The following editorial first appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer on February 27, 2015. Tom Williams is President and CEO of North American Properties and Chair of the 2015 ArtsWave Community Campaign.

CCM Prep Suzuki Sampler 2015When I was asked to chair the 2015 ArtsWave Community Campaign, I realized that I had not been directly involved with the arts for quite some time. Years ago I served on the boards of both the Art Museum and the Contemporary Arts Center.  But recently, most of my energy has been focused on our region’s economic development, downtown revitalization, and educational systems.
In other words, I’ve been primarily involved in the development of the “hardware” of our community – bridges, interchanges, buildings, the airport, the Port Authority and other direct economic development projects. All of this work absolutely needs to be addressed. 

But the heart and soul of a community, what truly distinguishes one city from the next, is its software – namely, education, innovation, and Arts and Culture, broadly defined. 
This is the soul that puts Cincinnati on the map. This is what makes us a truly unique mid-sized city. 

Many of you know that Jetsetter just ranked Cincinnati among the top fifteen destinations in the world to visit in 2015. The main reason they gave was the thriving arts scene in the heart of our downtown. Over the years, we have successfully combined the development, and re-development, of our downtown in conjunction with our arts institutions. Jetsetter gives us international, third-party validation that, for any economic redevelopment to be successful in any city or region, a core element of its strategy must be Arts and Culture. So, it is absolutely essential that the growth of our city’s hardware and software be developed concurrently.

Thanks in part to our history of philanthropy and investing in the arts, Cincinnati has an extraordinary arts scene that is creating innovative programs that garner national and international attention.  For example:

Music Hall Sampler 2015• The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra will be one of only a handful of American orchestras ever featured in Lincoln Center’s Great Performers Series, among other world-class orchestras like the London Symphony Orchestra and the Rotterdam Philharmonic.

• In 2016, the Taft Museum will bring an exhibition 10 years in the making to our city, C.F. Daubigny and the Birth of Impressionism, an international collaboration that it initiated with the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the National Gallery of Scotland.  

• A groundbreaking collaboration between Cincinnati Opera and the University of  Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, Opera Fusion: New Works, continues to develop new American operas, contributing to the success of three world premieres in the last four years. This is at a time when other opera companies across the country are struggling to stay alive, let alone develop new works.  

Great stories like these should inspire pride in all of our residents. But ArtsWave is also having a tremendous impact by supporting smaller neighborhood organizations that are truly impacting our city. Arts organizations like Cincinnati Landmark Productions, Kennedy Heights Arts Center, and Madcap Puppet Theater are driving economic development by building new spaces that will be hubs of activity for their communities.  Powerful education programs like MYCincinnati youth orchestra and Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s Project 38 are helping kids develop the skills they need to succeed in school, work, and life.  These are just a few examples of the transformative events that are taking place at the grass roots level because of ArtsWave. 

This is exactly what any city must foster as it strives to be world-class. And this is exactly what ArtsWave is stimulating and catalyzing. The broader mission of ArtsWave is absolutely working. That’s why I am asking everyone to join me in supporting this Community Campaign.  Let’s invest in the soul of our city and watch it transform.

Walnut Hills Street Food Festival 2014