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News & Events

News & Event

Dreams Do Come True

The first time Ruth Dickey saw the Clifton Cultural Arts Center (CCAC), it was “a big empty building that had been vacant for two years, surrounded by dead, scary trees.” But Ruth, “a sucker for big ambitious dreams,” didn’t find it hard to leave Seattle to become the CCAC’s Founding Executive Director.

Clifton Cultural Arts CenterThe first time Ruth Dickey saw the Clifton Cultural Arts Center (CCAC), it was “a big empty building that had been vacant for two years, surrounded by dead, scary trees.” But Ruth, “a sucker for big ambitious dreams,” didn’t find it hard to leave Seattle to become the CCAC’s Founding Executive Director.

“I think I was able to see from all the way across the country that there was something special about this organization and this group of people and how much they love this dream,” she said.

Fast forward four years and this huge building is the pulsating center of Clifton and surrounding communities. On any given day, Pilates students may walk through an art opening on their way to class, or the halls vibrate with music, the laughter of young ballerinas, or the whir of sewing machines.

The idea for CCAC evolved in 2004 during the Cincinnati Public Schools’ community engagement process and discussions concerning the former Clifton School.

“We had big dreams for it,” said CCAC Board President Cindy Herrick. “It’s a huge building − 53,000 square feet − and the idea was to have a thriving hub of programming for the community. And when we say community we’re talking about the regional area, with an emphasis on the five miles around us.”

A perfect example of this is the “Wednesdays on the Green” summer music series. Adults and children from neighborhoods around the region come to picnic, dance, make friends, and enjoy music.

“When we advertise that series, we put posters in Laundromats and check cashing places to make sure people who might really appreciate access to a free performance series have a chance to hear about it,” Ruth said. “And it’s one of the reasons we put it on the front lawn. We wanted to send a clear message that everyone is welcome, this is a free event.”

“What we want most is this building to be vibrantly used and be like a community living room where people are coming together and having exceptional experiences that connect them to art, and to themselves and to one another in new ways,” she added.

It’s working. In 2011, 2,725 people enjoyed “Wednesdays on the Green.” Forty percent of those attending were not from the local zip code. Overall, 15,646 people enjoyed events, exhibits and classes at CCAC. There were 77 community events, including four art fairs, poetry readings, improv shows, a candidate forum, concerts, book launches and parties. There were ten art exhibits. More than 150 volunteers gave 1,000 hours and four local arts organizations became tenants.

Sound impressive? GCF’s Senior Program Officer Jim Huizenga thinks so. He said CCAC is emblematic of GCF’s new grantmaking framework, particularly in the area of cultural vibrancy.

“When we look at what we want to accomplish, we’re looking to engage people in the arts and CCAC beautifully facilitates people coming together and interacting with those they might not interact with otherwise,” Jim said. “It is making a key contribution to the vibrancy of that community.”

The original deed for the land for Clifton School, built in 1906, stated it be used to “promote fine arts, science and literature. “

Big ambitious dreams do come true.

Additional Information

A grant from GCF allowed the CCAC to hire its executive director. A 2011 grant will fund a full-time events manager. CCAC has also received support from the Weathering the Economic Storm initiative and GCF’s private foundation clients.

Printed in the 2011 Annual Report