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Our History

The first and largest community campaign for the arts in the nation, ArtsWave has evolved over the years to meet the changing needs of the Cincinnati region.

1927: The Cincinnati Institute of Fine Arts founded by Mr. and Mrs. Charles P. and Anna Sinton Taft. The Tafts believed that Cincinnati could truly distinguish itself through its arts and cultural assets. They offered a $1 million endowment if the community could match it with $2.5 million. The community responded, and the endowment was created.

1949: Fine Arts Fund established as an annual community-wide campaign — the first of its kind in the nation — to provide regular support to four arts organizations: Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Art Museum, Taft Museum of Art and Cincinnati Opera.

1973: The Fine Arts Fund annual campaign launches the first workplace giving campaigns for the arts and reaches $1 million for the first time.

1978: With increased corporate support, the Fine Arts Fund expands to include four more art organizations: Cincinnati Ballet, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, May Festival. The Fund also establishes a “Projects Pool” to provide special one-time grants to smaller arts organizations across the region.

1984: Employee giving surpasses corporate giving to the annual campaign for the first time, making Cincinnati a national model for workplace giving for the arts. Campaign contributions exceed $6 million.

1995: The Arts Services Office is created to support emerging and established arts organizations by connecting them to workshops, training, volunteers and other resources.

2003: The Fine Arts Fund becomes the first community campaign for the arts to exceed $10 million contributed in a single year.

2008: The Fine Arts Fund publishes The Arts Ripple Effect. This ground-breaking research on how to build community support for the arts draws national attention and sets the Fine Arts Fund on a course for change.

2010: Fine Arts Fund becomes ArtsWave, a transformed organization with an expanded mission and new focus on creating community through the arts. A team of professional staff and volunteers collaborate to develop a new model for grantmaking based on measurable community impact.

2012: ArtsWave makes its first round of impact-based grants to 35 organizations with the help of 50+ volunteer panelists. With the launch of this new collaborative effort to measure the positive impact of the arts, ArtsWave expands its staff to include a Director of Impact Planning & Analysis and a Chief Operating Officer. ArtsWave collaborates with its arts partners to gather data that demonstrates how a lively arts scene creates more vibrant neighborhoods and brings people together.

2013: Long-time CEO Mary McCullough-Hudson announces her retirement to take place in August.

2014: Alecia Kintner succeeds Mary McCullough-Hudson who retires after 35 years of service to the organization. ArtsWave sets a new record for contributions — $12 million — securing its place again as the largest united arts fund in the country.

2015: ArtsWave again sets a new record for contributions, raising $12,250,000. Later in the year, ArtsWave unveils its 10-year strategic impact plan, the Blueprint for Collective Action for the Arts. The Blueprint aims to leverage the power of the arts to help create a more vibrant economy and more connected community. The organization also starts the ArtsWave Guide, a comprehensive, searchable online calendar that connects even more people with the amazing arts opportunities offered in Greater Cincinnati.

2016-2018: Through a partnership with the Cincinnati USA Regional Tourism Network, ArtsWave implements the region’s first arts marketing campaign, designed to attract regional travelers to Cincinnati and yielding $292 million in cultural tourism revenues.

2019: BLINK®, illuminated by ArtsWave, attracts 1.5 million people and involves 100 artists, 30 entertainers and 3,200 community participants, making it the largest event in the region's history as well as the largest light, art and culture event of its kind in the nation.

In the same year, ArtsWave introduces POWER OF HER, an initiative that united, activated and amplified women’s voices in the arts through hundreds of events and a book showcasing stories of nearly 200 women who have shaped Cincinnati’s arts.

2020: ArtsWave launches new series, Flow, An African American Arts Experience, which features leading Black artists on Cincinnati premier stages.

ArtsWave pivots to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shutdown of much of the arts sector with emergency relief funds, accelerated grants, innovation funds, loans and other forms of assistance to both arts organizations and individual artists. ArtsWave amasses $13 million, including an Arts Vibrancy Recovery Fund and public challenge to provide a path to restarting the arts.

ArtsWave introduces “Lifting As We Learn,” a diversity, equity, inclusion and access plan with key performance indicators for ArtsWave and the arts sector.

BLINK is a trademark of the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr.,/U.S. Bank Foundation exclusively licensed by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber.