Arts + tech + creativity = Cincinnati's first Tidal hackathon

Arts organizations and technology are often uneasy collaborators, but that’s starting to change across the country with new partnerships fostering innovation and understanding between those fields.
In 2013 the New England Conservatory, School of the Museum of Fine Arts and Berklee College of Music collaborated with MIT on the Hacking Arts Conference. The Walters Museum in Boston has hosted Art Bytes hackathons.
Over the weekend of April 8-10, ArtsWave and Cintrifuse are collaborating to launch Tidal: Art + Tech Challenge to bring together Cincinnati’s creative communities for the region’s first arts hackathon with the hope of solving some challenges facing local arts organizations.

Eric Weissmann“Tech people and developers express their creativity in a different way from visual art or music,” says Eric Weissmann, Director of Marketing at Cintrifuse. “They make lines of codes dance and sing. There is an obvious overlap with the traditional arts that we aren’t taking advantage of that would get more people involved with the arts scene — particularly the young passionate people trying to find their niche and make Cincinnati a better place.”
The idea for Tidal was conceived by LISNR co-founder and ArtsWave board member Chris Ostoich.
Although well-known in the startup Cincy entrepreneurial scene, Ostoich grew up in a musical home with a mother who taught piano and a father who played oboe with the likes of Pavarotti and Doc Severinsen. Watching his parents work as professional musicians exposed Ostoich to the challenges faced by some arts organizations.
“The ArtsWave board is a who’s who of the city — the people whose names are on buildings — and here I was this weird technology person,” Ostoich says. “But I started to find opportunities to do things that mattered, like in marketing and making an impact on the organization digitally.”
Ostoich has a strong history with hackathons and start up weekends. LISNR was born in a hackathon, the StartupBus, and the company regularly has internal hackathons and participates in quarterly startup weekends.
Chris Ostoich 
“Taking a break from our jobs to go build something interesting in the course of a weekend has always been a part of how we work and how we think,” Ostoich says. “It has a big impact on the culture, community, work and people of a company or organization. We hack our way through problems, we build something small to start something big. So why aren’t the arts organizations thinking this way, and how can we bring this kind of thinking and disruption to them?”
That question led to conversations with ArtsWave CEO Alecia Kintner and the team at Cintrifuse. What emerged was a hackathon designed to solve problems facing arts organizations.
ArtsWave put out a call to regional arts organizations to submit problems that could be solved in a weekend.
“The problem can’t be ‘We need more customers,’” Weissmann says. “A solvable problem is how to connect donor database content with frequent visitor information or tracking how people experience the museum and sending them additional information about exhibits where they spent more time.”
A committee is reviewing all the submissions, selecting those that can be solved within the hackathon time frame and that can’t easily be solved with existing platforms. The details of the challenges will be revealed soon but likely will include patron database issues, engaging audiences on mobile devices, moving unsold tickets and increasing social engagement.
The final challenges will be presented by the arts organizations at Cintrifuse’s Union Hall on Friday evening of the hackathon weekend. Attendees will self-select the projects they want to work on and will spend the rest of the weekend creating a solution, until the final judging on Sunday. They won't be paid for their work, but the winning project team will be awarded a combination of cash and tech gear.
After the judging, the participating arts organizations will have a solution they can start using the next day as well as documentation of how the solution was developed and built so that, if they want to invest more resources into the product, they’ll have the details to manage that process.
The arts organizations, hopefully, will also build relationships with the tech participants.
“Imagine if you were part of a team that built something that transformed how the Taft Museum of Art checks in their guests,” Ostoich says. “Don’t you think that would make you more inclined to go there or to encourage someone to go there and check out the thing you built?”
The Tidal: Arts + Tech Challenge hopes to attract participants from beyond the startup community and contributing arts organizations.
“A successful hackathon takes a team with different skills,” Weissmann says. “Someone to work on the pitch, someone to create the back-end technology, another to design the front end, a business person to work on the finances, someone to plan marketing. Anyone interested in participating is welcome to register and attend.”

Alecia Kintner Kintner agrees, adding, “The arts have the power to fuel creativity and learning for everyone.”
One way Tidal will be different from other local hackathons is the involvement of actual arts experiences. Local indie-pop band Multimagic kicks off the event with a concert Friday evening at the Woodward Theater, and arts organizations will offer pop-up performances throughout the weekend.
“Our long-standing arts sector and the growing tech and entrepreneurial sector both put Cincinnati on the map and draw top talent, new jobs and tourists to our region,” Kintner says. “ArtsWave is excited to bring these two key parts of our region’s economy together.”
In addition to the ArtsWave/Cintrifuse collaboration, The Brandery, Startup Weekend, CincyTech and others also are supporting the endeavor. Fifth Third Bank is the sponsor.
“I hope it is such a success that we can do it once, maybe even twice a year,” Ostoich says.
Register to be part of the Tidal hackathon here.
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Read more articles by Julie Carpenter.

Julie Carpenter has a background in cultural heritage tourism, museums, and nonprofit organizations. She's the Executive Director of AIA Cincinnati.