ArtsWave Arts x Tech Celebrates Innovation

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Initiative paves way for intersection between arts and tech

What do you get when you combine one of Cincinnati’s oldest arts organizations with the dreams of a serial entrepreneur? The answer is an ongoing initiative with the goal of transforming two previously separate networks into one large, creative community. ArtsWave Arts x Tech is the brainchild of Chris Ostoich, co-founder of Lisnr, who partnered with Cincinnati’s 92-year-old organization ArtsWave with the goal of intersecting art and technology to boost collaboration. With new programming and a weekend aimed at solving problems within the arts community, the project has helped create a vibrant partnership.

“When I was asked to join the board of trustees of ArtsWave, I was trying to find my voice and figure out where I could add value,” said Ostioch. “We saw there was a gap in the intersection where art and technology run into each other. In Cincinnati, we live in the branding and design capital of the world. There’s tons of creative energy and talent in the city, and the arts world and technology and startup world weren’t really colliding as often as I thought was possible.”

With this in mind, Ostioch worked with ArtsWave to establish the ArtsWave Arts x Tech weekend where participants spend 72 hours sourcing problems from the arts system, asking stakeholders what issues they need assistance with, or any technology problems they would like solved.

“During the Arts x Tech weekend, we saw everything from collegiate band directors that don’t have a way to track their instrument inventory, to a way to sell a buy-one-get-one pass to the artists, or an avenue to engage a more diverse audience in historic arts programming,” said Ostioch. “We source those challenges, and then we put those challenges in front of people that build and break things for a living. We’ve seen some really interesting innovations come out of the weekend and a bunch of new people and faces become part of arts in the city.”

The partnership doesn’t stop after a weekend. By working on “moonshot” problems together throughout the year, ArtsWave and the tech community have dedicated themselves to revolutionizing historic systems with separate databases and infrastructures to create a shared patron database.

“There is no way to know that I like attending the symphony, for example, and that’s a problem,” said Ostioch. “Imagine connecting all of these systems in the back end with one sort of centralized relational database that would allow us to gather data on what our arts consumer looks like. This would allow us to more effectively communicate with them and get the right information. How many times have you been like, ‘I wish I knew that show was here?’ That challenge happens because of this divided nature of our communities.”

With this ambitious, multiyear project currently underway, Ostioch and ArtsWave have worked with innovators from Microsoft, Worldplay and Kroger to make the technological integrations a reality. Past projects like BLINK have demonstrated this very importance — working to join the forces of arts and technology within the region.

“BLINK is a light festival where the whole community comes together in a nontraditional way to create vibrancy within the region,” said Kathy DeBrosse, VP of marketing and engagement at ArtsWave. “They hit it out of the ballpark. I mean, enough so that our streetcar could not keep up with capacity. We had a million people that were downtown looking at gorgeous architecture that had projection mapping and interactive arts activities. If you think of startups, and you think of art, BLINK is the perfect example of the marriage.”

With continued commitment to bringing together the creative and tech minds in Cincinnati, DeBrosse and Ostioch both have noted the impact on the community.

“This partnership allows the arts organizations to directly impact the region,” said DeBrosse. “Ten years ago, this conversation wouldn’t have been happening because there wasn’t a venue to have the discussion around arts and technology. Now, we can’t wait to see where it goes.”

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