Ideas are living things. Sometimes they grow beyond your expectations. Community leaders Mel Gravely, Delores Hargrove-Young and Edgar L. Smith launched the Circle of African American Leaders for the Arts in 2015, envisioning exclusive experiences with local arts organizations that could connect those who prioritize the arts for their potential to bridge cultural divides. That vision evolved in 2020.

On Juneteenth of that year, ArtsWave announced the first set of recipients of its new Circle Grants. The grant program, made possible in part by Circle member gifts, builds capacity at arts organizations led by, or predominantly serving, Black Cincinnatians. Including the latest set, the program has provided 53 grants, totaling $700,000 since 2020.

The 2023 Circle Grants
ArtsWave revealed the latest group of Circle Grantees in late summer. Eight local organizations will receive funding this year, for a total investment of $100,000. You'll find familiar names among the grantee organizations, including one that has not received the grant since the inaugural cycle. ArtsVille will use the grant for "We Are the Change," eight unique mini-murals produced by local students in partnership with artists and arts educators.

Sweet Sistah Splash is a newcomer among this year's Circle Grant recipients, receiving funding for its "AfroSwag Hair and Fashion Show," an annual showcase of the top natural hair stylists and fashion designers of Cincy's Black arts community. With the new source of funding, Sweet Sistah Splash will mobilize a fundraising and volunteer recruitment effort, using the event as a springboard to grow the organization's mission: to center the needs and interests of Black people through educational and artistic programs. For a full list of the latest Circle Grant recipients, visit

Building onto the foundation
Circle Grants help grow the infrastructure needed to support a more diverse arts community. ArtsWave also supports the artists whose voices shape that community. The Black and Brown Artist Program is open for applications through November 3. If you know of an artist who could benefit from a Black and Brown Artist Program grant, please encourage them to visit