Cincinnati’s May Festival Chorus is amazing for many reasons—it’s the oldest continuous choral festival in the Western Hemisphere, it serves as the chorus for the world-class Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra throughout the year, and perhaps most surprisingly, it is made up of many volunteers. Over 100 men and women ages 18 to 70+ rehearse at least three hours each week from September through May to bring choral masterworks and new commissions to the region.
The May Festival Chorus draws its membership from all over the Tri-State and from all different backgrounds, bringing people together who might never otherwise have met, but who share a passion and dedication for vocal music. Many chorus members have been singing with the choir for several years—or even decades -- and the friendships and partnerships they make in the process enrich their lives and our community in surprising ways.
ArtsWave learned in Snapshot 2012 that people who agreed that they feel socially embedded in the community participated in arts activities 36% more often than those who did not. In other words, the arts help people feel more connected to the community and allow recent transplants to find reasons to stay in the region.
Lauren Peter began singing with the chorus eight years ago, shortly after moving to Mason. She enjoys singing with her husband, Justin, a former member of the May Festival Youth Chorus, and says that the process keeps her connected to her artistic roots. “Many of our closest friends are in the chorus. There are several people we socialize with on a regular basis...and former chorus members that we've remained close to. For many of us, it's like a second family.”
With such close connections, it’s no surprise that 98% of May Festival Chorus members report creating new and lasting relationships with people whom they may not have met otherwise. 92% report that their involvement in the May Festival Chorus is an important part of their decision to remain in the region.
Lawrence Coleman, a chorus member for 15 years who lives in Kennedy Heights, also finds that the May Festival Chorus has connected him to a wider community. “I've recorded, had other singing engagements and opportunities, all because I've been connected to the May Festival Chorus and the people in it.” Lawrence also sings with the contemporary gospel group Fo Mo Brothers, performing at churches throughout the region and at the Midwest Black Family Reunion. He also volunteers with District A arts collaboration in Kennedy Heights, all the while meeting new artists, collaborators, neighbors, and friends.
When asked about how singing with the May Festival has influenced his life, Lawrence says, “It has really confirmed my belief that all people are basically the same even though there can be very stark differences. I have friends in the chorus from very different walks of life. We come together for the single purpose of making great music. People of different backgrounds and schools of thought can do more than coexist. We can learn to celebrate our differences when we have a common goal.“
From building friendships across the region to adding to Cincinnati’s long tradition of excellence in vocal music, the Cincinnati May Festival Chorus is an excellent example of the Ripple Effect of the arts.
I often get asked why my husband and I would leave our life on a Caribbean island behind to move back to the United States.
The short answer to this question is similar to the reason why you would choose to stay in a place like Cincinnati: you miss things like concerts, museums, theaters and libraries if they aren’t readily available. After a while even staring at the waves doesn’t compare to the energy that comes from living in the Greater Cincinnati region where there are more festivals, performances, concerts and exhibitions than there are days of the week.
I’m not alone in thinking that access to the arts improves the quality of life in a place. In fact, recent research done for ArtsWave in partnership with Agenda 360, revealed a correlation between those Greater Cincinnati residents who take part in the arts and those who express a positive view of Cincinnati. People who expressed satisfaction in this community and who saw opportunity here were 30% more active in the arts than those who did not feel satisfied or see opportunity.
This past week, as part of the Leadership Exchange trip to Atlanta organized by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, I was struck again by how integral the arts are to places that are growing and thriving. “The arts feed the ecosystem” of a region, said Dr. James Wagner, president of Emory University, as he reflected on building an innovation pipeline.
Sure, it’s true that in this day and age we can access a huge variety of entertainment options wherever we have an internet connection. But that doesn’t substitute for being able to experience a live music event in a historic concert hall with 3,000 other inspired neighbors, or discuss a provocative play with friends after a performance, or see how the choices of curators challenge our assumptions about the world through works of visual art. All of these experiences can only happen in a place that supports a wide variety of arts organizations.
Living with this abundance can make us take our arts scene for granted. But outsiders see the advantage clearly – Doug Hooker, head of the Atlanta Regional Commission, remarked that Cincy’s support of the arts is instructive for their city. The fact that Greater Cincinnati is home to so many world-class arts institutions and cutting-edge cultural experiences is one that could and should be exploited still more by site selectors, HR recruiters, college admission offices, and tourism agencies.
The arts in Cincinnati are a differentiator for those making location decisions, and they are can be a great reason to put down roots. The arts help make Cincinnati “sticky” – a place that talented people don’t want to leave.
What role do Cincinnati’s arts activities play in your decision to be here and stay here? Tell us at on Twitter or Facebook using #ArtsRipple.
The only thing better than the amazing arts in our region is when those arts opportunities are FREE. Check out some of the ways to experience the arts at little to no cost this fall/winter. Join the conversation about amazing arts experiences by using #CincyFallArts until the end of November and #CincyWinterArts starting in December.
October 4 is the Cincinnati Jazz & BBQ Festival in Madisonville. Enjoy amazing music, art booths, and incredibly tasty food. ArtsWave supports this event as part of our partnership with LISC Place Matters Neighborhoods.
Opera on tour - The Cincinnati Opera is touring with Pirates of Penzance, including a free performance at Linden Grove Cemetery on October 11. Part of our partnership with LISC Place Matters Neighborhoods, Center for Great Neighborhoods of Covington.
The Constella Festival has a free music workshop for ages 8 to 88 on October 15 at 6pm. Broaden your musical horizons and challenge your creative limits in a fun and engaging manner. Non-musicians are welcome to participate as audience members. Register here.
Photography is everywhere in October. FOTOFOCUS BIENNIAL 2014 is a month-long celebration of photography and lens-based art. Though the events are not free, many of the exhibitions are free to view! Join ArtsWave and ArtWorks in our lobby on October 10 from 5-8pm for the opening reception of the J.Miles Wolf exhibit. The exhibit will be free and available for view from October 1-31.
The Off the Hill series from Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park is free all across the region. October's show is Roses & Throns (A Tale of Beauty & the Beast). Find out when this show will be in your neighborhood.
Washington Park plays host to tons of arts events, including SCPA in the Park on Fridays in October (at noon), Where the Wild Things Play on Sundays (in conjunction with Cincinnati Art Museum), and Caroling in the Park starting in November.
Fountain Square has free music on Fridays with Rocktober on the Square. An after-work music happy hour is a great way to end the work week!
Volunteer for free CSO tickets! Log 8 hours of volunteer activity before November 7 to receive free tickets to One City, One Symphony with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra on November 14-16. Learn how to turn volunteer hours into free tickets.
Art at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center. "The Urban Landscape Six Artists - Six Views” Six contemporary painters explore the urban landscape and interstitial spaces found within. Opening Reception - Friday November 14 6pm-9pm or see the exhibit from November 14 – December 5, 2014
New American opera with Opera Fusion: New Works. A free public reading of Great Scott will be held on November 25 at 7:30pm at Memorial Hall.
Cincinnati Ballet, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati and The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati are joining together to spread holiday cheer across the Tristate with a number of special character appearances beginning Nov. 15. The Character Crew will make appearances at the following holiday attractions:
- Saturday, Nov. 15 (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.): Greater Cincinnati Holiday Market, Duke Energy Convention Center
- Friday, Nov. 21 (5 to 9 p.m.): Festival of Lights Members’ Preview, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
- Saturday, Nov. 22 (1 to 2 p.m.): Community Appreciation Day, Joseph-Beth Booksellers Cincinnati
- Saturday, Nov. 22 (4:30 to 5:30 p.m.): Balluminaria, Eden Park’s Mirror Lake
- Friday, Nov. 28 (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.): Tree Lighting and Santa Arrival, Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal
- Saturday, Nov. 29 (2 to 4 p.m.): Crafty Supermarket, Music Hall
- Saturday, Nov. 29 (5:30 to 7 p.m.): Macy’s Downtown Dazzle, Fountain Square
- Sunday, Nov. 30 (12 to 2 p.m.): Winterfair, Northern Kentucky Convention Center
The Children's Theatre of Cincinnati ArtReach program will present a touring show of The Night Before Christmas at a variety of venues in December. Check out the full schedule to find a performance in your neighborhood.
Discover more amazing free things to do at Cincinnatiusa.com, including visual arts, performing arts, music, literary events, and culture.
Love museums? You can always visit the Taft Museum of Art for free on Sundays (thanks to Western & Southern Financial Group). Want something more modern? The Contemporary Arts Center has free admission (thanks to Macy's) on Monday nights from 5-9pm. The Cincinnati Art Museum has free admission, as well as numerous free events (especially on weekends), like daily tours, Art 360, Art After Dark, Family First Saturdays, and more!
Downtown has lots of great opportunities for free art. Check out the Weston Art Gallery, located next to the Aronoff Center; discover your new favorite ArtWorks murals, take a glance at the YWCA gallery, or see some free art at the public library.
Looking for something a little more risque'? Manifest Gallery shows some of the latest cutting-edge art, and is always free to visit!
Christ Church Cathedral (in downtown Cincinnati) has Music Live at Lunch every Tuesday! Free if you bring your own lunch, or just $5 to buy lunch at the cathedral.
Do you have a free arts event to add to this list? Email our Manager, Digital Communications Rebecca Calkin to get your event added.
With increased emphasis on measuring student growth on test outcomes in content areas such as reading and mathematics, district report cards and accountability, there is a potential for lack of balance in the curriculum and a danger that arts education will lose its status as an equal component in the education of all students. In the spring of 2013, ArtsWave began discussions with the Greater Cincinnati Alliance for Arts Education and the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education to develop a process to review and assess the status of arts education programs and opportunities in the community and schools in Cincinnati, Covington and Newport utilizing the Kennedy Center’s Community Audit for Arts Education. The ultimate goal was to provide objective data that could assist ArtsWave, school administrators and boards of education, and regional community arts organizations in making evidence-based decisions that reflect the best possible opportunities for students in Cincinnati, Covington, and Newport through arts education.
Among the findings of this recent Community Audit, the importance of involved parents, teachers, principals and superintendents in strong school programs was underscored:
In school districts with strong arts education programs, the community – parents, families, artists, arts organizations, businesses, local civic and cultural leaders – is actively engaged in the development of arts policies and instructional programs of the school district.
School principals who collectively support the policy of arts education for all students often are instrumental in the policy’s successful building level and district-wide implementation.
Superintendents who regularly articulate a vision for arts education are critically important to its successful implementation and stability.
Leadership plays an irreplaceable role in leveraging the power of the arts to make students and schools more successful. Your leadership matters, as does your voice in speaking up for the continuation of arts programming. We thank all our partners in this journey to show the intersections between arts education and student success.
Arts education can take many forms – from learning the skills related to a specific art form to using the arts as a vehicle for learning other subjects including reading, math, science, and history. This practice of bringing arts specialists into the classroom to fuel learning in core subjects is called arts integration.
From 2010 to 2013, ArtsWave conducted a pilot program within Cincinnati Public Schools to study the effect of arts integration programs on student achievement. We conducted this study over three consecutive years in Grades 3-5 within six of CPS’s 42 elementary schools: Academy of World Languages, Bond Hill, Frederick Douglas, Hartwell, Hoffman Parham, and Roselawn Condon schools. In each school, we connected classroom teachers with arts organizations that assisted with six-week long arts integration efforts focused on English Language Arts (Reading) and Mathematics. Students used music, dance, theater, and visual art to learn everything from science to literature. Partner arts organizations included The Children’s Theatre, Contemporary Arts Center, Dramakinetics, Bi-Okoto Drum and Dance Theater, Cincinnati Ballet, and many more.
We tracked individual students from one grade to the next, and also benchmarked them against peer students in schools that did not participate in the arts integration program.
Results were clear: students that participated in the arts integration program scored higher in reading and math proficiency than students in the control group. In addition, individual students in the program showed a dramatic increase in their math proficiency scores year-over-year.
These results are consistent with the findings of other research studies across the nation, including exciting new research just released by Portland, Oregon’s The Right Brain Initiative which aspires to make arts education accessible to every K-8 child in that tri-county region.
ArtsWave’s study of the benefits of arts integration was conducted in only a few Cincinnati schools. We know we need to learn more about the general state of arts offerings in the region’s entire educational system, and to begin to assess where there are opportunities for us to make targeted investments. To inform these investments, we have just concluded a Community Audit for Arts Education using a model from the Kennedy Center. We assessed what educators and parents feel is working and not working in the area of arts education in Cincinnati, Newport and Covington schools. Using these findings, in the coming months we will be working to develop a strategy for systematically growing Greater Cincinnati’s arts education offerings.