Most wouldn’t consider the area north of Cincinnati to be an arts destination. In 2006, Meredith Raffel decided to do something about that.

“[The Arts Alliance] was really founded on the idea that there was not enough organized arts programming in this region. We were relying solely on the schools for all of our arts programming and it just didn’t feel right,” says Raffel, the Alliance’s executive director. “I just grew up with the arts. It was a big part of my personal life and it was at a time in my life where I thought, ‘I’m going to do something about it.’

“I started a sort of yearlong campaign by approaching Mason City Council. What I wanted to do was approach them not as a person starting a club. I wanted them to look at this organization as an arts force to make this community an arts destination.”

Mason gave the Alliance its first significant donation, helping start the Mason Arts Festival (now the FallFair Arts Festival). From there, it began to grow.

The Alliance expanded, and gained collaborators and partners in Deerfield Township (changing the name to the Mason-Deerfield Arts Alliance for a time), Sinclair Community College, Otterbein Senior Lifestyle Choices and the Deciding Factor. The Alliance also began working with arts organizations downtown.

“That’s always been a big part of my vision for the organization, to serve as the contact for the arts organizations downtown and with the support of the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, we were growing and growing and growing with our programming,” she says.

The Arts Alliance now has a performing arts series, Cincinnati Pops’ performances, exhibitions and, this year, the addition of Shakespeare in the Park with the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company.

“We’re doing A Midsummer’s Night Dream and we hope to fill the park up with people to … be exposed to an art form they may think is not fun or funny and it is,” says Raffel.

Thanks to the generosity of and continuing partnership with Deerfield Township, the Alliance is now housed in Cottell Park’s Snyder House. The Alliance offers arts camps there with topics as varied as fairies, tie-dye and pirates. The Cincinnati Art Museum even bring art up to the campers for one of the camps.

“We want to build programming that allows [kids] to create projects that are solely about them,” she says. “It’s a week of me being me and being OK being me.”

For Raffel, seeing the Arts Alliance grow is its own reward.

“If you are a founder of an organization, this organization is a reflection of you, so if it succeeds or fails, whether it’s true or not, I succeed or fail. I don’t want to fail,” she says. “If someone’s got an idea for arts programming, they come here ... and I’m more than willing to help them grow.”

To learn more, call 513-309-8585 or visit the-arts-alliance.org.