Last week, a longtime friend asked if I have a Life Plan, a personal vision statement, with goals and timelines and measurable outcomes. 

Quite honestly, I am generally focused on work plans and once a year, summer plans. Kids’ plans. Home improvement plans. Retirement savings plans. Tonight’s dinner plans. Not a lot of time envisioning what it all adds up to.

But then, on Friday, I had the opportunity to present two award checks to individuals in our community making a difference in the arts. I
t made me stop and think about the power to make a difference.

The power a Life Plan can inspire.

The Sachs Award is an endowed cash prize at ArtsWave, given annually to an individual (or as was the case this year, two individuals) contributing to the artistic vibrancy of Greater Cincinnati. The incredible thing about this award, apart from its immense ability to honor outstanding artists in our midst, is that it was created in 1929. Almost nine decades ago. 

Rosa F. and Samuel B. Sachs obviously had a passion for the arts in Cincinnati and a life plan that their guided participation and desire to ensure that the arts would continue to flourish here. Some 90 years later, we still are benefiting from their vision and their purposeful legacy for the arts. 

This year, the Sachs Fund Prize Committee selected Kathy Y. Wilson and James Conlon as recipients – two very different artists who share a strong commitment to social justice.

Ms. Wilson is a noted CityBeat columnist and the author of "Your Negro Tour Guide: Truths in Black and White." Mr. Conlon is the 37-year conductor of Cincinnati’s May Festival (as well as the Los Angeles Opera and Chicago’s Ravinia Festival). Ms. Wilson uses words and stories to tell it like she sees it, calling attention to our biases and blunders with blunt humor. Mr. Conlon uses music to bring people together and to illuminate stories of injustice and stories of peace. They couldn’t be more dissimilar in their life experiences and artistry, but they also couldn’t be more alike in their desire to make their lives count for something.

Three members of the present-day Sachs family were on hand to celebrate our honorees on Friday, and they have been on hand for all the Sachs Prize celebrations during my tenure at ArtsWave, at least. Ellen and Milos Jovic and Charles Straus are continuing to celebrate the legacy of a Life Plan that came before them, that included the arts among its legacies.

Rosa, Samuel, Ellen, Milos and Charles are all significant models for us. They are a reminder that Cincinnati is a community that makes powerful annual gifts to the things that it cares about, including the ArtsWave Campaign. This is a community that for more than a century has invested for the future – a bright and vibrant future – including the future expressions of arts and artists at the core.

Since I’ve been challenged by my old friend, I am indeed thinking about my own Life Plan. In addition to imagining what I’d like to get out of life, I’m also thinking about what I want to give in return.