Surf It!

ArtsWave buttonsToday marks the launch of ArtsWave, an organization dedicated to connecting people through the arts, advancing the vibrancy of our community with the arts, and supporting the arts and culture in greater Cincinnati.


Formerly known as the Fine Arts Fund, the board of trustees voted today to relaunch the organization with a new and more broadly defined mission, along with a new name.


This transformation into ArtsWave is an outgrowth of several years of research into the many ways in which the arts act as a catalyst for a more vital city and region, dramatically enhancing our quality of life. ArtsWave’s leadership is motivated by the knowledge that arts and culture has a positive ripple effect on the community as a whole, across a wide spectrum of interests, lifestyles, and locations.

“The arts create lively places where we like to spend time, visit, live, and work,” said Mary McCullough-Hudson, President of ArtsWave. “Our change of mission is based on interviews with hundreds of people who told us that the arts are important because of how they connect people within and across communities. The conclusions from our research are quite clear: the arts are important to the vibrancy of Cincinnati, and people value arts organizations of all sizes. Through this transformation into ArtsWave, we will be working to foster and sustain a revitalized Cincinnati—to have an even greater impact on this amazing community.”

To celebrate its launch, ArtsWave is sponsoring two community cultural events over the next week. On Sunday, September 26th, 1000 people from across the region will come together to paint six blocks of Twelfth Street in downtown Cincinnati. The design for the street painting is the work of local artists based on community input, and will be a surprise for everyone on the day of the event.


Then, on Tuesday, September 28th, ArtsWave will host a public talk by Rocco Landesman, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, about the role of the arts in sustaining vibrant, democratic societies. This will be Chairman Landesman's first visit to Cincinnati since taking office, and following his talk he will participate in a panel discussion, as well as respond to questions from the audience.


What ArtsWave Will Mean to the Cincinnati Region

The success of arts and culture in and around Cincinnati is essential to sustaining a healthy community—both economically and socially—and to ensuring that the region remains a desirable place for people to live and work. In order to achieve the benefits that the arts bring to improving the city’s quality of life, ArtsWave will look for the broadest range of organizations and initiatives to support, where it can make the greatest impact on bringing together people from across the region to experience the arts and connect with each other.

ArtsWave will continue the work of the Fine Arts Fund, which has traditionally organized an annual community campaign to generate financial support for the arts and culture in Cincinnati, and has contributed more than $200 million dollars to various organizations and initiatives over the last 83 years. At the same time, the expanded mission of ArtsWave will focus on providing grants and other forms of support to an even wider array of organizations, benefitting greater numbers of people. This transition to broader grant-making will take place over several years, providing time for the many different arts organizations to enhance and develop programs that address the grant criteria.


ArtsWave will also serve as a catalyst and advocate for the arts, giving voice to the needs of both people and organizations. The transformation of the Fine Arts Fund comes at a time when communities within Cincinnati and across the region are changing culturally, geographically, and generationally. In addition to strong, nationally recognized arts and culture institutions, the city is also home to a burgeoning smaller, eclectic and diverse arts scene.


The emergence of community-based arts centers as anchors of neighborhood development and growth across greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky made evident an additional spectrum of organizations and audiences contributing to the vitality of the region and deserving of support. In the midst of such demographic shifts, as well as a changing economy, it became clear to the Fine Arts Fund—as well as to other leading voices within Cincinnati’s arts and philanthropic arenas—that a new model was needed to continue serving the community effectively in the future. ArtsWave will build on the Fine Arts Fund’s successful history, while broadening its approach, encompassing and supporting a wider array of organizations and initiatives than previously possible.

“ArtsWave represents an important evolution for the Fine Arts Fund, the result of an in depth process to plan for the future of the arts in Cincinnati,” said Lee Carter, outgoing chair of the board. Commented Peter S. Strange, incoming board chair, “Our board of trustees and many supporters have been inspiring and creative in helping us reach this moment, and embracing a broader vision for how we serve our community. I am excited to begin my term as board chair with ArtsWave, with so much opportunity to make an impact on how we connect people through the large and small arts organizations all across the region.”

ArtsWave’s Impact-based Grants

Over the next several years, ArtsWave will make changes in its grants evaluation process, with increasing priority given to initiatives with the greatest impact on people and neighborhoods in Cincinnati and across the region. Using impact as the primary metric for funding is a direct result of the research conducted by the Fine Arts Fund. The research findings lead to the decision to define impact with two key goals: engaging and connecting more people through art, and the creation of vibrant and successful neighborhoods. Over time, ArtsWave will work with partner organizations in the community to identify more specific and relevant measures of these impacts.

This new strategy will also expand the role of the Fine Arts Fund as an arts supporter in greater Cincinnati. Originally founded in 1927 to support four institutions—the Cincinnati Art Museum, Opera, Symphony Orchestra, and the Taft Museum—the Fine Arts Fund shifted in 1978 to expand its support of the artistic community in two ways. In order to address growth within the fine arts community, four more organizations were added as designated recipients of support: the Cincinnati Ballet, Contemporary Arts Center, Playhouse in the Park, and the May Festival. At the same time, recognizing even then that Cincinnati had evolved since the Fund’s founding, a grants program was established to provide support for smaller organizations.

There are a number of strategies that ArtsWave will use to foster its new vision for grant-making and support of arts and culture. These include:

  • Building awareness and - access to the region’s arts and culture opportunities for all
  • Supporting arts and culture experiences that bring people together, stimulate active dialogue, and are relevant to the diversity within the community
  • Engaging civic, private sector, government, education, and arts sector leadership in strengthening the community through arts and culture
  • Supporting arts and culture organizations and initiatives that are responsive to community needs
  • Conducting research, performing evaluations, and disseminating findings for the benefit of the community
  • Helping expand access to learning through the arts
  • Operating as an efficient, high performing, and sustainable organization, focused on delivering value to the sector and the community


The creation of ArtsWave, and its new focus on impact-based grants, continues the history of changing mission to meet evolving community needs. ArtsWave will support the vibrancy and vitality of a culturally engaged population of the entire Greater Cincinnati region, just as arts organizations serve people regardless of their zip code or county lines. The original four, and then eight, major organizations will remain important both for ArtsWave and Cincinnati, as significant anchor institutions for our region.