5 questions with Marleen De Bode Olivié

September 15, 2013 

Marleen De Bode Olivié is the Columbus Museum's strategic planning chair and also an art collector, a member of the Georgia Council for the Arts and an advocate for public art.

ROBIN TRIMARCHI — rtrimarchi@ledger-enquirer.com Buy Photo

What are your responsibilities as a member of the Georgia Council for the Arts?

The council is an advisory body of nine members appointed by the governor and serves as a link between the Georgia Council for the Arts, a division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development and the arts community. We are expected to serve as "the face" of GCA in our local community and to represent the best interests of the entire state and make every effort to learn as much as possible about cultural activities on a statewide level.

We are to be an advocate for arts and culture, be familiar with GCA programs and services, participate in the annual grant process, participate in significant GCA events such as the Governor's Award for the Arts & Humanities and be a resource for GCA staff. It is an honor to serve and to represent the Columbus arts community. I still have a lot to learn.

What role should public art play in Columbus?

I love this question! Public art is a perfect way to tell our stories and can help us define our future. Public art is not only sculptures on Broadway. It is much larger and broader.

Just an example: The Chattahoochee River is a major asset for Columbus. Public art performances along the river or on the river, art benches, art interventions on the bridges, integration of art, architecture and landscaping and, yes, sculptures can drastically improve the total experience. It brings us together and gives us a sense of place and pride. Public art is also the perfect tool and opportunity to bring art to a much bigger and broader audience. The public and private sector should work on this together. I think Columbus is ready for it!

You earned your degrees from the University of Antwerp in Belgium. How did you end up in Columbus?

It started with a job opportunity for my husband but the decision to move to Columbus was much more than that. The warmth and friendliness of everyone really touched us. We appreciate the Southern hospitality and it is also wonderful to experience that good manners are not out of fashion here. I personally made my decision after a long walk along the river. Columbus feels authentic and genuine without pretenses. In the meantime we have been living here for almost five years, two of our children have moved here, we made many friends and we still love it!

Some people think the arts world carries a level of elitism. What are you doing to make the arts accessible to a wider sector of the community?

Elitism of the arts world is a common criticism only amplified by the difficult language used by some in the art world. And sometimes the architecture creates a physical threshold. But that should not stop us from enjoying, experiencing and learning about art. I find it fascinating how outspoken and passionate we can be about, for example, the sculptures on Broadway. But when we enter a museum, a gallery, a concert hall we are quiet and insecure about what we see or hear.

In Columbus, fortunately, many arts institutions and organizations offer free admission and create a friendly atmosphere to make the arts more accessible and more inviting.

The key is education! Arts education is not a frivolous luxury but a necessity. It helps us develop so much needed critical thinking skills and creativity. Will you help me to encourage and lobby for arts education for all ages and to make the arts accessible to all? Public art is a perfect tool and have you heard of Artbeat?

What's the best-kept secret in the Chattahoochee Valley?

Artbeat, an annual festival of the arts in Columbus! The festival is coming into its third year in March 2014. It has been growing and 2014 will be even more exciting. It brings the arts -- performances, music, literature, exhibitions, film, public art -- to the streets and makes it accessible to all. It is about experiencing and being involved, not about the institutions. It is about sharing and about tolerance. Artbeat also proves that collaboration truly works.

It's the best-kept secret for now, but hopefully not for much longer.


Name: Marleen De Bode Olivié

Age: 57

Job: Art volunteer

Hometown: Antwerp, Belgium

Current home: Columbus

Family: Husband, Marc, and four children: Catherine, Jan-Willem, Alexander and Claudia

Education: M.S., Applied Economic Sciences

Favorite book: "As I Lay Dying" by William Faulkner

Favorite movie: "Pulp Fiction"

Favorite restaurant: EPIC

Favorite quote: "Creativity is contagious, pass it on." -- Albert Einstein

Best concert attended: The Three Tenors: Plácido Domingo, José Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti

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