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$2 million in grants awarded to Hamilton County arts organizations

Peter Mueller
Cincinnati Ballet
'The Nutcracker' as performed by the Cincinnati Ballet.

Two million dollars in federal grant money is headed to more than 50 arts and culture organizations in Hamilton County. ArtsWave is administering the grants using the county's American Rescue Plan funds.

Commissioners approved the funds last year from the American Rescue Plan stimulus; earlier in the pandemic, the board approved $3.5 million from the CARES Act for arts grants.

Woody Keown, president of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, says the supplemental funding is critical.

"Because of this funding, we [will] build much needed organizational capacity and retain our critical staff to operate effectively in today's competitive environment, allowing us to be an educator and resource on critical topics at a time when inequities and cultural tensions have stressed our communities," Keown said.

Recipients include big names like the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, the Museum Center, and Symphony. See a full list online here. About a quarter of the 53 recipients are getting a pandemic relief grant for the first time. The awards range from $1,000 to $150,000.

"Grant monies like this means a lot to us, so much," said Fumi Ajamufua, programs coordinator at Bi-Okoto Drum and Dance Theatre in Pleasant Ridge. "We will be able to hire two more artists to be able to continue our programming. We'll be able to pay the mortgage, because that's a lot every month … paying bills is also one other aspect that we've been struggling with. So this means a lot to us."

Arts and culture in Hamilton County have been more affected by the pandemic than other industries, according to a new report from Bowling Green State University on behalf of Ohio Citizens for the Arts.

It found 25% of arts and culture jobs disappeared due to COVID-19, compared to just 4% of other industries.

"The economic impact of the creative industries in Hamilton County declined by 14% from 2019 to 2020, versus 4.5% in all other industries," said Alecia Kintner, president and CEO of ArtsWave.

The report also found Hamilton County leads the state with 31% of Ohio's creative industry jobs, supporting 24% of arts payroll in Ohio.

Hamilton County commissioners approved this $2 million for arts grants last year. The board hired a consulting firm to help decide how to spend about $64 million of the total $158 million in stimulus; Commissioners are now considering the recommendations.

Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.