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Drawing New Inspiration – ArtsWave – C to C: The Commitment to Community Podcast

May 10, 2022

Our newest episodes of C to C takes our “show on the virtual road” expanding into Oswald geographic markets. This episode paints an incredible picture of the arts community in Cincinnati, through ArtsWave. Thank you to Lisa Wolter, Vice President, Community Campaign, ArtsWave, and my special co-host for the episode, Chris Owens, Consultant, Taylor Oswald.




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SCHMITZ: Hi, it’s Christina and this is the C to C commitment to community podcast from Oswald Companies. Today we welcome Lisa Wolter, Vice President, Community Campaign, ArtsWave, and also our own Chris Owens of Taylor Oswald is joining us for the podcast. How is everyone doing today?

WOLTER: Fabulous.

SCHMITZ: Good. Great. Well, Lisa, would you mind introducing yourself for our audience here?

WOLTER: First, thank you so much for having me today. I’m so excited to talk with you today. My name is Lisa Wolter. I’m the Vice President of the Community Campaign at ArtsWave.

OWENS: Good afternoon. Chris Owens. I’m a risk advisor at Taylor Oswald here in Cincinnati, and I’m also on the ArtsWave Campaign Cabinet.

SCHMITZ: Wonderful. Well, this is our first Cincinnati based podcast, so we’re excited to learn about your organization and all of the components of how you serve the community. If you wouldn’t mind starting talking about how Taylor Oswald crossed paths with ArtsWave?

WOLTER: ArtsWave is the leading arts agency in Cincinnati. And what that means is we run an annual campaign that raises funds for the arts all throughout Greater Cincinnati. We’re the largest united arts fund in the country. As part of that huge community effort, we have a campaign cabinet that’s comprised of leaders throughout the community representing different professional industries, if you will, across the region. And Chris was recruited by our campaign chair, Tim Steigerwald, President – Messer Construction, to serve on the campaign cabinet and help us reach out to companies and individuals who ask for their support of the annual campaign.

SCHMITZ: Wonderful. And, Chris, what has been your experience with ArtsWave?

OWENS: So one the capital campaign. I’m helping ArtsWave with certain companies in Northern Kentucky as well as here in Cincinnati. Even before that, I actually serve on the board for the Know Theater of Cincinnati, which is an ArtsWave member. That was really the connection with Taylor Oswald and ArtsWave in the beginning because ArtsWave is now a client of Taylor Oswald. And that was through connections to Alicia and to Sam, and that was part of that whole DE&I initiative that ArtsWave is running. So kind of four degrees of separation led us all to connect… we’re continuing that partnership.

SCHMITZ: That’s great. Lisa, would you mind, and this is a bad pun, but almost painting the picture of your organization for the audience that might not be familiar with your organization.

WOLTER: Yeah, sure. So we like to call ArtsWave the engine for the arts in Cincinnati. For the over the past 70 years, we’ve invested over $350,000,000 to make Cincinnati a stronger community through the arts. And this is why our region’s arts are so strong today, and we have a great reputation. In fact, Cincinnati is in the top 20 most arts vibrant regions in the US, thanks to our strong, coordinated fundraising effort that supports 150 organizations and programs annually through the campaign. So the money that we raise every year, and this year our goal is 11.5 million is invested through grants and services to arts organizations in the 16 county MSA region of the brighter Cincinnati area. We’re thrilled to work with community partners, companies, individuals, other nonprofits to all come together to support the region’s arts. And the arts sector has just a tremendous economic impact in our community. It’s annually. It’s a 300-million-dollar economic impact. The sector employees 13,000 people. Truly, when the arts are thriving, they help grow our community, stay alive in our neighborhoods, bring people together, instill positive feelings about our community, and fuel our creativity and learning in our children.

SCHMITZ: Thanks. So, Chris, you had mentioned the DE&I part of ArtsWave. Would you mind talking a bit about what makes up that initiative and what are some of the programs or outcomes that you’ve seen, Chris or Lisa together?

WOLTER: Yeah, I can start. And then Chris can jump in, so, really, ArtsWave is working to make inclusion a hallmark of the arts sector through our commitment, which we are calling lifting as we climb. So in a big picture way, we’re working to change the face of audiences, staff, boards to really represent the diverse community in which we all live and serve. Some of the ways that we’re working to do that is we want to increase resources for under-capitalized or emerging arts organizations led by people of color. We also are investing in a diverse array of arts and cultural organizations that share our commitment to DE&I. We want to build audiences for the arts that are increasingly reflective of the region we serve. We want to promote and celebrate the voices and expressions of all artists that are living and working our community. We think it’s important to create a workplace culture that reflects the communities that we serve and where everyone feels empowered to bring their authentic self to work. We are establishing robust internal systems to make sure that we also internally recruit staff, board members, volunteers, and vendors that represent our entire community.

And so, Chris, as he’s working with the Know Theater, one of the organizations that is funded through the annual campaign that ArtsWaves leads every year, he’s helping the new theater with their DE&I plan and commitment as part of this whole sector wide initiative.

OWENS: She pretty much summed it up. She didn’t need me. The only thing that I will mention is that the other thing that Taylor Oswald is really trying to partner with ArtsWave, and we’re working on some potential partnership kind of programs is the supplier diversity. So as Lisa mentioned, you’re looking for talent, you’re looking for board participation, you’re looking for audience. Another way to satisfy those requirements or part of the requirements is vendors. So how do you connect with minority vendors that can also help serve on the boards, bring in new audiences, even connections in terms of talent. So with the Know Theater, I helped start their DE&I committee. We’re implementing some things, and there’s other nonprofits that have asked me, like, hey, we’ve heard that you’re starting that. Can you give us a few pointers or so? And I’m also the minority vendor for Know Theater. And actually, I’m just happy that they actually took on another vendor to do their HVAC. Talent is hard to find. So what other ways can you provide that and come up with new and innovative ideas onto how do you get people of color to come to your plays, your events, fairs, and things like that? It’s kudos to ArtsWave stepping up and recognizing that and implementing that DE&I initiative into all the arts organizations.

SCHMITZ: Definitely. You talk about arts creating that vibrancy of a community. Can you talk a little bit, Lisa, about mental health and well-being and the role that the arts play in the community on that topic?

WOLTER: The past couple of years have been incredibly tough for so many of us and the arts sector. It was, as you can imagine, very difficult when they couldn’t do the one thing that they really wanted to do, bring people together to experience, to have a shared experience, essentially. So the arts organizations during the pandemic were really innovative and put a lot of work online so that they could still continue to connect with people even from their homes. Virtually some of the research that we have come across is how the arts if people are participating in the arts, it can actually reduce healthcare costs, it can speed recovery times, and it can also improve clinical outcomes. Also, participating in the arts can reduce the need for medication and increase physical and mental well-being. So just having an opportunity to either create something or listen to music or sing or dance, these all have a very positive effect on the body and your mental well-being. We had an event last night where we brought together our women leaders across the region and had two artists and two doctors that talked about the need to have ritual in your life, something that you can work on and lose yourself in so that you can clear your mind of negativity and all of these thoughts that everyone is under undue stress more than ever before. The arts are really a way that you can immerse yourself in something to clear your mind, and it definitely has a positive effect on your whole well-being.

SCHMITZ: Wonderful. Thank you for sharing that critical aspect of certainly what the organization helps provide for the community. Now, I know we’re in the middle of the annual campaign right now before we wrap today. How can our audience members get involved? What type of impact does their investment have on this campaign and in the community?

WOLTER: Yeah. I mean, the grants that the arts organizations receive through the annual community campaign are often the largest single gift that they’ll receive in a year. Support from ArtsWave to the arts sector is critical. It’s a huge part of their budget. And having, as I mentioned, the thriving arts community helps us attract and retain talent. It helps connect people within the community. It puts Cincinnati on the map for so many reasons. When someone makes a gift to ArtsWave, it is invested into over 100 arts organizations and projects that do just that, bring people together, put Cincinnati on the map, make our community a more livable and exciting place to be. And really the big thing is connecting people, right? So we can have these shared experiences. Now that arts organizations are back, live arts are back. We’re thrilled that people can come back to the theater and experience those things in person, whether it’s the theater, whether it’s going to a museum, whether it’s listening to a concert, et cetera. But there are so many benefits to having a thriving arts sector that goes beyond just participating. When you have a thriving arts organization or seen in a certain area, you see property values rise, you see greater economic activity when you have a theater that suddenly lets out, and all of these people go out and go get dinner or they stop at shops along the way or get a cup of coffee.

It’s really a positive thing for the entire community. One of the things that I think nationally might be really interesting to the people listening to this podcast is we are anticipating one of the biggest festivals to come back to Cincinnati. It’s called Blink, and it’s a huge light and arts festival that will take place October 13 through October 16. When Blink was in town last time in 2019, we brought in about one point millions of people to Cincinnati downtown. And it was just incredible. And it really represents the whole spirit of the arts and people coming together, people experiencing something new, the wonder of the arts, the creativity that was involved. We have a lot of beautiful murals all around downtown Cincinnati, and the lights that were on display brought those murals to life with animation. There were interesting lighted sculptures. We had our bridge that connects Cincinnati to Northern Kentucky was lit up and had sound and music connected to it. Literally you just look out and see these amazing lights everywhere and just people walking around with smiles on their faces and feeling just a sense of pride being part of this community.

So we’re really looking forward to after being away from the arts for so long and staying away from one another to coming back in the fall together to experience this fantastic festival. If you’re not in Cincinnati and you are interested you should definitely make your reservations now for that weekend because definitely fill up quickly.

It is something to see over a million people four days and it comes around technically every two years so we had to skip over year due to COVID but it’s something to come to and who knows and there’ll be other events all around the city to complement.

SCHMITZ: Well, thank you thank you so much for your time today for sharing more about ArtsWave. How can people connect with you directly or with the organization?

WOLTER: Our website address is and it’s a great resource to check out what’s happening. We also have an online calendar called the ArtsWave guide so you can Google that and see what’s happening on any particular day in Cincinnati and the arts. And yes, my contact info is on there but happy to connect with anybody who would love to learn more about Cincinnati and we also have great benefits when people make a contribution to the arts based campaign including discounts to arts tickets experiences. We have a lot of benefits around Blink this year since ArtsWave is the illuminating sponsor of the festival. So it’s a great way to get back to the community but also be connected to what’s happening in the arts as well.

SCHMITZ: Wonderful. Thanks again Chris and Lisa for your time. Arts are back in a big way and thanks for sharing your story today.

This transcript has been edited for clarity and web formatting.

Introducing the C to C podcast, an oscast by Oswald production

Commitment to Community is a core value of Oswald; it’s the foundation of who we are and the purpose behind all we do. The C to C podcast provides a platform for nonprofit partners to share their stories and discuss the critical issues facing their clients. Our goal: create a halo effect of service and support, inspiring our audiences to align with causes that speak to them and take action in their companies and communities.

Hosted by Christina Capadona-Schmitz, VP and director of marketing communications and leader for community engagement, this podcast series features in-depth interviews and highlights the good works happening throughout our communities.