Arts & Entertainment

Greater Cincinnati is home to a vibrant arts and entertainment scene. From theater to music to visual arts, these nine people are helping to ensure that creativity in the Queen City continues to shine.

Jeanna Vella, 32, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company
  • Jeanna Vella, director of marketing and sales, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company
  • Hometown: West Chester
  • Current neighborhood: Mount Adams

Why she's so amazing: Jeanna Vella has performed many important roles since joining the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company in 2010. As director of education programs, Vella has helped grow the company's free Shakespeare in the Park tour from seven stops in 2010 to nearly 40 performances in 2017, with crowds increasing from 2,000 people to more than 10,000.

Most recently as director of marketing and sales, Vella introduced the public to the new $17.5 million Otto M. Budig theater at 1195 Elm St. in Over-the-Rhine when it opened in September. Under her leadership the theater's single-ticket and subscription sales have more than doubled as well.

"I hope this is a cultural landmark that will be here forever," she said of the new theater.

In her spare time, Vella teaches a course in arts management as an adjunct faculty member at Miami University’s College of Creative Arts and plays clarinet in the Southwest Ohio Symphonic Band.

Eddy Kwon, 28, Price Hill Will
  • Eddy Kwon, director of MYCincinnati, Price Hill Will
  • Hometown: Minneapolis
  • Current neighborhood: Price Hill

Why he's so amazing: Eddy Kwon's passion and enthusiasm for the community he has fostered through MYCincinnati is impossible to miss. In 2015, Price Hill Will named Kwon the director of MYCincinnati, which promotes youth development and community engagement through a free, daily orchestra program. The University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music graduate works closely with the 120 youths, their families and 14 teaching artists that currently participate in MYCincinnati.

He also oversees the Price Hill Creative Community Festival, a free performing arts event he launched in 2016 to showcase collaborative and experimental arts. An accomplished artist in his right, Kwon was named a United States Artists Ford fellow the same year.

"What I love so much about MyCincinnati is that together with the students, families and volunteers, we've been able to create this space where everyone feels like they belong," Kwon said. "Their presence is not only valued but is expected for the health of the community."

KellyAnn Nelson, 40, Young Professionals Choral Collective
  • KellyAnn Nelson, director and co-founder of the Young Professionals Choral Collective
  • Hometown: Lake Orion, Michigan
  • Current neighborhood: Westwood

Why she's so amazing: In just five years, KellyAnn Nelson has assembled a group of more than 800 singers who currently participate in the Young Professionals Choral Collective. Whether beginners or seasoned singers, Nelson helps to connect area professionals ages 21-45 with a passion for music and the arts in a fun, creative environment.

Nelson launched the Young Professionals Choral Collective with her husband, Christopher Eanes, in 2012. She is also the managing artistic director of the Cincinnati Boychoir.

Nelson previously served as associate conductor of both the Cincinnati Children’s Choir and the Princeton Girlchoir in New Jersey. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education from Western Michigan University and her doctorate in choral conducting and arts administration from the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music.

"One of things that is really appealing as musicians is that we love being in a city that has access to the arts of a big city, but it is also affordable to live and have a lot of access to other opportunities," Nelson said.

Destinee Thomas, 28, Source Cincinnati
  • Destinee Thomas, manager of communications and content, Source Cincinnati
  • Hometown: Wyoming, Ohio
  • Current neighborhood: West End

Why she's so amazing: For more than two years, Destinee Thomas has turned educating people about Cincinnati's entertainment and cultural offerings into an art form.

From 2015 to March 2017, Thomas served as director of communications for ArtWorks Cincinnati. There she crafted stories communicating the nonprofit’s projects, mission and fundraising efforts. During the past year, she expanded her role of sharing the vibrancy of Cincinnati's arts and entertainment scene as manager of communications and content for Source Cincinnati.

Through use of social media and strategic planning, Thomas is helping to promote Cincinnati at both the regional and national levels.

"I get to tell them about our arts story and the heritage of arts," Thomas said. "I really do love being part of this city's ongoing revitalization."

E. Claire Bryson, 31, Keep Cincinnati Beautiful
  • E. Claire Bryson, arts program manager, Keep Cincinnati Beautiful
  • Hometown: Cincinnati
  • Current neighborhood: Pendleton

Why she's so amazing: In her role as arts program manager for Keep Cincinnati Beautiful, E. Claire Bryson helps to turn what may otherwise appear ugly in Cincinnati into something beautiful. For seven years, Bryson has overseen the painting of barricaded facades of vacant buildings, designed and executed community murals and constructed eco-art installations. You can see much of her work in Over-the-Rhine.

Working closely with her associate Katie Davis, Bryson also has supported Keep Cincinnati Beautiful's program grants, strategic planning, statistical analysis, volunteer coordination and the use of creativity as a tool for community revitalization.

"They are all champions for the city," Bryson said of her Keep Cincinnati Beautiful co-workers. "They are the most resourceful, empowered go-getters."

C Jacqueline Wood, 34, Mini Microcinema
  • C Jacqueline Wood, director, the Mini Microcinema
  • Hometown: Cincinnati
  • Current neighborhood: Clifton Heights

Why she's so amazing: C Jacqueline Wood's passion for movies has not only brought together film-lovers but also a wide variety of local arts organizations. Since Wood launched the Mini Microcinema with the help of a People's Liberty grant in 2015, the Mini Microcinema has collaborated with Black Folks Make Movies, the Carnegie Arts Center, University of Cincinnati Center for Film and Media Studies, Miami University Cinema Film Studies, Women in Film and FotoFocus.

The Mini Microcinema also has created opportunities for under-represented voices to be heard by hosting more than 200 free documentary, short, experimental and locally made film screenings.

"I love meeting all different types of people," Wood said. "Movies bring people together."

Joshua Mattie, 37, Contemporary Arts Center
  • Joshua Mattie, director of communications, Contemporary Arts Center
  • Hometown: Westwood
  • Current neighborhood: Over-the-Rhine

Why he's so amazing: Joshua Mattie's passion for the arts is prolific. After graduating from college, he worked with the arts nonprofit Happen, where he helped children write and shoot short films. He co-founded Projectmill, which hosted a monthly event that featured dance and art installations for five years at Northside Tavern.

As director of communications for the Contemporary Arts Center, Mattie has transformed the way the museum engages its audience. He created online video series that allow more personal interactions with exhibiting artists. He also mentored and coached the team that works with him to promote the arts.

Mattie also launched We Be Team, his own design and creative firm.

"I've been here (CAC) for eight years going on nine now," Mattie said. "I'm really excited to work with a talented team. It's a privilege to share that with the city."

Maggie Perrino, 35, the Carnegie
  • Maggie Perrino, theater director, the Carnegie
  • Hometown: Cincinnati
  • Current neighborhood: Price Hill

Why she's so amazing: During her three years as the Carnegie's theater director, Maggie Perrino has worked tirelessly to bring together the Covington art center's multiple departments to create programs for everyone.

In January 2017, Perrino united professional actors and school-aged students from the Carnegie's education program, artists and set designers for a production of "The Wizard of Oz." This month, Perrino is once again coordinating students and professionals for a production of "Willy Wonka."

The cross-pollination of departments has led to other unique programming that draws more people into the arts, which Perrino said is her and the Carnegie's ultimate goal.

"The Carnegie is small but mighty," Perrino said. "That's what I like about it. We are constantly trying to bring the arts to a very real, tangible level to kids and adults. We don't look to be the most exclusive."

Melvin Dillon, 33, Soul Step Records
  • Melvin Dillon, owner, Soul Step Records
  • Hometown: Big Stone Gap, Virginia
  • Current neighborhood: Pleasant Ridge

Why he's so amazing: Melvin Dillon is so passionate about local music that he has established Soul Step Records to help small bands promote their work. Dillon's record label helps bands finance the cost of recording and producing vinyl records, which are then sold online and in local record shops.

To date, Soul Step Records has produced 30 record releases, with plans for 15 to 20 more this year. Dillon also created the Cincy Brewer Series, which brings together local musicians and breweries for live events and record releases.

"There is a ton of record labels in the world," Dillon said. "There is none like mine. It operates like a nonprofit. It is built for artists."

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