When People’s Liberty, now one of Cincinnati’s major philanthropic players, launched in 2015, even its leaders knew it might flop. And yet here it is, nearly three years later, with plenty of success stories—and one reason why. “People matter,” says Jake Hodesh, the organization’s VP of operations. “It is person-centered philanthropy.” Herein, a peek at what three years of three grant categories has brought to life.
→ Sixteen $10,000 awards per year
→ Winners create unique projects in various communities; PL supplies mentorship and logistical support
→ Every People’s Liberty project has to take place inside the I-275 loop. The winners are often not just residents but people who were born and raised in Cincinnati.
- Let’s Dance, an academy that teaches middle-schoolers ballroom dancing
- Plop!, a pop up installation consisting of really, really big beanbags
- Vibrant Kin, an exhibit on five decades of LGBTQ activism
- Brick Gardens, an initiative to convert empty buildings into vertical farming spaces
- The Neighborhood Playbook is a cute and practical book for developers and residents—and a push for both sides to work together. Kevin Wright, who co-wrote the Playbook, says People’s Liberty was essential: “The project grant helped us take an idea and make it a reality.”
→ Six $15,000 awards per year
→ Winners take over a PL storefront for a few weeks
→ Globe Grants are the favorite of the People’s Liberty staff. “They just resonate with us,” Hodesh says, “the idea of being at street level…here today and gone tomorrow.”
- Here Channel, a digital radio channel and friendly recording studio
- The Green Store, a storefront that featured eco-friendly wares and living walls
- Good Eggs, an operation with gumball machines that dispensed plastic eggs with tips for doing good deeds
- The Mini, a “microcinema” to screen movies and other media that challenged Hollywood norms
- King Me, a stunning photo installation that empowered African-American men
- Julia Fischer used the People’s Liberty storefront to launch her Play Library, an inviting space where kids and adults alike could check out hundreds of toys and games. Today, the Play Library has expanded to a permanent home on Elm Street, where you can find more than 1,000 toys (and a toy history museum to boot).
→ Two $100,000 grants per year
→ A panel of local artists and experts selects the recipients, who get the capital and support to pursue a “civic sabbatical” for a year.
- Brad Schnittger (2015) Empowering local musicians to monetize their art
- Brad Cooper (2015) Building tiny houses. People’s Liberty projects don’t always work as promised—the point is to try. Take Brad Cooper, an architect who got a Haile Fellowship in 2015 to address the city’s affordable housing crunch by building tiny houses. A series of complications caused his structures’ final price to climb as high as $200,000.
- Chris Glass (2016) Exploring and photographing Cincinnati’s neighborhoods
- Brandon Black (2016) Reinvigorating the apprenticeship model and renovating older homes
- Tracy Brumfield (2017) Preparing incarcerated citizens for life post-release
- Tamia Stinson (2017) Connecting Cincinnati’s thriving scene of image-makers