In the span of nine days, the arts put Cincinnati on the map in entirely new ways. Last weekend's BLINK, a massive and joyous light and art festival created by the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile Jr. Foundation, Brave Berlin, AGAR, ArtWorks and the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, spanned 20 city blocks from Findlay Market to The Banks. As many as one million people attended, making it the single most well-attended downtown event in the history of Cincinnati. 27,000 people rode the streetcar during the event, doubling their usual numbers. The economic impact of BLINK is only beginning to be calculated, but the event demonstrated decisively the even greater powers of the arts: to bring people together, enliven neighborhoods, and create buzz about our region.
BLINK bookended a week that started with other extraordinary events in Over-the-Rhine. There was the re-opening of Cincinnati Music Hall after its 26-month, $143 million renovation. The radically expanded Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati on Vine Street reopened. The Cincinnati Shakespeare Company celebrated their new Otto M. Budig Theater at the corner of 12th and Race. Roughly 13,000 people joined ArtsWave for a free community open house that showcased all three fully accessible new and renewed cultural facilities.
In between these two weekends, the city was alive with further innovation. The first Startup Week in Cincinnati drew 4,500 participants—well exceeding expectations—and included a session on the arts as a reason to choose Cincinnati. Alongside Startup Week was Brandemonium, a major new conference-style experience asserting our city’s leadership in branding and the creative economy. The Cincinnati Art Museum, Contemporary Art Center, Taft Museum, Pyramid Hill in Hamilton and many others opened significant new exhibits and artist-led experiences both independently and as a part of BLINK.
We may look back on these nine days that put Cincinnati’s arts and innovation on display as gamechangers. Even months ago, events like BLINK were already turning heads toward our region. In April of 2017, the New York Times, citing the then-upcoming event, featured the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in an article on how art can be displayed on the outside of museums as well as the traditional gallery setting. The Times also mentioned BLINK, Music Hall and several other arts organizations in “36 Hours in Cincinnati,” part of an ongoing series with travel tips for cities around the world. Architectural Digest similarly named Cincinnati one of their “Top 5 Design Travel Destinations.”
Likewise, the restoration of Music Hall has garnered national attention, even leading the New York Times to suggest that New York City could learn from Cincinnati. This kind of positive visibility for Cincinnati directly impacts our region’s ability to compete for talent, new business development and cultural tourists—all of which are critical drivers of our economy. The quality, variety and innovations of Cincinnati’s well-established arts sector are at the center of a powerful engine.
ArtsWave grants fuel the arts that are foundational to mega-weeks like this. Decades of investment by our community have resulted in an arts sector that is ready and eager to shine. The past couple of weeks have shown just how bright their light can be. Now is the time to seize on the momentum that has been created. When you invest in the arts, you support the brightest possible future for Cincinnati.