Friday, September 4, 2009

Artistic Pride: My Visit to the Rookwood Factory

No one denies the vibrancy of the art community in Cincinnati. In fact, so much art happens here that there is a risk that some of the best places for seeing art are overlooked or at least postponed for the next time. To be sure, the Taft Museum of Art and equally impressive Cincinnati Art Museum with its Cincinnati Wing are sure to proudly and beautifully present our cultural history. I will fault no one who invites out of town guests to visit one of these gems over any of our other art institutions ( admittedly, I may do the same this holiday weekend), but as Greater Cincinnati residents and art lovers we are called on to explore many of the other art spaces as well.

The Rookwood Factory on Race Street is one of those places that is a must see. While I've enjoyed sharing the story as depicted at the Cincinnati Art Museum of this wonderful tradition begun by Maria Longsworth in the 1880s, my visit to the factory this week instilled in me I think for the first time a spark of civic art historical pride. To see not only the beautiful tiles, some of which have not yet been released to the public, but to witness the Rookwood artists at work was as breathtaking as glazes. There is no bustling we may associate with factory work, but instead an almost peaceful, contemplative and certainly creative aura in the space. Without a doubt this is due to the fact that Rookwood Pottery is not mass-produced but hand-made and painted. Though I also think the presence of this sensation in this factory is because these artists know instinctively what I came to recognize during my visit: that they are part of this long artistic tradition that is world-renowned and is our pride.

Maria Longworth's belief that "the key to creating fine art was to create an environment filled with talent, ideas and inspiration" is a founding principle behind the Rookwood Pottery , and has also become the bedrock of the aspirations of the many artists, galleries, and studios in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.