Ask most people in the Dayton region where Deerfield Township is and more than likely they will have no idea. Truth is, the Warren County community isn’t far from most of the southern parts of the Miami Valley and offers an array of arts programming for artists and families in the region thanks to The Arts Alliance. 

“The distance between Dayton and Deerfield Township is not so great to keep folks from sharing and exploring the rich arts programming we have to offer,” says Meredith Raffel, executive director and founder of The Arts Alliance.

In fact, a short 30-minute drive could lead to fun summer arts camps, creative exchanges for artists to share their talents and even opportunities to enjoy incredible performances. 

A Labor of Love

Raffel founded The Arts Alliance on the idea of filling what she believed to be a gap in arts programming in the southwest Ohio region. 

“There are strong, well-developed arts programs in Dayton and more in Cincinnati, but the communities in the region between those two larger metro areas were lacking,” she says.

She originally approached the Mason City Council and received funding to start programming 10 years ago. Just five years ago, the organization received an offer it couldn’t refuse to relocate into the historic Snyder House in Cottell Park in Deerfield Township. She calls the relationship with the township “an immensely generous partnership” and credits it with allowing the organization to grow beyond her wildest dreams. 

“They are a fine example of how municipalities can and should support the arts.”

She continues to work today to develop missing arts program and bring new artists and resources to the area. 

“We can offer a whole new audience to artists and performers from the Cincinnati and Dayton areas, and at the same time offer audiences a wealth of performers and artists they might never have heard or seen.”

Instigating Change Through Art

With programming like the Fall Fair Arts Festival that hosts more than a hundred local artists, Art Bar make-and-take events, and creative exchange artist workshops that feature nationally acclaimed artists, the organization is building a growing list of resources for the artists and the community. Some of the most popular offerings include the summer arts camps and Take pART programs.

From summer camps on glass art, metalworking and cartooning to the very popular Fairy Camp, which encourages dress up and includes a parade, The Arts Alliance knows that expressing oneself through the arts builds confidence and understanding of the world. According to Raffel, kids who attend the camps go through a sort of metamorphosis. 

“The healing power of art is transformative,” says Raffel. “Kids who start Monday quiet and shy by Wednesday truly just come out of their shells. They have new friends. They have expressed themselves. Most importantly, they have a great time. It is amazing to watch.”

The Take pART initiative provides all children with the opportunity to immerse themselves in art experiences. Families facing difficulties—whether economic, health related, crisis or academic—have access to scholarships so they can have a high-quality arts experience. Thanks to support from the Lebanon Optimists Club, 44 Lebanon-area children were able to attend the camp just this past summer.

“These are at-risk kids whose families are in crisis. They would not get access to these programs otherwise,” she says.

Partners in Art

In its early years, The Arts Alliance found another important partner and has continued to grow a mutually beneficial relationship with Sinclair Community College. Starting with a summer arts festival on the college’s Mason campus nearly 10 years ago, the two organizations have built an ongoing relationship that has blossomed to include sponsorship of the Alliance’s Fall Arts Festival and four local art exhibits a year in Building B of Sinclair’s Courseview Campus Center.

“We have a common goal of supporting the local arts community,” says Scott Markland, Sinclair’s vice president of regional centers. “Together, we made a commitment to supporting one another as we grow in the Mason-Deerfield community.”

More to Come

In the works are plans to develop WeeArts program focused on preschooler classes and expanded programs for the homeschooling community to ensure arts are rooted in the core curriculum. 

More importantly, Raffel says she hopes to continue to serve as a bridge for both artists and families between Dayton and Cincinnati, and partnerships like the one with Sinclair and the Lebanon Optimists help them do just that. 

For more on The Arts Alliance’s programs or to get involved, visit the-arts-alliance.org.