The Cincinnati region recently welcomed the head of philanthropy for Microsoft, who was visiting for the first time. As part of this visit, ArtsWave, the region’s planner, promoter and fundraiser for the arts, had the opportunity to discuss the power of the arts in leveraging innovation in local communities.
In Cincinnati, we’re apt to forget that other regions across the U.S. are populated by newer on-the-scene residents. Here, however, we value rootedness — in fact, it’s one of ArtsWave’s five blueprint goals: to leverage the arts to deepen roots in this community. But other communities are vastly different: instead of roots, they are built on transience.
The companies being created and giant-sized in Silicon Valley are not necessarily started by kids who went to high school on an east or west side of town, growing up with memories of nearby arts experiences. Instead, they are being launched by entrepreneurs with customers, employees and suppliers at remote locations around the world. The idea that local conditions and assets, like the arts, might play a role in their business success or employee satisfaction, is kind of, well, foreign. Equally hazy is the idea that local assets, like the arts, need consistent support in the form of time and money. This poses immense sustainability challenges to arts organizations and confounds their ability to provide broad public benefit.
Cincinnati has seen a boom in its startup tech community. Much of this success can be traced back to Cintrufuse, a public-private partnership established to drive innovative growth in the region. Departing CEO of Cintrifuse, Wendy Lea, who has been so transformational for Cincinnati’s startup economy, has also been a fantastic champion for the arts as a creative stimulus to innovation across sectors. Cintrifuse has helped to articulate a different future: one where busy founders of startups take inspiration and personal sustenance from a city alive with hands-on, visible arts and culture. A city where the heart of the new tech-based economy is within walking distance of no less than eight venues (old and new) for live music, dance and theater and two schools of the arts, not to mention maker-spaces, marketing/creative agencies and galleries. The opportunity that exists, rather uniquely in Cincinnati is to mash up century-old arts organizations (filled with thoroughly modern artists, by the way) with entrepreneurs and startups is one that could become an intentional long-term differentiator for our region.
We at ArtsWave heartily agree with this vision. In this region, we have a different constellation than in newer communities like Silicon Valley, which haven’t enjoyed decades of steady philanthropic support leading to vibrant, thriving arts institutions and an established ecosystem of creatives working in commercial enterprises. This is what we have in Cincinnati.
This blend of creative arts and tech serves to give new credence to the “support local arts” mantra in an increasingly global world. In fact, it seems more important than ever that we maintain an environment where the arts provide a pathway to build and deepen creative roots, right here in Cincinnati.