Investing in artists creates a vibrant community: ArtWorks launches Jump Start

All of us would agree 2020 has been full of challenges. And at ArtWorks, this year has been about challenging ourselves to find new creative pathways, going beyond the nearly 200 public murals we’re known for and pushing for new opportunities for the talented artists in our region.

Last year, we had such great success with the juried process for BLINK®, where we invited artists to submit their creative ideas for the fall 2019 event and received more than twice as many artist submissions than in 2017. What started as 118 concepts received from artists turned into 45 incredibly inventive light-based sculpture installations, creating so many wow moments for the largest regional event ever.

And last summer, we began the process of asking artists what they need. Local artist Anissa Lewis attended several area arts events last summer with ArtWorks youth apprentices, to survey artists on areas of need in Cincinnati's arts community. The result was the publication of the first ever Cincinnati Artist Report, authored by Lewis and Wave Pool’s Calcagno Cullen,
which found that our local artists need financial support and more to create meaningful projects.

This report also showed us that Greater Cincinnati artists aren’t as seen or heard as they should be, and funding and access to arts events isn’t as equitable as the sector needs. A red flag was only 12 percent of the CAR respondents were people of color, despite people of color comprising 52 percent of the city of Cincinnati’s population. We can do better.

Having a thriving arts community is essential to our regional economy. According to the 2019 Ohio’s Creative Economy report by the Ohio Citizens for the Arts with the Center for Regional Development and Bowling Green State University, the creative economy generates $6.1 billion in the Cincinnati metropolitan statistical area and supports 39,000 jobs. The Ohio arts and
creative sector is facing “devastating economic implications” because of COVID-19, according to a release by Ohio Citizens for the Arts.

For these reasons and more, ArtWorks is launching Jump Start: Emerging Artist Projects. This new program is open to artists who are 26 years or older, who are in the early stages of their creative development and aspire to create a large-scale project. It’s our aim to give awards to artists that reflect the diversity of the Greater Cincinnati area.

Five artists selected will receive $5,000 each in project stipends. In addition to this funding, ArtWorks will invest in these artists in other ways by providing studio space, promotion, public art project management expertise and assistance from our youth apprentices.

We’re excited by the possibilities that the Jump Start artists will provide to the community, because the artists selected will create place-based or community based public art projects that address social or civic challenges. These projects will help connect our community. We believe this kind of opportunity is important now more than ever, as we face a public health and
economic crisis. Without art, our region wouldn’t be the vibrant and engaging place that it is.

This career-making opportunity is possible because of the visionary leadership of our supporters: Carl and Lizi Solway of the West End’s Carl Solway Gallery, and the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation. The Solways have given in honor of our founder, Tamara Harkavy, recognizing her encouragement for artists to dream big. Their support is more
meaningful than ever, because we’re able to support these breakthrough artists during a time when they need economic opportunities the most.

Applications for ArtWorks’ Jump Start: Emerging Artist Projects are due Monday, June 8 by noon. We invite anyone interested in learning more to register for our applicant webinar on Tuesday, May 26, at 4 p.m. by visiting

Colleen Houston is the CEO and artistic director of ArtWorks.

Over the next few weeks, NKY thrives and Soapbox will share work from community members and business owners regarding their thoughts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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