Photo credit: Cavaliere Photography

As hundreds of companies and tens of thousands of residents come together to begin the 73rd annual ArtsWave Campaign, the business case for the arts continues to strengthen. Recent research from Americans for the Arts shows that 72% of Americans believe the arts unify communities regardless of age, race and ethnicity. Eighty-one percent believe the arts are a positive experience in a troubled world.

We agree on those points more than just about anything else. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center of 17 countries with advanced economies found that "When it comes to perceived political and ethnic conflicts, no public is more divided than Americans." The study saw 90% of Americans report conflicts between people supporting different political parties and 71% seeing conflicts between ethnic and racial groups. Over half of U.S. citizens believe we can't agree on basic facts. In a time when so many issues divide us, the arts provide a rare avenue of agreement.

The Cincinnati region’s arts sector is committed to turning that agreement into intentional action. That work includes ArtsWave's "Lifting as We Learn" diversity, equity, inclusion and access (DEIA) commitment, which charts a path toward a more inclusive, equitable arts sector and requires organizations that receive annual operating support to furnish board-approved DEIA plans of their own. Key success indicators for "Lifting as We Learn" include prioritizing diverse boards and staffs at regional arts institutions now, engaging a more consistently diverse audiences with local arts by 2023, and a roster of stable cultural organizations led by people of color by 2027.

These goals are part of a long-term strategy for collaboration in the arts sector. Since 2015, local arts organizations have been aligned on a vision for a more vibrant and connected community, which is outlined in a 10-year strategic plan, the Blueprint for Collective Action , which calls for using the power of the arts to bridge cultural divides. ArtsWave uses the Blueprint to drive the grant selection process. Because ArtsWave is the largest single source of arts funding for so many organizations in the region, local organizations work toward the Blueprint’s goals as they seek grants.

The money for those grants comes from the annual ArtsWave Campaign. Though the past two years have seen public relief for the arts in response to pandemic-related losses, there are no reliable local taxes or levies to support arts organizations. Ticket and admission sales cover less than half of operating costs, and the extended period of the pandemic has challenged both ticket sales and donations.

The ArtsWave Campaign is a stable and unifying force of the Cincinnati region’s arts sector. Since it began, the annual fundraising effort has invested over $340 million in arts organizations across the region. Chaired this year by Tim Steigerwald, President and CEO of Messer Construction, the ArtsWave Campaign will support more than 150 projects and cultural organizations that connect our community and increase vibrancy. It takes tens of thousands of individuals, businesses and organizations rallying to the arts each year to make the Campaign successful and keep up the work of the Blueprint.

There’s no single, easy answer that can address polarization, but the arts provide an almost singular point of agreement. It’s up to all of us to build on that common ground and make progress.

The ArtsWave Campaign begins February 2. Visit to make your gift to the campaign. To learn more about hosting a workplace giving campaign at your company or organization, visit