News and Events

  • From House to Hub

    • 21 February 2024
    • Posted By Ellen Muse-Lindeman

    In the heart of Cincinnati, the Kennedy Heights Arts Center has grown and thrived for two decades, showing us the power of creativity to build community. As we celebrate our 20-year anniversary, this isn’t just marking time—it’s a look back at a remarkable journey.

    (l to r) KHAC board members Jim Zarnowiecki and Richard Cooke talk with supporters Carl Lindner, Jr. and Robert Lindner


    I. The Birth of an Arts Center

    Our story starts with a simple but daring idea. The community of Kennedy Heights envisioned turning a historic house, nearly demolished to make way for a car wash, into a vibrant hub for arts and culture. This wasn’t just about providing a platform for local artists; it was about creating a welcoming space where diverse residents could gather and forge connections.

    In 2004, neighborhood volunteers, with support from the City of Cincinnati and local donors, successfully acquired the large 19th-century Victorian house. This house, once a funeral home and the former residence of neighborhood founder Lewis Kennedy, became the cornerstone for what would later be known as the Kennedy Heights Arts Center. Over the next four years, volunteers worked tirelessly to raise money and renovate the distressed building, launch programs, and build the foundation of the nonprofit organization.

    In a chance meeting, the Lindner brothers, Carl Lindner Jr. and Robert Lindner, local business leaders and philanthropists, emerged as key figures in the Arts Center’s journey. This encounter paved the way for a lasting relationship and a brighter future for the fledgling arts center.

    As boys attending elementary school just north of the Kennedy mansion on Montgomery Road, Robert and Carl created cherished memories. Walking about a mile home from their parents’ Silverton residence, they played on the grounds of the mansion. Inspired by fond recollections of their early years, the Lindners had a shared aspiration to do something significant for the Arts Center. This desire materialized through a series of substantial gifts, each in the six-figure range, solidifying their commitment to the center’s enduring success. Their generous financial support had a transformative impact on shaping the community’s cultural legacy.

    Navigating challenges and fueled by the community’s collective determination, the Kennedy Heights Arts Center emerged not just as a community arts center but as a resilient pillar in the heart of the city. It thrived and blossomed into a vibrant hub of creativity for diverse people of all ages. These echoes of its humble grassroots beginnings persist through the years, serving as a living testament to the enduring vibrancy of Kennedy Heights.


    II. The First Decade

    As the Kennedy Heights Arts Center opened its doors, the initial decade unfolded as a demonstration of deep collaboration, community-building, and growing impact. Beyond serving as a venue, the Arts Center emerged as a dynamic force, leaving an indelible mark on individuals, families, and the community at large.

    The Arts Center hosted exhibitions, art classes, summer camps, and community events for people of all ages. Within its walls, the laughter of children immersed in transformative arts education programs mingled with spirited conversations sparked by poetry readings and cultural festivals. True to its inclusive mission, the organization made, and kept, an unwavering commitment to accessibility, ensuring that all of its programs are accessible to everyone regardless of income. 

    Ellen Muse, a guiding force from the start, played a pivotal role during this formative period, providing leadership and vision that fueled the Arts Center’s growth. Serving as the Founding Executive Director, Ellen’s multifaceted contributions extended beyond expectations; she became a community catalyst, advocating for the arts, and providing visionary leadership that propelled the Arts Center into a dynamic force not just within Kennedy Heights but throughout the region. Her impassioned commitment to the organization was instrumental during these foundational years, nurturing an environment where creativity thrived, and community bonds were strengthened.

    As the Kennedy Heights Arts Center developed, it did more than open its doors; it became a cornerstone of community enrichment. Through a wide range of programs for diverse people of all ages, the Arts Center has woven a vibrant tapestry in the neighborhood, promising a future where creativity and inclusivity continue to thrive.

    III: Expansion and Transformation

    As the Kennedy Heights Arts Center ventured into its second decade, a pivotal moment unfolded with the acquisition of a nearby, vacant Kroger building—a landmark event that reshaped the organization’s trajectory. In partnership with the Kennedy Heights Development Corporation and other nonprofits, the former Kroger underwent a remarkable metamorphosis, culminating in the birth of the Kennedy Heights Cultural Campus in 2015.

    The renovated structure, which includes the KHAC Lindner Annex, stands as a testament to the community’s enduring commitment to creativity and cultural enrichment. The Annex houses a tapestry of artistic endeavors, featuring artist studios pulsating with inspiration, versatile event spaces fostering the performing arts, a jazz academy for local students, and galleries that serve as vibrant canvases for diverse artistic expressions. Extending the Arts Center’s original confines, the annex not only provided space for new programs–more than doubling the number of people served–it transformed the landscape of the neighborhood.

    The Lindner Annex wasn’t just a physical expansion; it was a manifestation of the Arts Center’s evolution, resonating with the grassroots spirit that fueled its inception. This chapter underscores the community’s ability to transform vacant spaces into dynamic hubs with arts at the core, and the enduring legacy of the Kennedy Heights Arts Center.

    IV. Cheers to 20 Years: Celebrating the Milestone

    To celebrate the incredible journey of the Kennedy Heights Arts Center, a special event, “Cheers to 20 Years,” will unfold on May 9, 2024 in the KHAC Lindner Annex. 

    Mark your calendars and join us for an evening filled with heartwarming performances, engaging stories, interactive exhibits, and a captivating showcase of the Arts Center’s transformative journey. As we raise our glasses to honor the past, present, and future of the Kennedy Heights Arts Center, let us celebrate its enduring legacy crafted through creativity, diversity, and accessibility.

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