In 2003, hundreds of people rallied together to create the Kennedy Heights Arts Center. Serving the Pleasant Ridge, Kennedy Heights, and Silverton neighborhoods, the center was established by the community to provide a public resource for the creation of art. It has since had a transformative effect on the entire neighborhood.
The Center is located in a Victorian wood-frame house, originally built in 1875 as a private residence for Lewis Kennedy, then the mayor of Kennedy Heights. It served as a funeral home for several decades, but by 2003, it had been vacant for almost 10 years and was seriously dilapidated.
When community members learned it was in danger of being razed to make way for a storage facility, they organized to save the building, going door-to-door to gather donations and volunteers. Early in the process, the idea emerged of turning the house into a community arts center—a place with gallery space, room for arts classes and performances, and gathering space for neighbors and friends.
The idea caught fire as more and more people joined the cause. The City of Cincinnati offered a $50,000 grant to acquisition the property, provided that supporters could match the amount. In the end, more than 40 families pooled their resources to put up the $50,000 collateral on a loan—an incredible personal investment that was repaid to them in full.
For the first four years of the Arts Center's existence, volunteers did everything. Hundreds of people put their own sweat equity into the renovations. Volunteers painted inside and out, sanded floors, fixed doors and windows, and more.
Until 2008, the center was run entirely by volunteers, including many local artists who developed gallery shows and classes for neighborhood children and adults. As these programs grew in popularity, the Center hired its first full-time Executive Director.
Community members continue to assist with a variety of functions; from bookkeeping to catering to staffing the Center on Saturdays. When an energy audit revealed how much the center was spending on water, a local engineer designed and built a rain water collection system using donated supplies. Now, rain water from the center’s sizable roof is collected in giant storage tubs donated from the local Coca-Cola bottling plant and used to water the gardens and grounds throughout the summer.
Lee DeRhodes, the Center’s volunteer gardener, lives in the neighborhood just a few blocks away. “He is here every day tending the garden,” says Ellen Muse-Lindeman, the center's Executive Director. “It’s truly a labor of love for him, but the whole
neighborhood shares in the beauty of it.” The garden has won awards and recognition from the Cincinnati Horticultural Society, Kennedy Heights Community Council, and Home Trends magazine.
Ellen says the extraordinary turnaround of this one facility and its success as a place for art shows, classes, and performances, has had a “catalytic effect” on the surrounding neighborhood. Richard Cooke, a founding board member of Kennedy Height Arts Center, purchased an old gas station near the center that had become run-down and frequented by criminals. Now in the rehabilitated space, Green Corner Studios and Marketplace combines artist gallery and studio space with community gardens and a weekly local farmers’ market. Last spring, the center announced a new partnership with the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Kennedy Heights Montessori School to renovate a 32,000 sq.-ft. Kroger building into a cultural center. The new space will house part of the museum’s collection, artist studios, classrooms, and an event center.
“I think the Kennedy Height Arts Center has played a vital role in this ongoing neighborhood development,” muses Ellen. “We proved that this is a viable area for arts and business, with lots of grassroots support for projects that improve the neighborhood and the lives of everyone here.”
Hey Friends -
We're trying out some new ways to build the broadest possible support for the arts -- our music, dance, theatre, museums, galleries, and more.
Translation: We're exploring different ways for you to donate online -- safe, quick, and easy methods for gifts large and small -- every dollar counts! Try it out.
Margy Waller, Vice President, Strategic Communications and
Lisa Wolter, Vice President, Development and Campaign
The Cool Things
We love the way that our arts make this region exciting - and a place where people want to live + work + play + stay. ArtsWave is creating community through the arts -- with our Ta Da events, like Paint the Street, Splash Dance, and our holiday Ta Da.
Something else we do -- and did for a long time when we were the Fine Arts Fund -- is organize an annual community campaign, mostly by connecting with employees in workplaces across the region.
The Way We Build Support
We collaborate with local partners like P&G, GE Aviation, Fifth Third, Macy's, Kroger, Frisch's, the City of Cincinnati, United Way, and many more businesses of all sizes. People who work at these places get a chance to pledge their support to the arts every year - because we ASK.
Not every city has a campaign like this - and we have one of the best in the nation. It's this kind of funding that supports more than 150 arts organizations of all sizes across greater Cincinnati.
The New Stuff We Want to Try
Now we are exploring ways for people outside of these companies to give. The places and ways people work are changing, with more working at home or changing employers often -- so, it's even more important for ArtsWave to do a better job of making it easy for everyone to give. In fact, with the changes we're seeing, we have to find new ways for people to give or we're going to see a big decline in support.
Online and digital tools get better all the time. And like lots of nonprofits, we're riding into the wild-wild-west of online and social media giving.
We're writing today to share our plans to check out some new gadgets and tools. And we hope you'll play with us.*
The Stuff You Can Do
If you haven't given to the 2011 community campaign for the arts - this is our chance to ask you.
Or, what the heck - help us out with the test by giving again - every dollar counts. And you can even invite your friends!
Help us test - give today.
Got ideas for us? Send an email.
Or you can tweet us at @ArtsWave and find our wall on Facebook.
The Things You Get
We'll let you know what we learn from this test. Watch our blog and Facebook page for updates.
Plus, arts make places cool. When you donate to the annual campaign, you help to create community through the arts - and make this a place where more people will choose to live, stay, work, invest, and more.
Margy and Lisa
*The Details: We're testing people's reactions to two different "short" forms (fewer fields) for online donations. In the past, we've asked for more information, slowing things down for donors. The test is invisible - you'll be randomly directed to one of two options and we'll see the number of donations on each. This will help us choose one option for future use.
One Sunday in September, 1,500 people of all of ages and from all over painted a half-mile of center-city
street pavement in an unprecedented act of community art-making conceived & organized by ArtsWave.
Watch what happened in this time-lapse video - 12 hours in a minute and half.
Video production by Lightborne.
For more information and code: Contact margy.waller@TheArtsWave.org.
Blog post by Liz Glaser, a Creative Team Intern and Xavier student
People from all over shared their ideas about things they love and reasons they stay in the Cincinnati area at the Fine Arts Fund Street Painting Design Meeting this week. The Fine Arts Fund hosted the meeting at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, and invited neighbors and business owners from across the region to offer ideas for the design of the 12th Street painting that will take place this September. (Read more and sign up to be a citizen painter here.)
Facilitated by UC’s DAAP professor Michaele Pride, the discussion lasted nearly two hours and brought together people from various neighborhoods, including Goshen, Anderson, Florence, Newport, Price Hill, Covington, Over-the-Rhine, and Norwood. The evening concluded with the guests drawing their ideas on butcher paper at the tables. The five artists who will be designing the painting, Pam Kravetz, Carla Lamb, Karen Saunders, Matthew Dayler, and Danny Babcock, encouraged the particpants and elaborated on their ideas.
The painting will stretch from Main Street to Central Parkway across one of Cincinnati’s unofficial arts districts, where numerous local “do-it-yourself” collaboratives exist, along with more established theaters, galleries, and businesses.
“We are painting a downtown, commercial street in the middle of a thriving business district. We don't know of any other place in this country where this has happened. We want to bring people from across the region together in this creative endeavor…and we need a big community to pull it off,” Fine Arts Fund Vice President Margy Waller said.
Pride in the shared community was largely evident throughout the meeting. Cincinnati was characterized as a city of surprises, where people and places catch a person off guard with their ability to break from stereotypes.
Participants commented that in recent years, Over-the-Rhine has become a neighborhood of choice. It is a place where people want to live, work, shop, and dine. As one guest said, “There is room for all of us [in OTR], for all the different voices.”
Another participant noted, "We have diversity and opportunity and can take those opportunities and expand them into something great, into neighborhoods of choice where people are not only neighbors because they live near each other, but neighbors because they participate in and shape their community into one where they want to be."
These are the ideas that will be represented in the 12th Street painting, the vibrancy and excitement and bonds of such a great neighborhood and city.
As one guest stated, “The more I saw in other cities, the more I saw and appreciated that we have all that and more in Cincinnati. And we can build it to be even better, together. This is where I’m connected to, this is home.”
Another commented, "Cincinnati is really affordable, but the arts all around us are priceless."
Pride, as facilitator, elicited these ideas and many more asking participants what they like about their neighborhoods, what they appreciate, and also what they would like to change.
Now the five artists will develop these ideas and their own into a design that hundreds of citizen painters are expected to paint on the street pavement in September.
Oh boy, this is so not ordinary. Get ready to join us. Hundreds of people are getting together to make our community even more amazing.
Last fall, people from all over came together on Fountain Square to celebrate our city through the power of collective creativity. Cincinnati's first-ever Splash Dance became an Internet hit, getting over 50,000 views.
This year, our second annual "Ta Da" celebration is just as amazing and fun and for everyone.
We are going to paint the street on September 26! (Rain dates October 2 and 3.)
Yup - our canvas will be the actual pavement of 12th Street between Main and Central Parkway. Read more about the event and sign up here.
We're also hosting a community meeting to gather suggestions and design ideas for the street painting. That meeting is on August 10, 5:30 at the Art Academy and we'd love to see you there. Watch our Facebook page and twitter feed for more details on this meeting.
Please share this information widely - we need hundreds of painters on September 26. And if you'd like to organize a team to paint together, contact Tom McLaughlin at TMcLaughlin@FineArtsFund.org.