanted to help more artists, possibly by paying the rent on their studios.

Hunt recently decided to pay seven months' studio rent for artists Quincy Owens and Elizabeth Guipe-Hall, a sponsorship worth $2,100.

"It was something we thought we'd see in 10 years," Taft said. "It wasn't even our idea."

Hunt, a partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP who practices intellectual property law, said he buys a few paintings or sculptures a year, usually from local artists.

"I just simply think supporting the arts at all levels is important," he said. "I want to give somebody a little bit of economic peace of mind, so they have freedom to explore."

Membership drive underway at Columbia Club

The Columbia Club on Monument Circle has set a membership goal of 2,400 by the year 2013, General Manager Maarten van Wijk said.

The membership drive is part of Project Platinum, begun by van Wijk when he came to the ailing club 20 months ago. At that time, the club's membership of 2,100 was on the decline.

The club now counts about 2,000 members.

"We lost a few more than we gained," van Wijk said.

Supporters of President Benjamin Harrison started the club in 1889, but the traditionally Republican club has diversified its membership base in recent years. It offers meeting space, a ballroom, two restaurants, 97 guest rooms, and fitness facilities.

Van Wijk emphasized that the club continues to attract new faces, even while others drop their memberships for lack of use or because of financial hardship.

"For club numbers, that's not bad at all," he said of the current membership level.

Van Wijk won't be here much longer to implement his turnaround plan. He has accepted a job as general manager of the Hershey Golf Collection and Country Club in Pennsylvania.

"They made me an offer I really couldn't refuse," van Wijk said.

The country club is owned by Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Corp. Van Wijk previously was general manager of the company's four-star Hotel Hershey.

Columbia Club President Gregory Harris announced van Wijk's imminent departure in a Dec. 9 letter to members. Van Wijk's last day is Jan. 23.

"While it is a great disappointment that Maarten is leaving, I am pleased that he has been offered this wonderful career opportunity," Harris wrote.

Harris said that under van Wijk's management, the club has become financially stable and for the first time in years has stopped losing money on its food and beverage service.

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