The new Otto M. Budig Theater
Used with permission from Cincinnati Shakespeare Company
Photo credit: Mikki Schaffner Photography

Over the last several years, our region’s arts have put Cincinnati on the map like never before. It’s taken a sector-wide focus to do so, plus milestones in the lives of organizations and innovations by artists and civic collaborators. Having finished a month reviewing our region’s largest arts organizations’ future plans and recent outcomes, I’m reminded just how pivotal they’ve been to delivering 230 million impressions in national media attention — and that was in 2017 alone. Here are just a few examples.

Not only did Cincinnati Shakespeare Company open a brand new, state-of-the-art theater last year, but it also captured the attention and envy of Shakespearean theaters worldwide. Selected as the site to host an international association conference, Cincy Shakes attracted nearly 200 attendees from 74 similar Shakespeare organizations around the globe. The theater continues to push the envelope, adding aerial acts to its productions, tackling its first-ever musical and collaborating with theaters locally and as far away as London. Our 25-year-old theater is the fastest growing Shakespeare company in the U.S.

In Hamilton, Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park and Museum experienced a 24% increase in annual attendance, attracting visitors from 34 states and 10 foreign countries in 2017. Last fall, Pyramid Hill hosted the Midwestern debut of “Intrude,” an internationally acclaimed public art installation by Amanda Parar, showcasing five giant, inflatable, illuminated rabbits in its park. The exhibit brought in more newcomers than members, which was highly unusual for a typical week in the park.

"Intrude" at Pyramid Hill
Photo credit: Jeni Barton

In addition to fundraising and investing in the arts, ArtsWave provides leadership for marketing Cincinnati’s arts assets. With a seat on the board of Source Cincinnati (the region’s consortium for national PR outreach), ArtsWave is working with the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, REDI Cincinnati, the Convention & Visitors Bureau and others to tell our arts stories through coordinated media relations.

A second marketing collaboration focuses on paid media, extending the tourism season in Cincinnati by four months from September through December. Working with the Cincinnati USA Regional Tourism Network to attract travelers within 500 miles of the region, our relatively modest $1.2 million investment in advertising has reaped $116 million in incremental cultural tourism revenues over two years. That’s a big impact — imagine what a properly-funded, year-round arts marketing campaign might do!

According to "The New York Times," Cincinnati ranks number eight out of 52 places to visit this year worldwide. Why did we make that list?

We’ve made the list through intentional investments in arts organizations which have the capacity and propensity to innovate and collaborate, clearly focused on a shared vision of a more vibrant economy and connected community through the arts. We’ve made the list thanks to the people, businesses, corporations and foundations who have faithfully supported the arts here for decades.

Any way you look at it, leveraging Cincinnati’s arts assets is smart for our economy and a quick return on investment. All those cultural travelers return home to share the news of what Cincinnati has to offer! The stronger that we build our region’s reputation, the easier it is for our corporations to attract top talent. Keeping the arts fresh and exciting through sufficient investment, and then sufficiently marketing them, should be high on our civic agenda.