Cincinnati Museums Discuss Community Impact of the Ohio Arts Economic Relief Grant Program

Performing arts organizations or operators of cultural arts museums have the opportunity to improve their exhibits and programs due to round one of the Ohio Arts Economic Relief Grant Program.  

Governor Mike DeWine, Lt. Governor Jon Husted, and Ohio Department of Development Director Lydia Mihalik announced last month that $23.2 million will be awarded to support art programs in our beloved buckeye state.  

“Ohio’s arts communities are an integral part of why Ohio stands out as a great place to live and a great place to visit,” said Governor DeWine in a press release. “These grants will help ensure that communities continue to have access to the programming and learning experiences Ohioans love.” 

139 organizations are receiving grants in 35 counties and Hamilton County is one of them. There were over a dozen performing arts and educational museums in Cincinnati that received a grant.  

The Cincinnati Museum Center and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center are two of the many established art organizations in the Queen City who received funding through the grant program.  

The CEO of the Cincinnati Museum Center, Elizabeth Pierce explained that their grant funds will go towards their continuation of recovering from the pandemic and employee compensation. 

“So, like many arts organizations, we’re still seeing kind of that return to visitation from our consumers. And, and that’s been increasing, but we’re still not yet to that 100% pre-COVID experience,” she said. 

A significant portion of their annual operating budget and revenue derives from ticket sales. There are still ticket sales that are rebounding from the closure of the pandemic in 2020 in addition to the Children’s Museum being closed for another year at the time, according to Pierce.  

Pierce hopes that the grant will bring about awareness for the art communities and that people will “remember to come take advantage of these incredible arts organizations that are here for the community,” she said.  

“Don’t forget about these places that you often came to that were a regular part of your family experience. We still need you. We need you to come back,” Peirce said. 

The Cincinnati Museum Center received a $1.5 million dollar grant. 

Like the Cincinnati Museum Center, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center views the grant as an opportunity to have an impact on the community.  

Cody Hefner, the Vice President of Marketing for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, explained that the grant allows them to have a new vision, increase staffing and operating expenses.  

However, during COVID their focus had to shift to getting through the day to figure out financial resources to pull into different areas of the organization, Hefner said.  

“It’s really been only in the past year to 18 months that we’ve been able to embark on this new vision for the Freedom Center that we had dreamed up,” he said.  

Due to the grant, the freedom center was able to hire a social justice curator who can discuss inclusive freedom and an exhibit content developer who are able to turn research into digestible information for the general public, according to Hefner.  

“The funding is definitely critical to helping us get to where we want to be as we try to rise to meet this moment that we’re facing as a country today and continuing to play this pivotal role. To do that we have to evolve as an organization,” he said.  

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center received a $68,490 grant.  

“I think very soon there’s going to be a lot of excitement about where the Freedom Center is going, what we have planned and what we will be rolling out over the next several years,” said Hefner.  

For more information on the Ohio Art Economic Relief grant program go to the Ohio Department of Development website. 

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