I had two early pivotal impressions of Cincinnati as I was recruited here from the Northeast. The first was attending a concert by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. I arrived at Music Hall alone, finding my way in a sea of strangers. As soon as I stepped inside the grand foyer and then the majestic Springer Auditorium, however, I felt at ease – not because I recognized anyone, but from a sense of awe: if this symbolized what Cincinnatians stood for and valued, then I would be proud to join this community. That was before the Symphony ever played a note.
The second experience was relocating my family here from Connecticut. We pulled into Cincy on New Year’s Eve. What to do when you are living in a hotel room with kids on a holiday weekend in an unfamiliar city? We went to the Cincinnati Museum Center, of course! Eight hours later we were still happy, tired and hooked on a good thing. We signed on as grateful members. We knew we’d be back, often.
Mine are just two among thousands of personal memories that have been made inside Music Hall and Union Terminal.
Music Hall and Union Terminal are hubs of very necessary educational and cultural activity – activity that results in a ripple effect of benefits for the entire community. As cultural hubs and as iconic buildings, these places help businesses attract and retain top talent; differentiate our region for tourists and new companies; fuel the learning and curiosity needed for a 21st century workforce; and improve our quality of life.
In July, the National Trust for Historic Preservation put Music Hall and Union Terminal on their list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Buildings. They did this to raise awareness about the threats facing our “icons”, citing them as among our nation’s greatest treasures.
These buildings may symbolize much about our past, but they are also a key to Greater Cincinnati’s bright future. Saving both Music Hall and Union Terminal as a legacy for the future is a commitment made by the Cultural Facilities Task Force, a group that has devoted hundreds of hours over the past year to creating a solid renovation plan.
Next week, we have the chance to show that we understand the significance of our cultural heritage and its promise to next generations. We have the opportunity to make our voice heard on Issue 8, a measure that proposes a sales tax levy that would fund the critically needed repairs of Union Terminal. If this public funding is approved by voters, $40 million in private philanthropic commitments that has already been pledged can be directed to restoration of Music Hall. Greater Cincinnati has had great success leveraging these types of public/private partnerships, in which everyone plays an important part in fueling growth in our community.
It’s a jigsaw puzzle, and every piece must fall into place to create the finished picture: a thriving Greater Cincinnati region with arts and cultural opportunities for all.
Thanks for playing your part by exercising your right to vote on this critical issue.
The incredible generosity of Greater Cincinnatians created what is now ArtsWave in 1927, with a challenge issued by Charles P. and Anna Sinton Taft to the public to jointly endow the Cincinnati Institute of Fine Arts (our legal name). This same spirit of philanthropy has also created one of the largest community foundations in the country, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF).
For more than 50 years, GCF has made grants and provided leadership in a variety of areas to help build a better community, including economic opportunity, educational success, environmental stewardship, health and wellness, and cultural vibrancy. GCF has long recognized the value of arts and culture in building a strong, thriving community. This alignment with ArtsWave’s goals for the community has led to many collaborations and partnerships between the organizations.
In recent years, GCF has included ArtsWave as part of its “Community of Practice” that convenes the region’s “backbone organizations” – those that serve distinct sectors of our civic infrastructure. Other represented organizations include Agenda 360, Vision 2015, STRIVE, LISC Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky, Green Umbrella, and United Way among others. The groups regularly come together to share best practices, concerns, and opportunities in their collective impact work. The connections fostered by these meetings have led ArtsWave to discover new opportunities and new partners to leverage the benefits of the arts.
GCF’s strategic role in our community also extends to leadership in the area of cultural facilities. Along with the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Hail/US Bank Foundation, GCF co-convened the Cultural Facilities Task Force, an unprecedented collaborative effort that produced a comprehensive renovation plan for Union Terminal and Music Hall. As Issue 8 moves forward to fund renovation of Union Terminal, the Cultural Facilities Task Force remains committed to finding solutions for both buildings.
ArtsWave applauds the Greater Cincinnati Foundation for all it does to celebrate philanthropy and for its commitment to the arts as a building block of our great community.
Summer isn’t the only “opera season” in Cincinnati. Since this is National Opera Week, we thought we’d shine a spotlight on how Cincinnati Opera is reaching out to new audiences and communities all over the region. Community and school tours provide people of all ages a chance to discover how this classic art form can bring us together.
Cincinnati Opera Outbound
Cincinnati Opera has been presenting school and community performances since 1970. In 2012, the program took on the name Cincinnati Opera Outbound, with a goal to get beyond the walls of Music Hall and engage with people in their neighborhoods.
This October, Cincinnati Opera presented Pirates of Penzance, a 45-minute program that toured to schools and community centers across the region. With its zany wordplay and physical comedy, the classic operetta serves as a great introduction to opera for children and adults alike. The production toured to 17 schools and 7 community venues, reaching local communities from Westwood and Sharonville to Covington and Mason, and even as far away as Louisville. Cincinnati Opera estimates that the tour was seen by over 7,500 people.
Getting in on the Act
With Pirates of Penzance, Opera Outbound decided to try something new and create a participatory experience as part of the show. In addition to the professional singers, almost all of the performances included a chorus of children playing pirates, wards, and policeman. Nineteen members of Cincinnati Children’s Choir served as the chorus in community venues. “I really to want to thank the Cincinnati Opera staff and singers - they have made our Cincinnati Children's Choir kids feel so special during this entire process,” said Sandy Thornton of Cincinnati Children’s Choir. “It would not surprise me at all if this experience encourages these families to attend more opera performances in the future.”
At school performances, the chorus members were recruited from among the students, giving them an opportunity to explore opera first-hand. This chance to perform changed the dynamic of the show for everyone involved. “Not only are those sixteen kids so excited to perform alongside professionals and having fun doing it, but the kids in the audience are also more engaged because they are watching their friends,” says Kemper Florin, Opera Outbound Manager. “School teachers spent weeks helping to prepare and some parents even attended. Everyone was more invested in the program and, I think, got more out of it.”
“Community programs like Opera Outbound and Opera Goes to Church are an essential part of our mission at Cincinnati Opera,” says Cincinnati Opera Artistic Director Evans Mirageas. “We truly believe that opera is for everyone and for all ages, and these performances farther afield offer us the opportunity to connect with Greater Cincinnati residents who might not venture Downtown.” Cincinnati Opera also presents free performances each year outdoors in Washington Park and the Cincinnati Zoo.
The spring Opera Outbound touring show, Pursuing the Dream, will feature stories and music around common stories of immigration, family, loyalty, and social justice. The show is designed to be a companion piece for Morning Star, the new opera having its world premiere at Cincinnati Opera in 2015. Community and schools performances will run April 25 – May 9.
By supporting arts organizations like Cincinnati Opera that make their home in Music Hall and Downtown Cincinnati, ArtsWave also supports inspiring experiences like Opera Outbound in neighborhoods across the region. Expanding the reach of music beyond the concert hall… that’s ArtsWave in Action.
Find out more about how others are celebrating National Opera Week by following #OperaWeek on Twitter.
Among ArtsWave’s many civic partners is Agenda 360, the region’s action plan related to nurturing talent, increasing jobs, and building economic opportunity for residents. ArtsWave and Agenda 360 work collaboratively on research, strategic initiatives, and advancing collective action with other nonprofit service organizations.
This month, Agenda 360 invited ArtsWave to be part of its Diverse by Design discussion around opportunities for employee leadership development. ArtsWave’s BOARDway Bound board training program, which has placed nearly 300 business professionals on arts boards over the last decade, was featured in a new publication aimed at local human resource professionals. Over 80 HR representatives in attendance learned about programs like BOARDway Bound, and how they add a level of employee retention being sought by many executive leaders. Many of them had never before considered utilizing these types of programs for this purpose.
ArtsWave has collaborated with Agenda 360 on other projects, as well. In 2012, the two organizations commissioned the region’s first Arts Engagement Index, designed to provide baseline data around public participation in a variety of creative pursuits and activities.
“We partnered with ArtsWave on ‘Snapshot 2012’ to better understand the relationship between arts participation and quality of life,” said Mary Stagaman, Agenda 360 executive director. “What we didn’t know before this project got underway was how clear the correlations were between arts involvement, civic engagement, and social connectedness. In the future, we want to dig deeper into the exciting implications of these findings to be sure we are fully leveraging our arts and cultural assets in realizing Cincinnati’s potential as a world-class region in which to live and work.”
Thank you, Agenda 360, for your partnership in creating community through the arts!
BOARDway Bound Connects Business Professionals to the Arts
This September, ArtsWave welcomed 37 local business professionals as the 11th class of BOARDway Bound. This innovative arts board-training program provides participants with the tools they need to be an active and engaged volunteer, and then matches them with a local arts organization for an observership. 90% of past program participants have joined the boards of the organizations with which they were matched. To date, ArtsWave’s board leadership program has placed nearly 300 volunteers with local arts boards.
ArtsWave identified the need for a board training program eleven years ago through a series of conversations with small and mid-size arts organizations. Smaller organizations often had a hard time recruiting Board members. Enthusiastic volunteers hesitated to join arts boards because they thought that they lacked the expertise or means to be good Board members. At the same time, local companies needed more ways to connect their high-potential employees to leadership training and opportunities. ArtsWave created BOARDway bound to provide that training and make the connections needed to build capacity for those organizations.
BOARDway Bound takes the mystery out of arts board service. Information on best practices, industry trends, and the Greater Cincinnati arts scene is shared over the course of six sessions, as well as through videos and a document library. The workshops include presentations by arts leaders, panel discussions, and case studies. Topics range from fundraising and marketing to understanding arts budgets and non-profit governance.
The highlight of each session is the “speed-dating” night. Each candidate has six minutes with a staff and board representative from each of 40 different arts organizations. Both the board candidates and arts clients are also armed with one-page data sheets on their perspective matches. It’s a whirlwind networking event that requires a map and a bullhorn. “When we were trying to determine the best way to give each candidate the opportunity to meet with each arts group, the most logical method was the speed-dating format,” said Mike Boberg, Director of Signature Arts & Business Programs. ”It is three and half hours of exhausting, fast-paced action, but it pays off in the end with solid final matches.”
This summer, ArtsWave created a LinkedIn group for BOARDway Bound alumni that allows them to easily network and share stories from the field. “I was interested in BOARDway Bound because I wanted to give back and become invested in the arts and the region,” said Amanda McDonald, Assistant Director of Constituent Development,CCM at The UC Foundation and a member of last year’s class. “The lessons that I learned specifically in governance and financial oversight proved not only invaluable to my career but provided me with the knowledge to be an effective member on the Board that I joined and to lead that organization to serve the community.”
Interested in participating in BOARDway Bound? The spring class will begin recruiting soon. Contact Mike Boberg, Director, Signature Arts and Business Programs.