Building Cincinnati’s Art Community with Manifest Gallery

Energy efficiency might not always be visible, but it can be tangible.

When building performance improvement measures (like the installation of central air conditioning) help to transform a space, energy efficiency becomes visible.

In the case of the Manifest Creative Research Gallery and Drawing Center (Manifest), the results of their building performance improvements are certainly felt. This April, Manifest replaced baseboard heaters and the inefficient, disruptive, and ineffective window air conditioning units barely cooling their three galleries and office space. They installed an energy efficient central heating ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC) through the Energy Alliance’s Better Buildings Performance Program.


Manifest was able to make this transformative improvement for their gallery and office with the Energy Alliance’s newly launched Building Communities Loan Fund, which provides loans designed to fund smaller scale energy efficiency projects for nonprofit and other organizations.

Manifest’s new functional and efficient heating and cooling unit was the very first project funded through the Building Communities Loan.

The results of this energy efficiency project will be felt by the men and women who work so diligently to accomplish Manifest’s amazing, multi-faceted mission, by the community they serve who enter their gallery and on site artist residency studio, and by the works of art hanging, standing, rotating, or even precariously perched in their gallery spaces. Technically the works of art don’t feel anything, but they still benefit from their newly climate controlled environment.

When nonprofit organizations spend less on energy, they have more to invest in their mission. With more resources available for their mission, our communities benefit.

Manifest’s new air conditioning unit will not only improve the comfort and usability of the galleries and offices. It has helped the gallery to expand their exhibition gallery space by fifty percent, and their overall space by thirty percent. These are visible results! This expansion has been made possible through a lease agreement with the owner of their building in East Walnut Hills on Woodburn Avenue.

Beginning in March of this year, Manifest became responsible for their heating and cooling costs. Because Manifest has taken the initiative to install the high efficiency HVAC system, those inevitable operating costs will be significantly reduced for the gallery, allowing them to more productively utilize those funds that otherwise would have gone towards cumbersome utility bills. In addition, because the Manifest team chose to install the updated HVAC system, the building owner has allowed them to rent the remaining quarter of the first floor for no additional fee for the remainder of their lease.

The Building Communities Loan

The Energy Alliance is committed to helping nonprofit organizations in Greater Cincinnati. Our role is to help organizations improve their facilities, both to care for the well-being of their staff and the communities they serve, and to lessen their energy bills. Savings on energy bills allow nonprofit organizations to have more money to invest in our communities.

The Building Community Loan was developed in partnership with the Cincinnati Development Fund, Inc. It was designed to help nonprofit organizations finance nonprofit energy efficiency projects and building performance improvements.

Nonprofit organizations and other institutions who first apply to the Energy Alliance’s Better Buildings Performance Program are eligible to apply for the Building Communities Loan. It can be used to finance up to $25,000 in energy efficiency improvements for commercial (nonresidential) spaces once there has been an energy audit completed.

Others call it mission driven lending – we call it common sense.

Simple energy efficiency improvements such as lighting retrofits and HVAC system replacements can cause a dramatic reduction in energy bills for commercial spaces. Energy efficiency improvements pay for themselves and can help nonprofit organizations to generate revenue through utility savings while improving the usability of their buildings.

Manifest, A Neighborhood Gallery for the World

Manifest Gallery is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit creative research gallery, drawing center, art book press, and residency for artists. Jason Franz, co-founder and executive director of Manifest, emphasizes that Manifest is “aneighborhood gallery for the world.”

Manifest Gallery is the answer to the question,
“What do we do for society as artists?”

The gallery is located in East Walnut Hills in Cincinnati, Ohio, and occupies the formerly vacant storefront property of 2727 Woodburn Avenue. Founded nearly ten years ago, Manifest was created by Jason Franz, Elizabeth Kauffman, and Brigid O’Kane to fill a void in Cincinnati. It was the answer to a question posed to students of art at Xavier University. “What do we do for society as artists?”

For a dilapidated building in a struggling neighborhood located near the Art Academy, Xavier University and the University of Cincinnati, the founding of Manifest was “perfect kismet,” according to Franz. It helped spark the revitalization of the neighborhood, engaged students, and offered the Greater Cincinnati exposure to museum quality art work.

“Everyone is disadvantaged when it comes to exposure to really great quality [art] work from around the world.”

Jason Franz, Executive Director, Manifest

Manifest’s mission is to engage the viewing public with new, insightful, and challenging creative works and to support the positive growth of the visual arts in the region. Manifest occupies “a unique place in the ecosystem” of the art world, as Franz explains. They are not driven by sales, and there is no red tape or agenda. Their juried shows have received submissions of high caliber work from artists representing eighty-seven countries around the world and all fifty states.

Manifest will begin its tenth anniversary year this coming fall. To raise funds renovate their additional exhibition space by a September deadline, Manifest has launched the Manifest More! fundraising campaign. Look for details on how to support their goal of even greater impact through visual arts at the Manifest More! campaign homepage.

“The center of the art world is everywhere, so why not here?”

The Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance is proud to help further the mission and work of nonprofit organizations like Manifest Creative Research Gallery and Drawing Center. Organizations like Manifest benefit the community in such a myriad of ways. It is truly an honor to be a little part of that gift of artistic experience, economic development, community building, and the documentation of art for posterity.

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