Fact: Dayton is home to the largest international festival in Ohio.
That’s just one testament to the vibrant cultural and artistic community that exists in the Gem City.
Our Daytonian of the Week this week is the woman who makes sure the organizations, events, museums and other entities that make Dayton such a hot spot for the arts get the attention and exposure they deserve. Without Lisa Hanson, Executive Director of Culture Works, new residents, tourists and employers looking for a new home might not appreciate what a treasure Dayton truly is.
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“Culture Works is a nonprofit regional arts agency that provides a unified voice for all the cultural organizations and activities in the Dayton Region and promotes the good news about the amazing cultural vibrancy of our region to a national audience.”
In 2017, Hanson was named Culture Works’ newest Executive Director. Previously, Hanson was the Epilepsy Foundation of Western Ohio Executive Director and was the Ohio Arts Alliance and the Ohio Citizens for the Arts spokesperson.
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Hanson and her husband moved to Dayton 23 years ago after meeting at the University of Miami in Florida, where they both earned music degrees.
Lisa and Mark Hanson at a Dayton Opera Performance.
Photo: Lisa Hanson
“We found that the Dayton region offered an abundance of quality opportunities for our family,” Hanson said. “I am happy to say that Dayton has not disappointed! Year after year, we became more involved in the Dayton arts scene and more passionate about ensuring that the same arts experiences we have enjoyed would be available for generations to come.”
👩🎨What do you appreciate most about what the arts and culture community in Dayton has going on?
Hanson: “The Dayton Region is unique, especially for its size. Much larger communities cannot boast the number of museums and art exhibition spaces we enjoy, well-supported professional opera and theater companies, professional ballet companies, an amazing philharmonic orchestra, a world-renowned contemporary dance company and so much more! Currently, Dayton is becoming an incubator for individual artists, which is especially exciting!”
👩🎨What is the importance in a community supporting its own art and helping grow the interest in artistic or cultural related organizations and events?
Hanson: “The importance of art and culture in our society is something I began to think a lot about when my children were finding their interests and discovering their talent. Without multiple outlets, including arts education programs in our public schools, they may not have thrived during those important developmental years. Art was and still is such an important part of my life, and I can’t imagine a world where kids and future generations grow up without it ... The arts have always been a part of Dayton’s rich heritage and will be key as we grow and evolve as a community. One of the truly great things about arts and culture: it asks for engagement, not conformity. I believe that communities grow stronger when we engage in experiences that bring us together!”
👩🎨What are you up to when you are not keeping the Culture Works ship running smoothly?
Hanson: “Well, as a musician myself and the parent of artistic children, we are always involved in the arts. My husband and I still perform and have performed with the Dayton Opera Chorus, in addition to other professional performance opportunities. My husband Mark is a conductor, composer and arranger, so we are always looking for new and exciting ways to express ourselves and enrich communication through the arts with our community. We enjoy our family life very much and are heavily involved in the activities of our four children. There is always a performance or activity to attend! ... We do love working on our historic home and enjoy water sports and desire to take up biking — we just need a few more hours in the day!”
Hanson with her family at a Dayton Art Institute gala. "My daughter was a living statue at this fundraiser, that’s why she looks ghostly white!"
Photo: Lisa Hanson
👩🎨What is something about Culture Works that every Daytonian should know?
Hanson: “Culture Works provides general operating support to 11 major arts organizations in our region. We provide scholarships and individual artist grants (in partnership with Montgomery County Arts and Cultural District). Through a single donation to Culture Works, an individual can impact the entire artistic eco-system here in the Miami Valley. Many do not know that with a donation of $85 they will receive a “Passport to the Arts” which provides buy one-get one tickets to over 80 performances for one year!”
👩🎨Any big projects you have coming up this next year? Culture Works related or just personally?
Hanson: “This year at Culture Works, we are working on a new look and website that is reflective of our connection to arts organizations, artists, arts education, business, government and community. The website will support a new arts education portal which is designed to connect educators to arts experiences that enrich core curriculum lessons. This will be launched early 2019.
Also, we are excited to offer $40,000, in partnership with Montgomery County Arts and Cultural District, in individual artist opportunity grants this year! Applications are being accepted now through October 1st through our website www.cultureworks.org.”
Hanson with friends, showing some love for her Florida roots.
Photo: Lisa Hanson
👩🎨Finally, what are some of your favorite Dayton spots? Restaurants, bars, parks… etc.??
Hanson: “That is difficult to narrow down! Now more than ever, we have so many great places to choose from! Of course, I love live music, so when you can enjoy a meal and/or a drink while listening to live music, it just doesn’t get any better!”