Cincinnati’s arts are returning after the turmoil of an 18-month health and economic crisis. The arts were the first industry to close at the beginning of the crisis and are among the last to fully reopen. ArtsWave estimates that local arts organizations lost $140 million during the pandemic. Rebounding from losses of that magnitude will take time. Individual artists and creatives still struggle to find work, and organizations continue operating with reduced staff and capacity. The unpredictable nature of the pandemic means any progress toward a comeback must be flexible in case of a resurgence.
Still, the region's live arts are coming back. Organizations are adding outside and other free performances to their schedules this summer. Many have announced full seasons starting this fall.
Public and private sector support is helping to drive this momentum. ArtsWave anticipates that their 2021 Campaign will reach its $11 million fundraising goal by end-of-summer, enabling ArtsWave’s annual grants to 40 cultural organizations to remain flat with prior years, despite the campaign being down in both 2020 and 2021.
The $11 million projection includes workplace giving campaigns still running or scheduled, as well as renewals from previous donors. Corporate sponsorships play an important role, too, and ArtsWave is actively working with companies across the region to find innovative ways to fund the arts while partnering together. Terry Horan, President & CEO of HORAN and Chair of the 2021 Campaign, mentions, “Cincinnatians recognize how important a vibrant arts culture is to our growth and enrichment as a community and as individuals. I appreciate all that the community has done and is continuing to do to help propel the region forward through its arts.”
Government funding is providing another essential revenue influx. Some of this happened last year through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and CARES Act funding. This year, allocations from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) will benefit the region’s arts. Recently, the City of Cincinnati committed $8 million of funding from the American Rescue Plan to local arts organizations, which ArtsWave is administering. Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley and City Council agreed early in the allocations process to set aside funding for the arts. Funding will reach nonprofit performing arts organizations and museums in need of relief. It will also support free live, outdoor arts and cultural events kicking off in August, which will send a clear signal that Cincinnati’s live arts are back. “It is no question that the arts are what make life worth living. I am looking forward to this restart and celebrating the summer of ‘Cincinnati love’ with live performances and engagement made possible by this stimulus recovery,” says Mayor Cranley.
Cincinnati isn’t the only city counting on the arts to drive its region’s return to vibrancy. A recent New York Times article asserts that “the return of arts and entertainment is crucial to New York’s economy, and not just because it is a major industry… Culture is also part of the lifeblood of New York.” In Philadelphia, City Councilmember Isaiah Thomas refers to arts and culture as “part of the bloodline and the DNA of our city.” Like Cincinnati, both cities will invest recovery funds in the arts to ensure future success.
Signs of recovery are visible across the region, but challenges remain as new variants and flagging vaccination rates introduce uncertainty. To help ensure the Cincinnati region’s arts successfully return, you can donate to the ArtsWave Campaign at artswave.org/give.