In its 10-year strategic plan, ArtsWave identified five reasons we believe the arts are vital to a thriving economy and connected community in Greater Cincinnati: the arts raise Cincinnati's national profile and deepen roots in the region; they bridge cultural divides and enliven neighborhoods; and they fuel creativity and learning for our children.
Over the last week, even more reasons to support the arts came from our 2016 ArtsWave Community Campaign Co-Chairmen Awadagin Pratt and Jill Meyer.
Awadagin, a renowned classical pianist, has played with symphony orchestras around the world, on Sesame Street with Big Bird, and at the White House three times. He earned degrees in not one instrument, but two – piano and violin. And he could have been a professional athlete instead of a professional musician, turning down a tennis scholarship in favor of a violin scholarship.
"It came down to, 'What do you need to have in your life everyday?'" Awadagin said. "If I didn't have contact with music in my life, it was going to be a bad day for me."
AN INFINITY OF ART
He came to Cincinnati to teach at the College-Conservatory of Music at University of Cincinnati, "which has a great reputation," Awadagin said. And he's made his home here.
Asked how Greater Cincinnati's arts scene stacked up to similarly sized regions, Awadagin said: “There is a remarkable number of first-rate arts organizations in Cincinnati, almost an infinity of them.”
But wait – does this mean we’ve reached our peak here in the arts?
Not hardly, according to Awadagin:
“There is an infinity-esque possibility about the arts. There can’t be a point of saturation, because the arts bring people together like nothing else does, and that has been true since the beginning of time.
“The arts connect our humanity,” he added. “There’s an infinite need inside each and everyone of us to connect, to express ourselves. There can never be ‘that’s enough art.’”
ART & THE ECONOMY
Awadagin’s wife, Jill Meyer, gives us the pragmatic perspective. As the new president & CEO of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, Jill has had to take stock of a whole slew of regional challenges and opportunities. Sometimes the arts get pushed to the bottom in that sort of analysis. But Jill sees a clear connection between the region’s economic future and its arts future.
“I’m more convinced than ever in the importance of the ArtsWave campaign, and the vibrant arts scene that it supports, to our ability to deliver on the Chamber’s goals,” Jill said.
Connecting the dots between our region’s future and our arts future is happening more. We’re seeing arts organizations and artists take prominent roles in neighborhoods and towns as big community visions are being shaped for the future.
We’ve tried to connect these dots ourselves as we kick off the 2016 Community Campaign next week. The campaign supports the work of more than 100 arts organizations making an impact in Greater Cincinnati.
First, on Feb. 1, we’ll showcase the power and possibility of the arts with a not-to-be-missed concert by Awadagin Pratt, who will be joined by UC President Santa Ono on the cello and the Price Hill-based youth orchestra MYCincinnati.
Then, on Feb. 3, ArtsWave is gathering 150 arts and community leaders for a workshop on the concept of Creative Placemaking – how the arts can be used to enliven, enrich and engage a community.
Also next week, we’ll be kicking off the first of some 275 workplace giving campaigns that engage thousands of employees in this effort, inviting them to participate and to show their support for the many ways the arts have an impact on our region.
Indeed -- we see the arts making an impact in Greater Cincinnati every day. But the arts need the continued investment by all of us, as residents and stakeholders, to reach their “infinity-esque” potential. Whatever your personal reason for supporting the arts, we need you to take action for your community during the ArtsWave Community Campaign. Find out how here.