ArtsWave awards $100K to organizations supporting Black art, culture

ArtsWave is making a $100,000 investment in Black-led projects and organizations focused on uplifting the African American community by supporting its arts and culture.

Grant funding comes, in part, from donors in ArtsWave’s longstanding Circle of African American Leaders for the Arts, known informally as “the Circle.”

A committee of six volunteer community panelists came together on Aug. 21 to review applications for funding through the Circle’s African American Arts Grants. The panel recommended funding for eight projects.

  • Cincinnati Black Theatre Co. – $15,000 for strategic positioning, growth and strength
  • Elementz – $15,000 for its Creative Futures initiative
  • Learning Through Art – $15,000 for its Books Alive! app focused on expanding literacy
  • Robert O’Neal Multicultural Arts Center – $15,000.00 for the West End Arts Series
  • Sweet Sistah Splash – $11,250 for the AfroSwag hair and fashion show 
  • Artsville – $10,475 for its We Are the Change program
  • Bi-Okoto – $10,275 for expansion of its educational programs
  • PAR-Projects – $8,000 to implement its visiting artist and education program

The grant selections received approval during ArtsWave’s most recent board meeting.

Details about each grant and their programs are below.

An Elementz poetry slam

ArtsWave has a stated goal of making inclusion a hallmark of the region’s arts. Its long-term Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Access plan, Lifting as We Learn, calls for increased resources for Black and Brown arts. One way they’re doing that is through the Circle Grants program. To-date, it’s invested more than $700,000 in Black-led and focused organizations since the establishment of the Circle in 2015.

Other ArtsWave BIPOC programs include its Black and Brown Artist Grants Program for independent artists, and Flow, a series of African American Arts experiences. 

Project descriptions

Cincinnati Black Theatre Co.
Strategic positioning for growth and strength

This project builds an organizational infrastructure in two areas: governance and decision-making structures and administrative structures, such as support services in public relations and education.

CBTC plans to use the funding to take a deep dive into its programs to operational strengths and weaknesses; constructive collaboration with the mission and vision of the CBTC; and potential sustainability.

Creative Futures Initiative

The Creative Futures Initiative (CFI) is an existing program that will undergo expansion to deepen its impact on the young people Elementz serves. 

This is a program designed to help young creatives of color leverage their interests and talents toward accessing and succeeding in creative college and career opportunities. The goal is to close educational, artistic and aspirational gaps that still limit the possibilities for young people within the BIPOC community.

Learning Through Art
“Books Alive!” app: Expanding impact on literacy

Funds will go toward the continued development, improvement and expansion of the “Books Alive!” app that launched last year. Free and accessible to all, the app primarily targets children, ages 3 to 9, and complements LTA’s suite of in-person and virtual programs and resources offered to Cincinnati Public Schools and other school districts. The app features BA!FK content on a platform that is familiar to students and adaptable to individual learning needs. Content is updated continuously, aligning with curriculum and social-emotional learning standards.

Robert O’Neal Multicultural Arts Center
West End Arts Series

Season two of the ROMAC’s West End Arts Series will provide a series of free events ranging from theater to dance, music to visual art, all located in the West End. The ROMAC acts as producer for each event, coordinating the logistics of funding, scheduling and marketing, allowing the performers and artists to focus solely on the creation of their work. Each event will be free and open to the public, focused specifically on accessibility for residents of the West End and creating employment opportunities for local BIPOC artists. The series will showcase work and classes from partnering arts organizations and individual local artists such as Black Art Speaks, NrityArpana School of Performing Arts, Cincinnati Black Theatre Company, Annie Ruth, Revolution Dance Theatre, AfroChine, and Q-Kidz Dance Studio.

Sweet Sistah Splash
AfroSwag hair and fashion show

Sweet Sistah Splash aims to build capacity by mobilizing around its hair and fashion show. “AfroSwag” showcases African American and African fashion and hair design artists, visual artists, dancers, singers, actors, musicians, crafters, multimedia artists and models. Its theme is one of elaborate, Afrocentric hair and fashion designs to empower African Americans to embrace their culture and heritage through Art and Beauty. “AfroSwag” has given a platform to over 200 Black artists from the Cincinnati area while working to expose the broader population to Black art and culture. 

“We Are the Change”

This project will produce eight one-of-a-kind mini murals for installation on the Artsville building over a period of eight weeks. Students from the local community and schools, aged 12-18 and with a strong interest in art, will meet once a week with different instructors, artists, life coaches and writers. Each session will provide tools to create and the power to change the way the students see our community and the world.

Continuation and expansion educational programs

The Bi-Okoto Cultural Center offers after school programs, summer camp, theatre productions, festivals and community space rentals. It currently reaches over 180,000 adults and children annually. 

As a result of increased awareness and demand for its programming during the school year and the summer, Bi-Okoto will hire two more teaching and performing artists. The organization hopes that participating schools will see an increase in students’ math, reading, life and language skills and achievement scores as a result of this arts programming.

Visiting artist and education program

PAR-Projects will develop a visiting artist and education program. It will provide Black and Brown visiting artists with free studio space and teaching opportunities in return for sharing their space and work with the community and neighborhood elementary schools. This funding will also strengthen the PAR-Digital media classes and guest instruction initiatives — integral elements of this evolving program.

ArtsWave’s Circle of African American Leaders for the Arts

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