The arts in the Cincinnati region have had a tough year. The sector is one of the hardest hit in terms of the economic shutdown, extended furloughs and layoffs and reduced capacity operations needed to safely convene. Using data collected from 60 nonprofit arts organizations, ArtsWave estimates that $40 million in revenue has been lost so far due to closures and bans on large gatherings. Data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services show that 29.1% of people working in the arts and entertainment field lost their jobs between September 2019 and September 2020.

Those losses hit a local arts sector consisting of 200 small businesses, employing 10,000 people. Their annual impact on the local economy is measured at upwards of $300 million. ArtsWave, the region’s engine for the arts, stepped in with emergency grants, bridge loans, advance payments on future grants and an Arts Vibrancy Recovery fund, but even those efforts can only go so far in an environment that continues to prevent a full economic recovery for the arts.

Seeing that, ArtsWave kicked off a new collaborative effort. Leaders from 40+ arts organizations around Greater Cincinnati signed an op-ed addressed to local, state and federal elected officials. The open letter called for immediate, substantive financial relief for the arts. Accompanying the letter was a petition calling for the same, which quickly garnered nearly 3,000 signatures. Those names came from not just Cincinnati, but the surrounding region, states and even some from across the country.

Those collective voices have found listening ears now at several government levels. On October 1, 2020, Hamilton County voted to award $3.5 million in CARES Act funding to the county’s arts, with ArtsWave recommending eligibility and funding amounts. 60+ organizations have now applied for grants that will be made through the CARES Act. Those grants will cover expenditures resulting from COVID-19 between March 1 and December 15, 2020. They can also be used to mitigate the expenses that will come from adding important safety precautions to their facilities against the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, the state of Ohio announced $20 million in CARES Act funding to be allocated toward the state’s arts organizations. These dollars will be administered by the Ohio Arts Council in the weeks ahead.

To address the plight of local independent artists, who may be unaffiliated with organizations, the City of Cincinnati established the Cincinnati Arts Access Fund (CAAF) and has allocated $200,000 in CARES Act funding for artist relief. The fund, which will be administered by ArtsWave, will provide $1,000 grants to eligible artists.

A second, separate $200,000 program has also been announced for projects addressing the theme of “truth and reconciliation.” Black and Brown artists in Cincinnati and in surrounding counties including Northern Kentucky can apply for up to $10,000 to create a work, in any artistic discipline, that helps re-imagine a more just and equitable future.

Artists can apply for funding opportunities at

Arts organizations typically derive between half and two-thirds of their annual operating budgets from earned income sources like ticket sales, sponsorships and contracts. The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for arts organizations that, like any other industry, have fixed costs and valuable employees. Relief from Hamilton County CARES Act funding will make a difference in the ability of the Cincinnati region’s arts and culture landscape to remain vibrant and viable.

Our region is not alone in allocating CARES Act funding to the arts. In July, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded $45 million in grants to arts organizations and arts councils across the country. That’s in addition to $30 million that was allocated directly to state and regional arts councils. Other regions have stepped up their local efforts for the arts as well. Los Angeles County devoted $10 million to their arts sector from CARES Act funding. Wake County in North Carolina is seeding relief efforts with a $1 million CARES Act investment. Houston is stepping in with $2 million in arts relief.

Even with all this investment, the arts are in a precarious spot. You can help by making a gift to ArtsWave at