Cincinnatians are justifiably proud that the ArtsWave Community Campaign has ranked #1 in the nation for the past decade, raising more money each year than 40 or so other regions.
That said, our community hasn’t always topped the charts of the country’s united arts campaigns. For a long time, we bounced the #1 title back and forth with Charlotte, North Carolina. When the recession hit, some peer cities, like Charlotte, saw pressure or erosion of their united arts funds as business mergers and consolidations became commonplace. With our varied industries and strong civic leaders, Cincinnati has kept the tradition of aggregated arts funding on a trajectory of modest annual growth rather than precipitous drops or even slow drips.
This is a generous and arts-engaged community.
In fact, combined arts fundraising can be traced back to Cincinnati in 1949. Local leaders saw the effectiveness of pooling resources in a centralized organization, one that could then ensure accountability, viability and impact among beneficiaries. Over the decades, dozens of other regions followed Cincinnati’s lead. Today, community arts campaigns include not only Cincinnati and Charlotte but also Louisville, Portland, Seattle, Memphis, Chattanooga, Hartford, and Orlando, among others. In Ohio, there are united arts campaigns in Dayton and Canton.
There is one other notable community arts campaign in the U.S. This year, it is on Cincinnati’s heels.
Milwaukee’s United Performing Arts Fund raised $12.3 million in 2017. ArtsWave’s 2018 goal is $12.25 million, adjusted after a record high of $12.5 million a year ago due to downsized employee populations in a couple of significant workplace campaigns. Presumably Milwaukee intends to beat its 2017 results and, if it does, Cincinnati may find itself on a different spot on the list.
Obviously, Milwaukee’s growth does not diminish Cincinnati’s investments year after year. But, it reminds us that nothing about the business of supporting the arts can be taken for granted. It works because the annual responsibility for amassing arts support is broadly shared, with tens of thousands of gifts adding up. Responsibility could — and must — be shared more broadly still. Because, regardless of our competition, there is an undeniable correlation between ArtsWave’s ability to raise broad public support, and the quality and variety of Cincinnati’s arts.
We’ve just begun to leverage this quality and variety to attract and retain talent. Let’s show the rest of the country, again, that Cincinnati appreciates the impact of the arts on our community — and shows that appreciation with unrivaled community campaign support.
The ArtsWave Community Campaign runs through April 26. Fifth Third Bank has generously agreed to double your donation when you visit ArtsWave.org/GiveNow or text "ArtsWave" to 444999.