The Ohio State University Arts Initiative supports a global community of artistic educators through collaborative alliances with state, national, and international organizations in order to advance the daily impact of the arts on individuals, and serve as the umbrella for multiple aspects of the arts on and off campus. Begun in 2008 with Associate Vice President Karen A. Bell, the Arts Initiative cultivated the Ohio State University/Royal Shakespeare Company Partnership, instituted the New Leaders Program, and provided community outreach opportunities for graduating artists at Ohio State.

In 2011, the Arts Initiative came under the auspices of the College of Arts and Sciences. From January 1, 2011-October 1, 2011 it was directed by Lesley Ferris, Professor of Theatre. It is currently directed by Valarie Williams, Professor of Dance and Associate Dean of Arts and Humanities. In its re-envisioning, under Williams, the Arts Initiative continues to promote the arts at Ohio State and serve the extended community.