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Nearly 100 Years of Community Support

Cincinnati's history of growing the arts is unique in the nation. It's impossible to separate the quality and variety of arts that we enjoy here today from the nearly 100 years of community giving through the engine for the arts, now known as ArtsWave.

1927: Cincinnati Institute of Fine Arts, now known as ArtsWave, is founded with a challenge grant to the community by Anna Sinton and Charles Phelps Taft, in order to secure the future of the region’s arts.

1932: Anna Sinton Taft bequeaths the family home and art collection to the Institute (ArtsWave), creating the Taft Museum of Art.

1949: Cincinnati Institute of Fine Arts launches the Fine Arts Fund, the country’s first community arts campaign to provide regular support to four arts organizations: Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Art Museum, Taft Museum of Art and Cincinnati Opera.

1973: The Fine Arts Fund runs first workplace giving campaign for the arts in the nation at GE Aviation and reaches $1 million for the first time.

1977: With increased corporate support, the Fine Arts Fund expands to include four more art organizations: Cincinnati Ballet, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, May Festival. The Fund also begins offering project grants to smaller arts organizations.

1995: The Arts Services Office is created to support emerging and established arts organizations by connecting them to workshops, training, volunteers and other resources.

2008: The Fine Arts Fund commissions The Arts Ripple Effect. This ground-breaking research on how to build community support for the arts draws national attention and reveals that the public values the arts for their ability to create economic vibrancy and social connectivity.

2010: The Fine Arts Fund is reimagined as ArtsWave, changing its mission and vision to advance community impact through the arts.

2015: ArtsWave unveils its 10-year community transformation plan, the Blueprint for Collective Action for the Arts. The Blueprint aims to leverage the power of the arts to help create a more vibrant economy and more connected community. ArtsWave Guide launches, offering a the Cincinnati region's most comprehensive arts events calendar.

2016: ArtsWave expands its funding pool, providing operating support for 40 organizations and awarding 150+ grants in total.

2020: ArtsWave introduces Flow, An African American Arts Experience, which brings leading Black performers and artists to the Cincinnati region. ArtsWave also launches the Circle Grant program specifically for Black-led organizations.

ArtsWave pivots to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shutdown of much of the arts sector with emergency relief funds, accelerated grants, innovation funds, loans and other forms of assistance to both arts organizations and individual artists. ArtsWave amasses $13 million, including an Arts Vibrancy Recovery Fund and public challenge to provide a path to restarting the arts.

ArtsWave introduces “Lifting As We Learn,” a diversity, equity, inclusion and access plan with key performance indicators for ArtsWave and the arts sector.

2021: ArtsWave is named the official local arts agency by the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County to distribute $10+ million in pandemic relief.

2023: ArtsWave has raised more than $350 million in total for the region's arts — 100 times the Tafts' original 1927 challenge and match.