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Meet the Staff: Brianna Dance

Meet the Staff: Brianna Dance, Organizational Programs Coordinator

As one-half of the dynamic duo that is the Ohio Arts Council's Organizational Investment Office—Brianna Dance is all coordinator, all the time. She lives and breathes deadlines, pores over final reports, and meticulously plans panel meetings. 

Covering the central and southeastern portion of the state (see exactly where in this handy map) is no small task. Always going above and beyond, Brianna can be spotted supporting grantees at events across the state. 

An artist at heart, and with one close to her heart, she understands how a helping hand in arts administration can go a long way. Meet the OAC's organizational investment coordinator, Brianna Dance. 

Q. Can you give us an inside look at your day-to-day working through grants? Is there a side to the job that most don’t see? 
In essence, it takes a lot of time, a pair of good reading glasses, and a village comprised of OAC staff, panelists, and facilitators—especially with a grants season like this past spring with over 500 applications coming into the five grant programs that I’m directly involved in. 

Earlier this year, we had about 40 panelists involved with our Sustainability program alone, and each panelist is individually selected to help create as diverse of a panel as possible in terms of artistic expertise, age, gender, residing region, etc. 

It’s a labored effort to ensure every step of the process is done right. Although most of our deadlines are in the spring, the work constantly continues throughout the year with rolling deadline grant programs, new guideline updates for the upcoming year, identifying and recruiting panelists for future panel reviews, final reports (yes, we read every single one of them closely), and advising new applicants into the appropriate grant program. 

It’s busy and there’s never a dull moment. 

Q. You also organize the OAC’s International Music and Performing Arts in Communities Tour (IMPACT). What can we expect for this year’s programming?   
As always with IMPACT, you can expect an authentic cultural experience that's free and enjoyable for the whole family. I am genuinely thrilled for this year's group, Alash, who are master throat singers and are traveling across the world to share this ancient art form. While the musical technique is traditional, their music is modern and fresh. I think their incredible talent and the rhythmic fluidity of their songs will blow the audience away.

My jaw drops when I listen to them perform—it’s so amazing what the human voice can do. I am thrilled to see others’ responses; especially if it’s the first time they’ve heard throat singing performed live because it’s so unbelievable.

This year, public concerts will be held in Medina, Marietta, Portsmouth, and Urbana on various dates in October. (Click here for the specific dates, times, and venues.) All are welcome, so please bring friends and family to this culturally-immersive performance! 

Q. You grew up in Cincinnati. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood and how you discovered your love of art? 
I was fortunate to be exposed to art in a meaningful way at a young age, and my love for it can be traced back to three sources: 1) my grandmother, who was a talented and devoted painter; 2) my elementary school art teacher, Ms. Saunders; and 3) the Cincinnati Art Museum.

I remember my first visit to the Cincinnati Art Museum in elementary school on a field trip. I was in such awe of the artwork in their collection that as soon as I got home from school, I borrowed a stack of art books from our public library and spent hours trying to draw like the masters.

My taste in art evolved as I entered high school, and I remember one of the first contemporary art exhibitions I had attended was at the Cincinnati Art Museum. Since I grew up visiting that museum, I appreciated the breadth and diversity of work in their collection and exhibitions. No matter what age I was when I visited, I always left the museum doors with at least one art work that had a meaningful impact on me.  

Q. A graduate of The Ohio State University, you received your BFA in sculpture but worked along various media, especially video. Can you talk a little bit about your time at OSU and your work and processes? 
OSU offers a lot of great opportunities and resources, and what I am most grateful for is their investment in student research across all majors including the arts. I was successful in receiving several grants, scholarships, and a university fellowship to support my research that was in tandem with my studies in fine art and philosophy. My research investigated the philosophical concept of Absurdism through video art, which was my primary medium at the time.

The process of applying for those grants, coupled with working at the Urban Arts Space while I was a student, entirely shifted my career goals. I originally wanted to be an artist/instructor, but realized through my work experience as a student that I greatly enjoyed serving in an administrative role.

I’ve been fortunate that it’s worked out for me thus far. I wish I could say I am still making work as regularly as I once was, but until then, I vicariously live that life through my husband, who is an artist.  

Q. You got married last year to artist Nate Ricciuto. Any fun wedding stories or newlywed adventures you’d like to share?
Although we're recently married, we've been together for 8 years, and our biggest adventure has been having a long-distance relationship for the past 2 years while Nate was working on his MFA in Philadelphia, PA. Now graduated, he's teaching a few courses at his alma mater, Tyler School for the Arts. 

There are some advantages to our Midwest/East Coast adventure. Because he's so immersed in the arts there, I enjoy being connected to the shows and artists that are exhibiting and/or making work in Philly. Also, it's interesting to experience Nate's work from a completely different perspective. 

When he was in Columbus, I was often at his studio, constantly seeing the work in progress. Nowadays, it's typical that I'm seeing his new work for the first time when it's being exhibited in a show. It's refreshing to have an outsider's perspective. 

While our long-distance adventure continues (for not much longer, I hope), I feel blessed to have such a talented, intelligent, and creative mind to share life with - even when it spans 500 miles. 

Q. While Nate is your first love, I know you have a second...
Nate would disagree and say that Bess is my #1...Bessie is our 3-year-old Newfoundland dog. With Nate away, she is my much-needed companion, and at 120 lbs. (of fun!), she is a gentle giant that fills our home with a lot of love and slobber. Washcloth required.

Finish these: 

I’m most proud of…. Although I've had a lot of moments to be proud of, I believe my proudest accomplishment has yet to happen.
I can’t live without… baths. 
Most people don’t know… I’m learning to cook. My husband is Italian and is a phenomenal cook, but after so many years, I refuse to be the sous chef in the kitchen all of the time. So, for the past year, I’ve been learning how to make meals from scratch on my own. It’s now become one of my favorite pastimes.
My favorite art… is the kind that conveys the world in a way that our raw senses alone cannot perceive—the kind that, by being in its presence, leads us to a deeper, more well-rounded understanding of humanity, culture, and/or the absurdity in it all. 

Want to chat about upcoming grants, the Cincinnati Art Museum, or Newfoundland dogs? Reach out to Brianna at

The Ohio Arts Council is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Connect with the OAC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website at


Article by Molly Rutledge, PIO Intern
Article updated 1/2/19 to include new regional coordinator map

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