Cincinnati, OH—July 23, 2014:  At a special celebration of her career last night, ArtsWave’s retiring CEO Mary McCullough-Hudson received the Key to the City from Cincinnati Vice Mayor David Mann, in recognition of her 35 years of service to the community. More than 300 colleagues and friends attended the cabaret-style evening at the Patricia Corbett Theater at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. The ArtsWave Board of Trustees also announced the creation of an arts innovation grantmaking fund in her honor. McCullough-Hudson will officially retire as CEO of ArtsWave at the end of August, as previously announced.

The evening’s program included live music featuring Nancy James, Kathy Wade, and Robert Reider singing some of McCullough-Hudson’s favorite jazz standards, with Scot Wooley accompanying on piano.  Ed Stern, recently retired Producing Artistic Director for Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park served as Master of Ceremonies.  Colleagues and friends from across the country made remarks in person and via video, including Randy Cohen of Americans for the Arts, Kathy Merchant of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Jim Zimmerman, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Macy’s from 1997 – 2005 and Chair of the Fine Arts Fund/ArtsWave Campaign in 1992, Steve Monder, formerly of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and Cincinnati Vice Mayor David Mann, among others. 

In his brief remarks, Vice Mayor Mann spoke of how McCullough-Hudson’s visionary leadership for the arts has benefited the Greater Cincinnati region. “Over and over, she has made the case for the arts as an indispensable asset and a powerful force for transformation in our community, “said Vice Mayor David Mann. “And that’s why the arts are now valued partners in our broader conversations with organizations like Agenda 360, Vision 2015, and STRIVE, where connections are being made between arts participation and civic engagement and the region’s quality of life.”

A native of Hamilton, Ohio, Mary McCullough-Hudson received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Opera from UC-CCM and performed locally with Center Civic Opera in Covington, Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, and other arts organizations. In 1979, she began work at the Fine Arts Fund, channeling her passion for the arts into a career dedicated to arts innovation and engagement.  Rising quickly through the ranks, McCullough-Hudson served as Campaign Director and Executive Director before being named President & CEO in 1994.  During her 35-year tenure, the community campaign for the arts grew from $2.5 million to $12 million, the largest united arts fund in the country. 

Through the years, she looked for opportunities to expand access to the arts with programs like the free arts sampler weekend, now Macy’s Arts Sampler, and ArtsWave Presents, which brings performances to communities throughout the Greater Cincinnati region.  Recognizing the need to grow the reach of the arts and build capacity in smaller organizations, McCullough-Hudson increased the number of arts organizations supported by the Fine Arts Fund to more than 100, and founded arts services programs that provided critical workshops, Board training, and expertise to local arts organizations.

In 2008, McCullough-Hudson recognized that the needs of the Greater Cincinnati community were changing rapidly, and that the Fine Arts Fund and the arts community must also change to meet those needs.  After commissioning the groundbreaking research study “The Arts Ripple Effect,” she led the Board and staff of the Fine Arts Fund through a transformative process to become ArtsWave.  With an expanded mission, ArtsWave is now recognized as a national thought leader in arts impact.  McCullough-Hudson serves on the Board of Grantmakers in the Arts and the national Board for Americans for the Arts.  She has been recognized with the YWCA Career Women of Achievement Award and the CCM Distinguished Alumna Award. 

“In recognition of Mary’s tireless drive to innovate and to encourage ever-greater capacity within the arts sector, many of us here this evening, and those beyond, have pooled our resources to establish an innovation grantmaking fund in her honor,” said Karen Bowman, Chair of the ArtsWave Board of Trustees. “This fund will provide one or more annual awards for organizations to experiment with new ideas that extend their community impact, a fulfillment of Mary’s vision.”