Jenifer Thomas

Jenifer Thomas

I am a fairly recent transplant to a city with a vibrant arts scene chock-full of healthy arts organizations, beautiful parks and architecture, wonderful public art, a squadron of young professionals getting involved, and our very own culinary smorgasbord: a signature chili (you either love it or you hate it), mouthwatering ice cream, and questionable breakfast meat.

Where is this cultural mecca, you might ask? It’s Cincinnati, OH.

Cincinnati’s varied offerings come with an equally diverse community of people. But like many cities, Cincinnati could get to the next level by seeing art and artistic involvement that connects all of us, not just the arts-prone.

The Cincinnati ethos is evolving, and many organizations are doing great things to get engagement that is more reflective of our community and encourages we locals to put our personal stamp on the Queen City.

Recently, after two years of living in Cincinnati, I fell in love. With Cincinnati.

It happened in the most unlikely of places: the concert hall.

I’d seen the incredible Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) a number of times, but this season, they started a new initiative that went a step further in bring Cincinnatians together: a project called One City, One Symphony.

Uniting under a familiar and beloved work, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, the CSO hosted “listening parties” all across town, held community concerts, offered free downloads of the symphony, and had all Cincinnatians humming the familiar “Ode to Joy.”

Think it sounds cool? Check it out:

Not only did the community come out in droves to the events surrounding One City, One Symphony, but live performances sold out. Friends with whom I had never discussed the arts were asking me how to access the free downloads. Facebook exploded with positive feedback. For a few weeks, all of Cincinnati was abuzz with the sounds of the symphony.

And for me, I felt like a part of the community for the first time. This citywide earworm, trite as it may sound, connected me with Cincinnati, and with the diverse populations of the community, as we all gathered ‘round to see our orchestra perform our symphony.

By uniting under one banner, one symphony, one community, Cincinnati got a little bit better.

I may never like Cincinnati-style chili, but after that, I feel like a Cincinnatian.

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ARTSblog holds week-long Blog Salons, a series of posts by guest bloggers, that focus on an overarching theme within a core area of Americans for the Arts' work. Here are links to the most recent Salons:

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Alec Baldwin and Nigel Lythgoe talk about the state of the arts in America at Arts Advocacy Day 2012. The acclaimed actor and famed producer discuss arts education and what inspires them.