Reneé and Alex Shumate have been actively involved with the Wexner Center in many ways. Alex, an attorney and the North American managing partner for Squire Sanders, is a member of the Wexner Center Foundation Board of Trustees. Renée, a resource and budget analyst for American Electric Power, is active on the center’s Donor Circles Council advisory group. The couple also established the Shumate Family Endowment for the center in 2011, with a generous gift specifically targeted toward enhancing audience diversity. The Shumates share their impressions of the Wex in this conversation with Katy Reis, senior development officer for individual giving. Excerpts from the conversation appear in the center’s September/October calendar of events.
Katy Reis: What were some of your first impressions of the Wex?
Reneé and Alex Shumate: Our first impression of the Wex was “this place is amazing…and fun!” The atmosphere of the center is sensational. The Wexner Center is a cultural icon in Columbus and we are very fortunate to have a first-class offering for everyone to enjoy.
KR: What do you enjoy most about the center?
R&AS: There is always something new and exciting. The Wexner Center provides everyone in the community the opportunity to participate in world-class events and activities that both inspire you and challenge you to see the world in new and different ways. And of course, the Wexner Center Anniversary Party is one the great social events in the city of Columbus, one that we look forward to every year.
KR: You have generously endowed the Shumate African American Outreach and Engagement Council at the Wexner Center, a council that serves as ambassadors not only for the Wexner Center but for cultural experiences more broadly, who share their enthusiasm with diverse communities. Can you briefly discuss why you chose the Wexner Center to be your cultural partner in this mission?
R&AS: One of the aspects of Columbus we enjoy the most is the sense of inclusion in our community; the priority that is placed on bringing together people of diverse backgrounds for the betterment of the community. The more we became involved in the Wexner Center, the more convinced we became that the Wex could play an even bigger role in furthering that sense of inclusion, drawing people of all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life and from every corner of the community together to understand, enjoy, and appreciate the arts—both for today, and, we hope, for a lifetime.
KR: Reneé, as an active member of the Donor Circles Council, could you discuss your experience and what you found most rewarding about participation in that group?
RS: The most rewarding aspect of my involvement as a member of the Donor Circles Council has been the opportunity to meet and build relationships with an array of extraordinary women. While I am committed to several arts, cultural, and social service organizations in the community, I have to say that my work on the council stands out as a wonderful experience, and I hope to inspire that passion for the Wexner Center in others.
KR: Alex, you serve in many ways at Ohio State including as a member of the university’s Board of Trustees. How does the Wex fit into your overall commitment to giving back to the community?
AS: The vision of the Board of Trustees is for The Ohio State University to become a Top Ten University nationally. To fulfill that vision, we need within the university centers of excellence that make a statement nationally and internationally about both Ohio State and Columbus. The Wex is already a center of excellence—recognized internationally as a first-class arts center. I want to help tell the story of the Wexner Center—and the other centers of excellence at the university—to the community. Because the more we engage the community in the Wexner Center—and the more the Wexner Center is linked to the community—the stronger each will become.
KR: What motivated you to become Donor Circles members?
R&AS: The Wexner Center is part of arguably the most important institution in Columbus—The Ohio State University. We realize the importance of art and that it creates a more balanced, well-rounded, and successful community. By becoming Donor Circles members, we can help to ensure that the Wexner Center maintains a wide array of experiences, performances, exhibitions, and classes that can be enjoyed by so many people.