Cincinnati To Explore Helping Arts Organizations Hit Hard By The Pandemic

Oct 12, 2020

Cincinnati City Council could vote Wednesday on a motion asking administrators to prepare a report on creating a Cincinnati Arts Access Fund (CAAF). It would be designed "to address the loss of income and financial support that artists, creatives and neighborhood art organizations have faced amid the COVID-19 pandemic."

The motion asking for the report asks for the following parameters for the program:

  • A total of $200,000 in city funding, along with the option for philanthropic organizations, nonprofits, corporations and others to contribute to the fund on a voluntary basis
  • A tiered grant funding award system (e.g. $500 - $2,500) that is based on an applicant's employment classification/level and financial need, as well as best practices from similar program nationwide
  • A requirement for applicants to demonstrate financial need and provide justification about how they have been adversely impacted financially by COVID-19 (e.g. unable to pay rent, loss of employment, cancelled events, etc.)
  • A requirement for grant funding to be used for living costs (e.g. food, rent, medical expenses, childcare) and/or to adapt/develop crafts and skills necessary to generate income amid the coronavirus pandemic
  • A requirement for grantees to make an arts project or final product of their choosing available to the general public within 12 months, whether by means of virtual mediums and methods or a physical/in-person medium; the program should categorize this as "Give Back" requirement, along with a requirement for the grantee to specify which neighborhood(s) would be impacted by their public artistic/creative contribution (e.g. musical performance at a nursing home; hosting a free virtual class; a public art display, etc.)
  • An advisory council and/or working group comprised of local artists, creative and community arts organizations, as well as representation from City Council and the office of the mayor, to advise on implementation and administration of the fund on an ongoing basis

ArtsWave would be tasked with managing and administering the fund.

"The arts were among the first businesses to close and will likely be the last to reopen," said Alecia Kintner, the president and CEO of ArtsWave. "Even though there are some variances in the size of audiences happening, it's going to be a long time before full unemployment resumes and we may lose these talented people in our midst."

Carolyn Fast said a healthy arts industry leads to a healthy economy.

"The reality right now is that all of the theaters in Cincinnati, big or small, all have suffered huge financial loses this year," Fast said. "They've received little to no relief from the federal government and there is really no expectation of any relief coming through anytime soon."

Meanwhile, Hamilton County is also providing $3.5 million to assist local arts organizations who've been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

ArtsWave will be accepting and reviewing the applications for those grants, and the county expects to make awards in early December.