Happen, Inc. epitomizes the idea that community is not just where you live, but how you live with other people. This nonprofit brings families together through the arts, offering free art classes, internships and endless opportunities for participation. As Happen, Inc. looks toward its 20th anniversary next year, Cincinnati Parent talked with Northsider and Happen Inc. founder Tommy Rueff about how the organization is growing and changing — and why art matters.
Happen, Inc. has art classes, a toy lab, a community garden, after-school programs, a make-it space and more. How and why did it all begin?
Happen, Inc. was founded in 1999 to bring families and communities together through shared creative experiences. I left the world of advertising to pursue ways to use art and the creative process to give parents and children the opportunity to learn, play and create memories that last a lifetime. Happen was named after something my mother always told me: that I can do anything, I can make it happen. Since 1999, we have grown from one art class serving 27 families to having eight different outreach programs providing over 18,000 experiences a year. Every experience revolves around Happen’s theme: “Community is not just where you live, it’s how you live with other people.”
Why do the arts matter?
It’s really the creative process that matters to me, and art in whatever form is the byproduct of the creative process. The same goes for science, engineering, business, design and everything else that our society has created — it all benefits from creativity. We are all blessed with the power of creativity, and when we use that creative power — whether it be art or even math — we are solving problems, and that is why art matters.
How can kids get involved in your programs?
We offer a range of free programs at our Northside studio for parents and children ages 3 to 12, and have expanded our programs for teens ages 13 to 17. The best way to get involved is check out our website, follow us on social media, call or stop in and take part in a Happen activity. We have sessions and activities you can take part in at Happen, or you can participate in Happen programs throughout the community. Happen is everywhere, from Family First Saturdays at the Cincinnati Art Museum to Pop Up Play at Washington Park.
Most of your program are free. How can the community support Happen, Inc.?
We really do rely on the community and individuals to keep making it happen. Anyone interested in supporting what we do can make a one-time or monthly sustaining donation via our website, Facebook page or by visiting our studio in Northside. You can also have your next party or special event at Happen’s Toy Lab, next door to the Happen studio, where the proceeds go to help support all the free programs we provide year-round.
Happen is celebrating its 20th anniversary next year. What does the future hold for Happen, Inc.?
Happen has been growing over the last 20 years by celebrating and developing programs that reflect the passions of others. We are looking forward to continuing the tradition at Happen of entertaining, educating and empowering people. And we’re going to keep developing new programs that meet the needs of the community and the mission of bringing people together through the creative process sharing the knowledge of others and exploring what the imaginations of young minds can create.