Thursday, December 30, 2010

Who is Politicizing Identity?.

Recently, Edward Rothstein of the New York Times looked at the challenges museums have exploring "other" histories. His critique of an exhibition of the role of Muslims in science history, which opened at the New York Hall of Science in Queens and the unveiling of the President's House in Philadelphia points to identity politics as the cause of a growing practice of distorting historical facts in order to provide testament to a particular group's story. I agree, these identity exhibitions appear to rest on historical slants. Rothstein also makes an excellent point about how such simple and slanted presentations do not allow for the nuances each group can claim as dynamic moments in their histories. But to focus on these two examples seems to implicate the cultural groups' eagerness to present "their stories." Weak scholarship, or more likely, ignoring scholarship results in poor exhibitions and museums no matter the topic. The politics played here is not those of cultural identity, but of museum identity.

As someone who devoted her own academic scholarship to cultural identity theory in art history, I can tell you historians are not prone to omit historical nuance. In fact, we excitedly look for it. It's these dynamics or twists in which we rest our stories. This is after all, the variety of varying perspectives of history. Identity politics doesn't generally happen at the scholarship level. True, like all scholars, we begin with a premise or a question that may seem slanted, but the goal is in the search for problems, twists, complicated dynamics in history particular to cultural identity theory.

Today, presenting historical nuances rests with the museums and their boards of directors. As cultural institutions continue to be managed by business professionals, such as development officers and public relations firms, nuance (i.e. historical facts, scholarship) risks being abandoned for the ease of the sell. (I refuse to believe an uncomplicated history line will secure large audiences, but I'm not in the business of sales). It is this brand of identity politics that that dictates the parameters of exhibitions. Rothstein does in fact mention the National Museum of American Jewish History as an example of how museums successfully present nuance. I will add El Museum del Barrio as another. These two institutions established themselves about 40 years ago, a time when "curator" meant scholar, not aggregator of information.

While Rothstein's critique seems to lay the blame on these cultural groups' desire to claim their history, the weakness of these exhibitions and others like them point instead to the fact that these stories are are not "their own stories." Instead, they are examples of branding for the business of museum identity. Forty years after cultural groups were offered the mic to tell their stories, have we returned to a place when our identity is someone else's merchandise?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Find Your Center: A Link to Your Arts Community and Others

Since inviting you to consider directly supporting the arts in Greater Cincinnati, my friend Shannan Boyer from the Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center pointed me to Find Your Center Now. This is a directory of the neighborhood arts centers throughout the area.

I've included most of these to my links banner above, but expect this directory link may be a better resource that will be updated more timely than my own list. Because this directory does not include the major museums, it shines a better spotlight on the individual communities of which we may not have known.

Please check out these places and again consider supporting them by purchasing a membership or enrolling in any of the classes or attending an event.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Support Local Artists and Arts Organizations for a Happy New Year

My regular readers know I am an advocate for direct support of our artists and art organizations. As you rush to finish your holiday shopping, remember museum stores, concert tickets, and memberships to specific art organizations or neighborhood art centers are great gifts.

If you are a parent like me, once the holidays are over, you'll soon be wondering how to best plan your children's summer. Summer in Cincinnati is filled with art classes and camps. A membership now will put you in line for a spot in any of these classes that will fill up quickly. Purchasing a membership for a family on your list will also secure discounts on events for the family (adults and children) throughout the year.

Not only are these gifts tax-deductible, but since you are reading this, you simply have to scroll to the top of this page and click on any of the links above to begin shopping.

Make it a wonderful new year for your friends and family as well as the local artists and art organizations by filling their stockings with a year of art.

Happiest Holidays from the Cincinnati Art Snob.

Monday, December 20, 2010

But 20 Years Ago, Cincinnati Invested in Art's Dialog

The past couple of weeks have proven to be a challenge as I try to engage the local art community in some of the biggest news in the arts this season. I've spent this time trying to understand why despite "our vibrant art community," no one in Greater Cincinnati wants to participate in this discussion. As stressed in my previous post, the CAC has enjoyed a history of supporting the arts and artists through bold exhibitions and conversations. Yet today they fail to join other museums in standing up against censorship.

I know Cincinnati is conservative. Though I also know of many local artists and art patrons who are not. So why is it that everyone in Cincinnati seems to be shying away from this debate? A recent blog post on ArtsWave seems to shed light on the silence. "Everyone Wants to Live in a Special Place" is about finding and adopting the best message that will attract support for the arts. ArtsWave in fact criticizes discussions that include challenging topics like censorship in the arts saying:

"Reporters and bloggers love to shine a spotlight on fights like the one that erupted in recent days over a privately-funded exhibit at the publicly-funded Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. And opponents of broad support for the arts know they can undermine that support by tagging art as elitist for the few. We’ve seen it happen time and again.

Debates like this make even our friends and supporters leery of publicly backing the arts -- whether with money or advocacy."

Let me get this straight, ArtsWave is accusing art writers of undermining support for the arts?

Boldness in the arts including debates like this one have proven that support increases for the arts. In fact, despite the notion that uncomfortable debates damage support for the arts, the CAC continues to tap the Mapplethorpe controversy 20 years later.

To those of you who read my blog, you know this last point is what frustrates me most about the silence. So I finally looked to see what the atmosphere was really like here 20 years ago? In 1990, Cincinnati Magazine wrote an excellent review on the legal and artistic ramifications of the Mapplethorpe debate called Mapplethorpe: The Aftershock.

The cover story presents an incredibly dynamic discussion between community leaders both for and against censorship of the exhibition, and how this event was shaped by and shapes Greater Cincinnati. The details and perspectives included in the story are very interesting and I encourage you to read it. Reading it will give you an idea of the kind of comprehensive discussions you could find in the local mainstream (even conservative) media 20 years ago.

Unfortunately, the conversation is one we in Cincinnati seem to be afraid to have today. Even in this time of social networking when conversations should be occurring frequently and debates permitting insight provided by various voices, Cincinnati's art communities are silent to the crimes of censorship for which they once fought so hard.

Has ArtsWave's work to find the strongest message to support the local arts effectively held any arts discussion in 2010 hostage?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Where is the CAC?

Since the pulling of the David Wojnarowicz video, A Fire in My Belly, from the Smithsonian last week, art critics are not the only ones angry about their cowering to the demands of the Catholic League and John Boehner. Museums and galleries are now joining the protests. You can find the best coverage of this story on Tyler Green's blog at Artinfo.

First to lead in the move to support the artist's work was the Transformer Gallery in DC, which responded by installing the video. New York's New Museum has announce it too would install A Fire in My Belly.

Nearby museums are also stepping up their support for Wojnarowicz. The Indianapolis Museum of Art will show his Untitled (One day in this kid....) and Ohio's own Wexner Center just announced they will join other museums by hosting a screening of A Fire in My Belly tomorrow at 4:30.

So where is the CAC?

Since this video was pulled, a few people have recalled the Mapplethorpe controversy about 20 years ago. Some comments have compared the CAC's willingness to stand up for artists as opposed to the NPG's response. I've contacted the CAC for a statement of support for David Wojnarowicz. This is what Molly O'Toole, Director of Communication and Community Engagement sent to me:

"First of all, it needs to be said that we strongly stand behind the statement made through the AAMD. It is in direct alignment with our unique institutional (obviously) perspective on issues of censorship and political pressure on the arts. Specifically, I’d like to underscore the section that reads:
'freedom of expression is essential to the health and welfare of our communities and our nation. In this case, that takes the form of the rights and opportunities of art museums to present works of art that express different points of view. Discouraging the exchange of ideas undermines the principles of freedom of expression, plurality and tolerance on which our nation was founded. This includes the forcible withdrawal of a work of art from within an exhibition—and the threatening of an institution’s funding sources.'
It is alarming to be confronted with another example of the arts’ vulnerability to this kind of attack. Just as we saw 20 years ago, this public debate can shed light on that. And if there is something that history has shown, it’s that public support can change the dynamic. It’s possible, we’ve seen it happen.
The arts play an invaluable role in creating community and public dialogue and—in the end—the more we can show that, the more successful we will be at neutralizing this kind of attack in the long run."

This is not really the support for the artist I had hoped to get from an institution that stood firm with Mapplethorpe and in the 20 years since recalls their historic stand with the opening of nearly every exhibition since. This failure to openly and aggressively stand up against attacks and support artists is exactly what led to the decision to pull the video from Hide/Seek.

The CAC statement does shed light on an inherent problem with the arts in Cincinnati. The language of public support ($$) and arts creating a public dialogue to "neutralize this kind of attack" illustrates how much of Cincinnati sees the arts.

As I mentioned to Ms. O'Toole, our city suffers from a conversation in the arts that is upside down. As local arts organizations continue to work by first asking the public what they define as art, institutions like the CAC fail to take the lead in art's discourse. Yes, the arts may create a community and a public dialogue, but the public looks to the CAC, the CAM and the Taft as well as the number of private galleries to take the lead in the discussion. Especially with the current story, of any of Cincinnati's art organizations, the public should be able to comfortably defer to the CAC.

The CAC is preparing to open Keith Haring soon. I expect their press release will again mention Mapplethorpe, AIDS, street art, homosexuality and other seemingly controversial topics in art. But until they are willing to openly engage in discussion and actively support artists including David Wojnarowicz, the CAC will continue to permit the following lesson to be re-learned: silence leads to self-censorship.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Vote for National History Day in Ohio

National History Day in Ohio was accepted to compete for a $50,000 Pepsi Refresh Project Grant.

To win, we need to have as many people as possible vote for this project during the month of December. The grant will go for scholarships to low-income students, program materials, field trips to historic sites and teacher training to help increase National History Day participation in urban and rural schools.

Vote Daily
Please go to Pepsi Refresh at and vote for National History Day in Ohio. Once you register, you can vote once-a-day, every day in December. It’s simple and easy to do.

In addition to voting, you can ask your friends and family to vote for National History Day in Ohio, too! Just forward this e-mail to your mailing list. The more people to vote for us, the better our chances to win $50,000.

About National History Day
National History Day in Ohio is a year-long educational program where students in grades 4-12 do explore topics that interest them related to a specific theme. In the 2010-2011, it’s Debate and Diplomacy in History: Successes, Consequences, Failures. Students do research and present their work through exhibits, performances, documentaries, research papers or websites at regional and state and national competitions. Learn how National History Day in Ohio helps students excel by watching the Pepsi Refresh Video.

About Pepsi Refresh Project
In 2010, the Pepsi Refresh Project will give away more than $20 million to refresh the world, one idea at a time. Each month, Pepsi will award up to $1.3 million in grants to the ideas with the most votes. Pepsi accepts up to 1,000 new ideas every month and the public decides who wins.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What Does the NPG Really Learn from the CAC?

A little over 20 years after Dennis Barrie and the Contemporary Arts Center was acquitted of the charge of pandering obscenity with the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit, our own John Boehner with Eric Cantor has successfully threatened the National Portrait Gallery into removing a work by David Wojnarowicz from its Hide/Seek exhibition. But this is not all. Boehner is seeking to remove the whole show, which the Smithsonian describes as "the first major exhibition to focus on sexual difference in the making of modern American portraiture."

With its acquittal in 1990, the CAC has rightfully taken pride in its place in American art history. With Barrie as director it refused to bow to the pressure of Jesse Helms and Citizens for Community Values. So why, 20 years later, are we witnessing such weakness at the Smithsonian? And if the CAC did effectively draw a line in the sand against art censorship, how does Greater Cincinnati's golden boy Boehner come out on top? Should the CAC step up to defend or condemn the NPG?

Citizens for Community Values, founded in 1983, believes they did not lose the Mapplethorpe battle. Citizens quite accurately noted the case proved "that not everything is protected by the first amendment." While the CAC was acquitted, the message was clear, Citizens for Community Values continues to watch them. This message was made much louder when the Cincinnati Institute of Fine Arts, now ArtsWave, temporarily cut their funding in the midst of the uproar. Now the ArtsWave and CAC walk hand in hand as they develop programming for the CAC and fundraising opportunities for ArtsWave, while tagging themselves with Mapplethorpe's name at every marketing turn of their respective campaigns.

For at least the last couple of years, controversy and entertainment have been the adopted exhibition strategy at the CAC. At the cost of art history, constructive dialogue, and education, the CAC and ArtsWave see Mapplethorpe as a marketing tool. (The upcoming Keith Haring 1978-1982 looks to be a perfect storm.) It should be no surprise then John Boehner, backed by Citizens for Community Values, feels he is on the right side of this debate. Like the Mapplethorpe show in 1990, Hide/Seek has become a noisemaker for politicians.

Unfortunately recent news indicates that along with the the CAC, the NPG has not learned in the last 20 years how to stand up for artists. Rather than holding in trust American art, these institutions have shamefully allowed others to interpret art for their own political or monetary gains.

Removing Artist David Wojnarowicz on World AIDS Day 2010

The National Portrait Gallery recently opened Hide/Seek to rave reviews. But after pressure from the Catholic League and conservatives, the NPG has pulled the work of David Wojnarowicz.

See the story and the artist's video clip , Ant-covered Jesus, that was removed from the exhibit here.

Has nothing changed since Mapplethorpe?
Coming up: Cincinnati's role to answer this question.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

CAM Matthew Leininger Has an Eye for Fakes

The Art Newspaper is reporting US art museums are being approached by an art forger attempting to donate a number of forged works. While a registrar at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Matthew Leininger, now Director of Museum Services at the Cincinnati Art Museum made a list of these attempted donations over the past 20 years.

So far Leininger found 30 museums have been approached by a man named "Mark Landis," including the Art Institute of Chicago and the National Portrait Gallery in DC. The Cincinnati Art Museum has not been approached. Though it sounds as though he would enjoy meeting the forger again. Leininger says, “My dream would be to get all these works from all the different museums, host an exhibition in his name and invite him as the guest of honour. Then he’d really have heart problems.”

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cincinnati Art Museum Curator, James Crump's Book on Walker Evans makes Top 10

For the very first time, Library Journal announces its top ten best books list reflecting fiction and nonfiction titles that stood out as the very best in 2010. The list—compiled with the input of librarians and LJ's stable of book reviewers—represents an assortment of books appropriate for a broad reading audience.

Walker Evans Decade by Decade by James Crump made the list.

You can find the complete list here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Is Cincinnati's Public Art Only Temporary?

With the LA Times story of Rodia's Watts Towers, I've been thinking about the state of permanence of urban art. With the popularity of street art, particularly graffiti and temporary murals, and "impromptu" performances, where is the investment in permanent art in urban spaces? Millions of dollars have been dropped on private or commercial real estate in the past decade. Are many these buildings and homes, which stand empty or unfinished, our new public art investment or just junk?

Watts Towers is a monument to the arts of found objects or "junk art." As such, it is the focus of a conversation on preservation through reused items. As an architectural sculpture of found object in an urban space, Watts Towers straddles many worlds and genres. Ironically, lending itself to various conversations on art and preservation Watts Towers risked flattening out and finally destruction. When a work art resists categorization, it risks being ignored. Fortunately Watts Towers was designated a National Landmark in 1990 so is itself protected.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, Cincinnati's MuralWorks program is a successful one that celebrates local communities and puts artists to work. It is a very popular program with mural unveilings occurring countless times in the year recognizing community and the arts. Unfortunately, the city has adopted it as a business plan to exploit. We are now in the middle of year two of street art programs. As Shepard Fairey's temporary murals and Paint the Street evolve into the city's most prominently choreographed eyesores, plans are being made for the next round of street art events. With the upcoming Keith Haring exhibit, I loathe to expect something with chalk to promote the streetcar. Whatever the plan, popularity rather than permanence is the likely focus.

Despite all of the city planning involving a streetcar and casinos requiring literal ground breaking resulting in permanent changes in the urban core, there is no hint of a commitment to the arts in these plans. As new buildings go up redefining the commercial landscape of the city, there seems to be no effort to make a sincere commitment to permanent outdoor sculpture in our city.

Of course an honest and successful public arts program in Cincinnati requires those currently in power cede their influence to those who can actually judge art. The current trend towards the temporary permit "safe" decisions requiring no knowledge of the arts. There are a number of local artists and art professionals who can be hired as part of a panel to commission public art for the city. A panel of art professionals rather than business professionals would insure the city's landscape with a sincere commitment to and knowledge of the arts and culture.

Rodia's Watts Towers is a powerful statement for street art made at a time when the arts was about preservation and permanence of culture. Not a temporary public display.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

HomeWord: The Betts House

Looking at the homes of the earliest settlers in Cincinnati reveals an excited commitment to sow ones seeds in a new place. The Betts House, built in 1804 is Cincinnati's oldest residence in the downtown area and Ohio's oldest brick structure on its original site. The stability of the brick structure alone may be testament to the intended permanence of home in this river valley. However, the record of the Betts family westward migration reveals a commitment to the Queen City. Born in New Jersey, William and Phebe (nee Stevens) Betts first moved to Pennsylvania for a few years before finally settling in Cincinnati in 1800. Five Betts generations were raised in the home! Even the earthquake of 1811 failed to rock the structure of the house or the resolve of the family to maintain a home for decades.

The Federal Style architecture of the Betts House was a very popular style during the late 1700s through the early 1800s. With its balanced proportions and repeated analytical lines of geometry, the style is inspired by ancient Greek and Roman architecture. The adoption of this style during America's early decades was a conscious effort to create a visual link to earlier democracies. The visual language of symmetry and stability reflect the commitment of the earliest settlers.

At 416 Clark Street, the Betts House is located in the Betts-Longworth Historic District, just northwest of downtown Cincinnati. The neighborhood is characterized by a variety of architectural styles. Along with the Greek Revival , there is Italianate and the Queen Anne Style, and yet some buildings are transitional; adopting many styles. Yet the neighborhood has a cohesive feel. Amid the varying decorative elements, the brick work and stone facades are pulled together through a vertical design filling these long narrow lots.

Unlike many historical homes open for public tours, the Betts House is unfurnished. This is not to say the house is empty. Betts House Director, Julie Carpenter has been developing some wonderful programming related to the architectural and cultural history of Cincinnati. As with many of our cultural centers, the Betts House hosts children's educational programming in the summer as well as events and special exhibits during the holidays. But because the house is not furnished with original artifacts once belonging to the Betts family, Ms. Carpenter opens the space up as a gallery for local artists, who share an interest in the built environment and regional history.

Last spring, the Betts House opened HOME WORK, an exhibition of items for the home inspired by architectural decorative elements found in Over-the-Rhine. Currently exhibited is From Queen City to Porkopolis: Prints of Cincinnati from 1860 to 1890. These are truly breathtaking images of notable events in the city's history. And coming up for the holidays, the Betts House will exhibit recent paintings by Marcia Alscher along with the annual celebration of Christmas in the 1800s.

Using the home as a space for exhibiting local artists and histories keep the house fresh. New perspectives and conversations provide continued learning and celebration of the region. The stability and commitment to Cincinnati continues in the Betts family home as it now functions as a living history.

Monday, October 18, 2010

CincyVoices Invites My Opinion

Yes, I have opinions on things not directly related to the arts. My thanks to CincyVoices for inviting me to participate in the conversation.

Today you can find my post about marketing Cincinnati as a place to live or simply pass through on the way to something else.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati Opens Gallery

The Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati opened a new headquarters and exhibition gallery this month, in the Herzog Building, 811 Race Street, Downtown Cincinnati.

Check here for their calendar of exhibitions and other programming.

The Great Art Walk Debate

The Los Angeles Times has an interesting story about the value of art walks to art sales. Presumably the jury is still out on whether "they build the foundation for sales and create collectors or draw looky-loos opting for a cheap night out?"

During our own Final and First Fridays, are you a looky-loo?

Monday, October 11, 2010

HomeWord: New Cincinnati Art Snob Blog Series

With the success of my artist interviews (of all blog posts, the interviews get the most "hits" and from a wider ranger of people), I've decided to begin a new series called HomeWord. This series will begin by exploring each of the many house museums located throughout Greater Cincinnati. As with most museums, these focus on education and preservation. Though as house museums, each has a specific historical focus usually related to the house, the people who lived in it, and neighborhood in which it resides.

HomeWord will present not only a profile of these homes as museums with a mission, but also realize their historical significance to the growth and movement along the Ohio River.

I will begin with The Betts House, the oldest home in Downtown Cincinnati.

Perhaps a bit of a disclaimer is necessary here. While I am an art historian, I claim little knowledge of specific architectural histories. My interest here lies in teasing out Cincinnati's cultural history and believe looking at these homes and the histories of the people who built and lived in them is the best way to such a discovery.

Unlike ArtWord, HomeWord provides a much broader set of topics and perspectives. As such, HomeWord permits itself to be a series that would welcome guest bloggers. I look forward to including other perspectives on home in Greater Cincinnati, Ohio, or elsewhere.

Friday, October 8, 2010

ArtWord: John Humphries

Tile or Scales Linked Together

Originally from Texas pausing briefly on the Ozark Plateau and along the Puget Sound John Humphries feels the Miami Valley is a location for locking in roots. Having completed degrees in Architecture, and Fine Arts in Design and a foray as a saucier and metalsmith, John Humphries is a visual artist, gardener, and designer focusing on translating one media form to another. The creative work takes the form of photo/watercolor constructions, carved wooden slabs, automatic poems, and multi-layered sounds.

Humphries is exhibiting works as part of "A Vanguard Six" currently on view at the Phyllis Weston gallery

1. Your work is self-referencing. Can you tell me how working with various media and subjects from painting and photography to architecture, wood to metal, music to writing, color to sound helps satisfy your exploration of identity? Perhaps more important, how does your work force your viewer to engage in these questions of identity?
Passion and identity through making, in my work and teaching, lies primarily in the realm of drawing. Even my acoustical sculptures [yuck, that sounds like a terrible term] are design drawings because they foreground the technical execution and the media. I try to use all of the various permutations of drawing when thinking about space, narrative, pedagogy, color, and detail. Drawing from something [water from a well]. Drawing blood. To draw out [as in extending something beyond its useful life]. Drawn towards [as in gravity or loves or compulsions].

Drawing inspiration.In terms of identity, I have found most of the really interesting things in the world are so mind numbingly complex that analogy is often the most reasonable way to try to understand these things. Especially identity, one needs to come at this sideways. When working, I keep a notion of my identity in my mind at all times waiting for a chance to integrate small bits. A drawing can not be simply an illustration of my thoughts or desires or they become lampoonish or caricatures of a notion. A complex thing like the Self or Ego or Id or Morbeus’s mindless Krell primative can not be summed with a simple image or picture.

The drawing needs to be held in a certain state of indecision for the work to bloom. A bloom allows others to enter the drawing. Shifting between modes of representation holds this moment longer. I think I am trying to find that moment when the work is a bit uncanny--when something just seems to not work. I hope this does not sound too indulgent or flakey. It is a very specific feeling we have all had--a combination of surprise, anticipation, and fear. This is the experience when something as mundane as when we throw a ball of paper into the wastebasket. The instant before making the shot, we kind of know if it will make it or not, but not fully. The instant when fear shifts to accomplishment. You also feel this when you walk at night and know there is nothing to fear but little triggers shift the moment of just walking to running for your life. I think this is what happens to children when they are scared of their room or closet at night.

Identity comes forth when I can hold, or visualize, or fear, or embrace these moments. Multiple media explorations have become a tool to highlight these moments of tension. For the record I use Alexander Calder’s method for stopping a drawing--usually about dinner time, though not always.

2. Seeing your work as a continuous exploration of hybrids and spaces in-between, I wonder if you are familiar with Border Theory as a methodology for exploring Chicano and Latino identities through geographical spaces and middle grounds or borderlands? Do you see your own identity as an adopted child of first generation immigrants as similarly influential in your work? If not, what are the differences?
I am not familiar with the Border Theory of identity. I think it might be some notion about holding a geographical or temporal thing in mind as the transformative event of one’s identity. The moment in space-time when one became an alien. Perhaps my experience is close to this way of thinking. The experience of being adopted into a family which has a very strong history sets up some strange relationships. You do feel as if you simultaneously do not belong and also do dare having another place to belong. There is borrowed history and stories which you have some connection but also really do not care about. Very simplistically perhaps it could be as if you have a friend who loves a certain movie or film because they have a personal connection to the event featured in the document. You care about the person so you accept that this is important to them and you take the time to understand the event and might even enjoy the tale. There will never be the same connection so i find myself being interested in other things. The telling of the story for example.

My history started at my birth--it is as if there was nothing before me. All connections to things prior are like little charges or zaps or moments which make contact intellectually to my personal experiences. I have only one blood-relative. I have no cultural myths of creation or morality or ethics. I am searching for these connections. I believe these connections are the moments which keep us all searching. A vacation snapshot is not usually interesting in itself but it is a tangible connection to now and the past. My drawings want to be the snapshot between one thing and another, allowing you to escape for just a second. This might be why it is fun to dig through the snapshots of strangers; maybe this is the real success of Facebook and the internet.


3. Though necessarily conceptual, your analytique drawings are especially exquisite. While the drawings are full of detail and information about space and our movement within it, this viewer enjoys getting lost in their complexity as much or more than teasing out a narrative. Do you see this tug of war between beauty and concept as a problem with these drawings or with conceptual art in general? Or perhaps you welcome it as part of your (the viewer’s?) passage between definitions of art and utility?
I do not appreciate sloppiness in any work. There is a discipline specific craft required in all fields. Even art, as loose as many people think it is, needs to be well crafted. Painters before the advent of aniline dyes and large color manufacturing houses had to be as much chemist as painter. I avoid certain moves and subjects in the paintings and sounds and drawings because I still need to develop my ability to work in this way. One is typography, or the glow of salt on a dark surface, another is the luminosity of human skin in the sun.

Concept is problematic, in general, in contemporary art. Often the work seems to be over thought. I think the conceptualization of work is the thing that helps me start without a blank page, make certain moves of connection, and make value decisions while working. The success is not when a viewer is held because they “get it”. The execution of my watercolour drawings uses the connections between the technical act of drawing and making to hold the viewer in the drawing. I hope they are not confused when viewing the work--but are able to wonder around the drawing.

The technicalities of drawing allow for the transformation of one media type to another. For example: orthographic drawing has largely horizontal and vertical lines and planes. Axonometric projection has vertical lines as well. This is the moment when one type of drawing can shift into another. Axonometric drawings also have diagonal elements, these can be found in perspectival representations of space. With this understanding a drawing can shift from perspectival representation to a planimetric drawing to a an axonometric drawing.

When working I hunger for these technical transformations. These moments are the snapshots which connect ‘now to a remembered event or imagined thing or just a dumb line. I work with multiple media because I find these connections. When expanding them into three dimensions small sticks and bits of wire are very close to lines drawn on the page. The newest leaps into sound and text are because I have found these connections in other media. Speech has certain rhythmic and cadence properties which allow for a connection between any sound and text. Sound can be graphed to form an image. Multi-media is just the next inevitable step.

Sometimes you have to stop drawing and listen.

Pelops Speak Non-sense for Himself

4. You draw your work with hybrid identities from the Greek transformational story of Pelops. Admittedly, I’m not too familiar with this rather gruesome tale. It seems as though the machination of this story is what attracts you. Instead of historical depictions of creatures made of elements from nature (Egyptian and Aztec gods, gargoyles, etc), employing an image of a machine/human hybrid leads to further exploration of the culture of mechanics. Are the in-between spaces you expose then manufactured rather than natural? Do you see yourself moving too far away from what may be fundamental issues about the arts and art making? How threatening is this crossing of media lines to your artwork?
As I have said I draw. Maybe it is closer to drafting or a technical manufacturing. The story of Pelops is fascinating and complex, and full of imagery, and tragedy. It seems very modern in a sense. A young person is transformed and becomes more beautiful by getting a new gadget. Maybe his new arm of ivory and bronze manufactured by Haphestus is the equivalent of a new iPhone and ubiquitous white ear buds making a new and beautiful person. Pelops is my check and balance, a kind plastic educator.

5. Many artists today are welcoming the opportunities to work with non-traditional tools for making art. I often wonder if computer technologies hurt art either by welcoming them into the galleries and museums or into the artist studio. As comfortable as I may be with these technologies personally, as an art historian/critic, I find art made or viewed with these tools easy to dismiss. You are currently using newer computer technologies to explore sound and color. Is focusing on these basic art forms (sound, color, image, form, writing) the way to maintain your own identity as an artist?
I agree. My struggle with using these newer technologies [though they are not really new] is that I am uncertain where the ART is located in the things generated. I do not think these technologies hurt our discussion of our culture through the act of making. I think the problem is the newness of these media and most folk do not know how to enter the work and are seduced by the cleverness. The concern with newer media is that the work seems to err on the side of didactic. Is the craft in the algorithm?

There is a hesitation on my part to exhibit or display the newer work because often the discussion becomes about the how and not the what. The how is easy--just like drawing. A pencil works by scratching a mineral onto matted plant fibers. In what way did the scratchings affect/effect the viewer?

My erratic sounds and non-sense poems derived from my drawings are not very new--if anything they are retro-dada. The only thing I gain from the computer is the ability to generate many more sounds and strings of words than I could without the device. I could map or chart my drawing on paper and give this document to a cellist.

The danger I have found is also in this speed of making things. I use this in my teaching of new design students at Miami University. Making many things quickly give the impression that making things is easy and often automatic. A slowing down of the process allows for contemplation of the work at many scale and stages. The computer allows for more time to contemplate made objects--its greatest strength is in the mash-up. We are not accustomed or trained to deeply consider formed object.

I remember a discussion with my mentor, Richard Ferrier FAIA, when we spoke about new technologies and how they need some time to develop a language and discourse of their own. Acrylic paint was initially considered only in terms of its similarity to water media and oil paint. The same with photography, it was considered a documentarian and utilitarian media. In my field of teaching, design, interior design is still relatively in its infancy and struggling to develop an identity separate from other design disciplines.

My identity is tied up in my drawings--I think though my feeling of comfort with alienness allows me to be comfortable with discomfort and thereby find these connections. The discussion I would hope to engender is one about the sameness of things and to find the places we connect.

The Ohio Arts Council is Moving

On November 11, the OAC will be moving to its new location at the Rhodes State Office Tower, 30 E. Broad St., 33rd Floor, Columbus, OH 43215-3414. The phone numbers will remain the same, however, now with only only one fax machine: 614/466-4494.

Due to the moving process, The OAC will be unavailable from November 10 - 12. Additionally, the offices will be closed the following furlough days in order to help reduce payroll expenses statewide: November 26, December 23 and December 30.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Local Marketing Firm Honored by Americans for the Arts

Clifton Cultural Arts Center's Ruth Dickey nominated Strata-G Communications for its commitment to the arts. Next month, Strata-G will accept BCA Award in New York from Americans for the Arts.

I knew there were some local marketing firms that genuine support the arts in Greater Cincinnati.

Read here about how Strata-G supports the CCAC.

Here you will find dates and registration information for the Ribbon Cutting and Gala Celebration taking place this month at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Not a Wave But a Trickle

The focus of the new expanded mission of ArtsWave (formerly the Fine Arts Fund) is not the arts, but a vibrant community or impact. This is what ArtsWave President & CEO, Mary McCullough-Hudson told a handful of us who attended the first of a series of brown-bag lunches.

During this meeting we heard a little bit about the history of the Fine Arts Fund and the recent marketing research that led to their re-branding. (I speak about this here and here and here). While I maintain my criticism of their outsourcing of marketing research and the embarrassingly sloppy re-branding of the Fine Arts Fund, my immediate concern is their expanded mission.

Expanding their mission to include arts and culture will make money available to all non-profit cultural institutions. Ms. McCullough-Hudson stressed the support of the "Big Eight" (Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati Ballet, Contemporary Art Center, Playhouse in the Park, and the May Festival) will not weaken. ArtsWave will also continue to support the growing number of smaller arts organizations throughout Greater Cincinnati. Though she did say the mission towards impact would now allow the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden and Cincinnati Museum Center to seek funding support from ArtsWave.

I will let (and hope) others ask how access to this new funding source will affect the passage of future taxes to support these two organizations. As I mentioned recently, my concern is for the artists. Perhaps more accurately, for art.

I attended the meeting to ask the one question, "Does this new expanded mission include artists grants?" The answer, "no."

Ms. McCullough tried unconvincingly to suggested ArtsWave may make grants available to artists in the future, but right now they must work to define organizational impact. After additional discussion about the concern of the lack of direct artist support, Ms. Margie Waller, ArtsWave Vice President of Strategic Communications and Research, went on to explain many of our local artists do in fact receive money from ArtsWave as they are hired by supported arts organizations. Further, many of our local artists start their own art organizations ArtsWave continues to support.

Borrowing from their water imagery, I accused Ms. McCullough and Ms. Waller of employing trickle-down economics.

Funding impact is simply a way to be sure the largest organizations get the biggest piece of the pie. But more troubling is ArtsWave unapologetic lack of support for the individual artist. Yes, many of our artists have started wonderful arts organizations throughout Greater Cincinnati that truly impact our communities. With no competitive artists grants, this is the only way our local artists have been able to get any support from ArtsWave. ArtsWave is not supporting artists doing art, but by doing the work of ArtsWave; heading art organizations that will bring capital into the city.

There are always a number of interesting and important conversations artists in and outside of Greater Cincinnati in which artists are engaged. Without competitive artist grants, there is little to no path for our artists to participate in these arts discussions. Of course this is a horrible situation for our local artists. This also harms any claim Cincinnati can make in the art world. And this situation is not healthy for arts in general.

Earlier this week, Rocco Landesman, Chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts visited Cincinnati. During this visit, he witness the work of the ArtsWave and now points to this funding machine as a national model!

As much as it claims in their calls for donations, ArtsWave does not support the arts. It uses the arts to celebrate the city. These are two very different things. I have no problem with the recognition of the arts as an important or even the most important factor of a healthy and vibrant community. Hell, I'm the biggest cheerleader. But riding the ArtsWave capital campaign on the backs of artists as administrators kills the arts.

If ArtsWave is being presented as a national model, their expanded mission, must be challenged. Those of you who honestly support the arts in Cincinnati as well as throughout the country and want artists to be able to do art, contact Ms. Mary McCullough-Hudson and demand ArtsWave develop competitive grants that are awarded directly to artists for their art work.

ArtsWave as a national model will have a damaging impact on the arts in the United State if artists face losing access to competitive grants. Contact ArtsWave and tell them you support the arts by supporting the artists.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Will We See Artists Grants?

Rocco Landesman, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts visited Cincinnati this week.

"This really is Exhibit A of what we're going to be talking about in the next three years at the NEA, how art and artists can transform a place and make it a completely different place," Landesman said. "The arts can revitalize neighborhoods, and boy, is this a great example."

Perhaps with such recognition of the artist's role in our communities, ArtsWave will finally develop artists grants as part of their new and expanded mission.

Monday, September 27, 2010

October is National Arts & Humanities Month in Ohio

Governor Ted Strickland has issued a proclamation declaring October National Arts & Humanities Month in Ohio.

“The arts and humanities embody much of the accumulated wisdom, intellect and imagination of humankind,” proclaims Gov. Strickland. “I hereby recognize October as Arts and Humanities Month in Ohio and call upon the residents of Ohio to celebrate and promote the arts and culture in our state.”

National Arts & Humanities Month (NAHM) has been celebrated since 1993 and provides a great opportunity for people to participate in the arts offered in their communities. The Ohio Arts Council (OAC) is teaming up with the Ohio Statehouse to celebrate NAHM by organizing a series of free arts events in downtown Columbus. Citizens are encouraged to visit for more information on events in their area.

For more information and events please see the OAC website.

Friday, September 24, 2010

I Guess Everyone's Catching the Wave!

Yesterday I criticized the Fine Arts Fund for changing their name to ArtsWave. However, it seems as though many people like it.

After surfing (ahem!) the internet looking for the new ArtsWave website, I found two other arts organizations with the same or similar name: ArtsWave in New York and Norfolk ArtsWave in Connecticut. Both are relatively young arts organizations, with very similar goals towards supporting the arts.

In New York, ArtsWave, which stands for Arts in Warwarsing and the Village of Ellenville, began its 501c3 process in February of 2008. This is the same month they unveiled their logo design by competition winner, Chuck Davidson.

The Norfolk ArtsWave website states:

"In that Plan a well-researched and clearly-articulated commitment was made to economic development based on Norfolk’s cultural roots. (my emphasis, of course) Norfolk ArtsWave!, which is the result of intense collaboration among townspeople, businesses and organizations, brings this very good strategy to life in a very good way."

Cincinnati's ArtsWave spent $150,000 for this "new" brand.

While I still argue an outside marketing firm cannot possibly do a good job of rebranding Cincinnati's history of arts support, I did expect at the very least New York's Resnicow Schroeder Associates to dip its toes in the water before branding the Fine Arts Fund with a name already used by groups in their own neighborhood.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Water, Water Everywhere.....

Earlier this month, I wrote about my latest concerns with the Fine Arts Fund's decision to hire outside artists to rebrand their organization. My criticism rests on the obvious problem of collecting donations in the name of supporting local artists and failing to pay a local marketing firm to redesign their brand.

Yesterday, the Fine Arts Fund unveiled their outsourced effort with this.

Since this unveiling, I've been trying to imagine the long-time Fine Arts Fund donor proudly announce, "I belong to the ArtsWave." or "I give to the ArtsWave."


It sounds and looks like the Fine Arts Fund has has been swept up in their own water imagery with the now tired old "ripple effect" they've been touting for 3 or 4 years, and much over played Splash Dance video (you can find it yourself).

I guess we cannot expect a marketing firm from NYC to know Cincinnati's history of support for the arts and the identity of our arts donors. But the President and CEO, Mary McCullough-Hudson should.

Join me as I watch the real ripple effect of ArtsWave.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The CAC Has Learned Nothing and Goes Nowhere New

As the CAC tries to market their new show, "Where Do We Go From Here? Selections from La Coleccion Jumex" as a local launch of Hispanic Heritage Month, the exhibition has nothing to do with Latino issues and art. Just because the private collection is from Mexico and the show includes work by artists with names like Guzman, Ortega, and Orozco doesn't make it a Hispanic Heritage show.

The collection instead reflects an interest in recognizing artists from Latin America participating in the Pop Art movement. The Jumex collection brings American and Latin American artists together to present a dialogue that may employ different languages, but explores very similar subjects. About 50 years ago, a number of artists and collectors actively addressed the lack of recognition in the arts of women, Latin Americans, and other marginal groups. The current show at the CAC shows the Jumex Collection successful in making a case for artists living in Mexico.

Is it an irony the CAC chooses to recontextualize the collection to help market the show for attendence? Of course not. As we saw with the Shepard Fairey show, this is the business of the CAC. No need to deal with art history if you want to simply throw a party.

Admittedly, Platow acknowledges the goal of the collection, however she goes on claim a general open-ended or broad scope of the show:

"The show is not a one-liner or super-straightforward statement - that's part of the beauty of it," says Platow. Art is not arranged chronologically or geographically, though there are themes: art about art, text in art, art and urban anthropology."

"We play with the fact that this is a private collection by a person with varied interests," Platow says. "We present an experience that proposes the moment before institutional framework is installed. Dichotomy doesn't exist in the installation or collection."

...Platow says, but "the collection is about transcendence."

"Transcendence," lack of chronology and nonexistent dichotomies are claimed characteristics that seem to permit the CAC to ignore the issues art presents. As much as Platow wants to insist with each exhibition art is so broad "visitors can bring their own ideas," she's wrong. Again, the CAC appears to ignore the issues surrounding those which it would rather exploit. There is nothing yet scheduled this year (certainly not during 2010 Hispanic Heritage Month) dealing with Latino culture. So far, the lecture series associated with "Where Do We Go From Here" includes a talk by a science and technology professor and another by a photographer/NFL linebacker. Perhaps by the last week of the show, the CAC can hold a panel discussion on Latino pop culture.

Simply drawing a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. and exhibiting works by artists with Latin American names does not absolved the CAC of marginalizing communities of people. The goal of the Jumex Collection is inclusion, the title is a call to continue the work of inclusion. In choosing to ignoring this history for open-ended party themes is irresponsible. Is the CAC going to invite this discussion and answer King's question? The CAC failed to ask and answer the important questions associated with street art last year and murals were destroyed. To recontexualize a private Mexican collection of art as one that responds to Latino issues and fail to lead the discussion it presents risks a similar white-washing of cultural identities.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Support Your Community By Supporting Its History

"I didn't realize there were so many museums around here."

"I've lived here all my life, but haven't visited any of these places."

"This is all free?!"

"I remember visiting the Taft and the Fire Museum on a field trip when I was in school, but haven't been back. I should really visit again soon."

"My kids really liked this museum when the school took them."

"I should really get over to see these museums."

These are some of things I heard on Fountain Square yesterday during Museum Day. Museums from all over Greater Cincinnati showed off their educational programming, histories, and wares. While a few where surprised to see such a wealth of history and culture, many more expressed a matter of fact sense of pride in their Queen City. They knew.

So while a loud and vocal few continue to complain there is not much in Cincinnati, and a younger group of professionals who have transplanted themselves in (or transitioning through) Cincinnati call for events, services to appeal to their tastes, those rooted here know the city's wealth. And this wealth and love for the city is what keeps many of these historical sites and museums free.

So be sure to visit and support our historical sites and museums.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ohio Historical Society Offers Free Architectural Symposium

The Ohio Historic Preservation Office of the Ohio Historical Society has launched the Ohio Modern: Preserving Our Recent Past project covering the important social, political, and economic trends that shaped land use decisions, architectural styles, property types and building technology in Ohio from 1940-1970. The Ohio Modern products include a statewide historic context publication and a historic architecture survey identifying and evaluating mid-20th century properties and neighborhoods in Dayton and neighboring suburban communities including Centerville, Huber Heights, Trotwood, Fairborn, Kettering, Oakwood and Vandalia.

Plan now to attend a free symposium on September 30, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., at the Ohio Historical Center, in Columbus, to learn about the variety of building types, styles, special characteristics and architectural features that define the “Ohio Modern” period. The day will include presentations on the research conducted, a panel discussion on the modern era in Ohio, guidance on evaluating the significance of modern buildings for listing in the National Register of Historic Places and an architectural tour of the Ohio Historical Center. To register, visit by September 24. An optional box lunch for $9 can be pre-ordered online. Questions? Call 614-298-2000.

More information can be found at the Ohio Historic Preservation Office.

Cedric Cox Continues to Teach Us to See Where We Stand

Over a year since interviewing him, you can see here why Cedric Cox is still one of my favorite local artists. His interests in rooting his work in local spaces and teaching students how to see is an inspiration to community.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Cincinnati Arts Community Speaks

City Beat asks a number of leaders in Greater Cincinnati's arts community what they would like to see happening in the local arts.

Many noted more money, some said more art, but only one noted a need for a more sustained conversation about art and the importance of the art critic. Tamara Lenz Muente criticized the dwindling media coverage of the arts. I'm sure as a writer for City Beat, she sees the irony that this story represents one of a mere few comprehensive stories on the visual arts appearing in City Beat annually. And even this one manages only a single question, "What's Missing?"

Thank you Tamara, more needs to be said and read.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Fine Arts Fund Takes the Money and NYC

At the close of its successful community (sic) campaign that raised over $10 million, the Fine Arts Fund promised to announce a transition plan that will include a new name and a new mission. While the new name has yet to be released, the mission suggests an opening of a larger umbrella covering not only the local arts, but additional cultural institutions throughout Greater Cincinnati and its suburbs. The FAF states also its plans to move from focusing on the financial needs of the local arts to looking at how the arts impact our community.

So where is the money you donated to the Fine Arts Fund going if not to tend to the financial needs of the local arts?

Here, the FAF lists benefactors of the money collected during their capital campaign. As you might expect, the list includes many of the major arts and cultural organizations in the region from Northern Kentucky to Hamilton, Ohio. What this "complete list of investments in the arts" does not include is Resnicow Schroeder, a New York firm specializing in marketing the arts.

Earlier this year, Gov. Ted Strickland named Cincinnati as Ohio's Marketing Hub:

"Cincinnati's Hub designation will assist this region's already strong business and educational community in attracting young creative talent, new companies and job opportunities in consumer marketing to Ohio," Strickland said. "Targeted investments in Ohio's urban regions and businesses are a critical piece of our economic development strategy to create jobs and strengthen Ohio's economy."

Did the Fine Arts Fund not know this when they rejected marketing and re-branding campaign proposals from local marketing firms merely days after (before?) collecting over $10 million from the community in the name of the local arts? What happened to their support of local artists when they decided to hire New York branding artists?

Rumor has it the Fine Arts Fund will eliminate the word "Arts" in their re-branding strategy. We'll see what the FAF has to say when they formally unveil their new brand, but right now it appears not all money donated is spent locally and the financial well-being of the arts has been back-burnered for marketing of the FAF.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Betts House Exhibition Gets Award

Congratulations Margo Warminski! Her curatorial work on From Tenements to Townhouses: Multi-Family Housing in Cincinnati won a History Outreach Award from the Ohio Association of Historical Societies and Museums. OAHSM recognizes organizations for outstanding projects, including public programs, exhibits, media and publications that contribute to awareness and understanding of local and state history. You can find a complete list of award winners here.

If you haven’t seen From Tenements to Townhouses yet, it will be on view at the Betts House through September 30. This exhibit is made possible, in part, by grants from the Louise Taft Semple Foundation and the Bettman Prize administered by AIA Cincinnati; and panel sponsorships from LPK, Towne Properties, York Vision, and anonymous donors.

The Betts House is open Tues, Wed & Thurs, 11 am – 2 pm, two Saturdays a month (August 28, September 11 & September 25, 12:30 – 5), and other days and times by appointment.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

International Scholar, David Franklin Appointed Eighth Director of the Cleveland Museum of Art

David Franklin, an internationally respected scholar of Italian Renaissance and baroque art, was named the next director of the Cleveland Museum of Art in a unanimous vote by the museum's board of trustees. Franklin's selection marks a new generation of leadership for the museum, known for the quality and breadth of its collection and its historic role as a leading American museum.

The 49-year-old Franklin, currently the deputy director of the National Gallery of Canada, will assume his duties in Cleveland on Sept. 20. Franklin brings to the position deep experience in exhibitions and acquisitions, as well as an international perspective as a result of having lived and worked in Canada, London, Oxford and Rome. He arrives at a key moment for the Cleveland Museum of Art, which in the next three years will complete a $350 million renovation and expansion project designed to improve the installation and interpretation of the museum's collection and enhance the experience of its visitors.

"As an international scholar who has curated many successful exhibitions and has substantial leadership experience at a large and complex museum, David possesses a rare combination of managerial and curatorial skills, making him the perfect fit for the Cleveland Museum of Art," said Alfred M. Rankin Jr., president of the museum's board of trustees and chairman, president and chief executive officer of NACCO Industries Inc. "This appointment gives us the opportunity to tap a talented professional to join an emerging group of innovative, new directors at the nation's top art museums."

As deputy director and chief curator of the National Gallery of Canada, Franklin is responsible for the core work of that museum, including its curatorial departments, art acquisitions, conservation, library and archives, and education division, which together comprise approximately one quarter of the institution's total staff of 290 and total annual operating budget of $58 million. Franklin has held the position since 2001.

"I have long admired the Cleveland Museum of Art's commitment to quality, which has given the institution a reputation for possessing among the world's finest encyclopedic holdings," said Franklin. "It is with great enthusiasm that I join the talented Cleveland staff in leading this museum into its next 100 years. I want to build upon the museum's strong traditions while increasing its focus on outreach and diversity to identify new ways to bring the collection to life and engage the regional and global audiences that the museum serves."

The museum is now finishing the final planning for its building project, which remains on budget and on schedule for completion in 2013. In June, the museum's board of trustees demonstrated once again its strong commitment to the project by voting unanimously to fund and complete this final phase.

"The new Rafael Viñoly building will act as a magnet for curious audiences, making this the moment to have a greater impact on more people than ever through Cleveland's collection and intelligent presentation of art," said Franklin. "I'm looking forward to taking an active role in Cleveland and to making the museum even more meaningful and relevant within its community."

At the National Gallery, Franklin has balanced significant leadership responsibilities with an active scholarly agenda. He is one of the museum's most visible spokespeople, representing the organization in its outreach across Canada and initiating fundraising that has secured individual and corporate support at an institution that previously had been accustomed to relying almost entirely on government funding. During his tenure, Franklin's successes have ranged from increasing art donations from individuals across Canada to securing more than $2 million for a curatorial research fund and playing a central role in a fundraising event that raised nearly $2 million for the museum in one night.

At the same time, he has curated several of the National Gallery's noteworthy special exhibitions, including Italian Drawings from the National Gallery of Canada (2001), Parmigianino (2003) and Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and the Renaissance in Florence (2005). Bernini and the Birth of Baroque Portrait Sculpture (2008), organized in partnership with the J. Paul Getty Museum, was the first major exhibition of Bernini's work in North America and the first comprehensive exhibition of the artist's portrait busts. From Raphael to Carracci: The Art of Papal Rome (2009) featured more than 150 works by artists including Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian and El Greco from lenders including the Vatican Museums, British Museum, Galleria degli Uffizi, J. Paul Getty Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Louvre, Morgan Library & Museum and National Gallery in London. Franklin is currently organizing the exhibition Caravaggio and His Circle in Rome, scheduled to debut at the National Gallery of Canada in the summer of 2011 before traveling to the United States.

"David is an individual with extraordinary ability and reputation in the field of international art scholarship," said Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum. "In the current environment, where institutions are building a growing international presence beyond bricks and mortar and across borders, David has shown a real strength in his rare ability to mount complex projects."

"David's work in organizing ambitious exhibitions is impressive, and he has demonstrated appreciation for sharing with museum visitors not only his own area of specialty but also many others, including contemporary art," said Michael J. Horvitz, chairman of the museum's board of trustees and of counsel to the law firm Jones Day.

Franklin has earned honors in Canada and abroad, including the 1995 Eric Mitchell Prize, one of the most prestigious awards given to art historians, for his publication Rosso in Italy: The Italian Career of Rosso Fiorentino. This volume also was awarded the Yale University Press Governors' Award for the most outstanding book published by an author under the age of 40. In 2009, the Italian government took note of his research, honoring Franklin with its Cavaliere dell'Ordine della Stella della Solidarieta Italiana (Knight of the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity), the country's highest honor for non-Italians, awarded to those who demonstrate exceptional service that furthers Italian culture.

"In a very strong field of candidates, David quickly distinguished himself as our top choice," said R. Steven Kestner, chair of the museum's search committee and national executive partner of Baker & Hostetler LLP. "He brings an international outlook that will allow the museum to continue broadening its reach in the areas of research, exhibitions and publications. We're thrilled to welcome David and his family to Cleveland."

Franklin, a native of Québec, earned his Bachelor of Arts in art history from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. He received both his master's and doctorate degrees in European Renaissance art from the Courtauld Institute of Art at the University of London. He also was awarded an honorary Master of Arts by the University of Oxford.

He has held fellowships at Oxford's Lincoln College and All Souls College, spent four years researching and teaching Italian Renaissance art at Oxford and served as a visiting scholar at the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities in Los Angeles and the Hertziana Library in Rome.

Franklin first joined the National Gallery of Canada in 1998 as the curator of prints and drawings and within two years was promoted to deputy director. The National Gallery possesses a collection and staff similar in size to that of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Created in 1880, it is among the oldest of Canada's national cultural institutions. The museum's collection - which spans all periods of Canadian art and is particularly notable for strong holdings in prints and drawings, photography, Inuit art, modern American art and contemporary art - includes approximately 38,000 works, in addition to 161,700 images held within the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography. Annually, the museum attracts approximately 400,000 visitors to its modern, downtown Ottawa building and adds an average of 300 works of art to its collections.

"David has made outstanding contributions to our institution," said Marc Mayer, director of the National Gallery of Canada. "While we will miss him greatly, I truly believe this is his moment to take the helm of an internationally renowned museum and make optimal use of his ideas, energies and talents there."

Franklin and his wife Antonia Reiner, who holds a degree in modern languages from Oxford and is a freelance translator and fiber artist, are currently in the process of relocating to the Cleveland area with their two children. In the coming months, Franklin will work closely with Deborah Gribbon, who has served for the past year as the interim director of the Cleveland Museum of Art, to ensure a smooth transition of leadership.

Franklin's selection follows a 12-month international search that began in September 2009. The museum worked with the executive search firm of Phillips Oppenheim.

You can find a recent story about the CMA appointment here.

Taft Museum Receives Highest National Recognition

The Taft Museum of Art has achieved accreditation from the American Association of Museums (AAM), the highest national recognition for a museum. Accreditation signifies excellence to the museum community, to governments, funders, outside agencies, and to the museum-going public.
AAM Accreditation is the field’s primary vehicle for quality assurance, self-regulation, and public accountability, and earns national recognition for a museum for its commitment to excellence in all that it does: governance, collections stewardship, public programs, financial stability, high professional standards, and continued institutional improvement. Developed and sustained by museum professionals for 35 years, AAM’s Museum Accreditation program strengthens the profession by promoting practices that enable leaders to make informed decisions, allocate resources wisely, and to provide the best possible service to the public.
“AAM accreditation is a wonderful endorsement of the Taft,” said Deborah Emont Scott, the Taft’s director/CEO. “It reflects the quality of the Museum’s operations including exhibitions and programs, and recognizes the tremendous undertaking by the Taft’s staff, board, and volunteers on the accreditation project as well as the high quality of their day-to-day work at the Taft. We are especially thrilled by the AAM’s recognition of the Taft’s community outreach efforts, specifically the Duncanson artist-in-residency program, which the AAM highlighted as a noteworthy program for outreach to diverse audiences.”
Of the nation’s estimated 17,500 museums, 775 are currently accredited. Among those institutions are 316 art museums and centers, with the Taft one of only 26 art museums accredited in Ohio. The only other accredited institutions in Cincinnati are the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.
“Accreditation assures the people of Cincinnati that their museum is among the finest in the nation,” said Ford W. Bell, president of AAM. “As a result, the citizens can take considerable pride in their homegrown institution, for its commitment to excellence and for the value it brings to the community.”
Accreditation is a rigorous process that examines all aspects of a museum’s operations. To earn accreditation, a museum first must conduct a year of self-study, then undergo a site visit by a team of peer reviewers. AAM’s Accreditation Commission, an independent and autonomous body of museum professionals, review and evaluate the self-study and visiting committee report to determine whether a museum should receive accreditation. While the time to complete the process varies by museum, it generally takes three years.
The American Association of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. With more than 15,000 individual, 3,000 institutional, and 300 corporate members, AAM is dedicated to ensuring that museums remain a vital part of the American landscape, connecting people with the greatest achievements of the human experience, past, present and future. For more information, visit

Thursday, August 19, 2010

OAC Accepting Nominations for Governor's Awards for the Arts

The Ohio Arts Council is now accepting online nominations for the 2011 Governor’s Awards for the Arts in Ohio. The annual awards are given to Ohio individuals and organizations in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the arts statewide, regionally and nationally. Awards are given for Arts Administration, Arts Education, Arts Patron, Business Support of the Arts, Community Development & Participation and Individual Artist.

The deadline for nominations is Friday, September 24, 2010 at 5 p.m. and the deadline for support letters is Friday, October 1, 2010 at 5 p.m.

Nominations will be accepted only online. A complete explanation of the nomination process is available on the 2011 Governor’s Awards for the Arts in Ohio and Arts Day Luncheon website. For more information about the Governor’s Awards nomination process, please contact Stephanie Dawson at the Ohio Arts Council at 614/728-4475 or

Monday, August 16, 2010

Aesthetics and Athletics: Not So Unlikely a Pair

Throughout most of my time in academia, arts and athletic departments always seemed bitter rivals. This is especially true when speaking about funding curricula. The well-rehearsed and received argument says dollars funding an arts-based curriculum will always be cut before athletes and coaches feel the crunch. I don't follow the money so don't know the strength of the argument. But pitting these two (what are they?) academic or extra-curricular programs (?), disciplines (?), interests (?) against each other may be an apples and oranges debate: both are different, but belong together.

For the past few months, I've been thinking more about how and when aesthetics and athletics pair up. For me, the natural starting point is ancient Greek sculpture of Olympic athletes. Of course this easily tapped reference is the result of an art history curriculum. What I am finding recently is a more natural pairing of the two taking place in recent conversations on Twitter and blog postings and general comments about art.

Art writer and sports fan Tyler Green pulls these two topics together effortlessly. With his more current America's Favorite Art Museum brackets and last year's Super Bowl bet between the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the New Orleans Museum of Art his readers can satisfy interests spanning what's been accepted as a wide spectrum. And finally, our human tendencies towards both competition and the arts has been more recently harnessed and presented in Bravo's Work of Art.

Still, there are many who feel it necessary to patrol the pairing of aesthetics and athletics. The Cincinnati Art Museum has enjoyed a successful summer of arts and programming around the theme of Americana, called SEE America. In these final weeks, they've installed a large screen t.v. on which visitors can watch a Cincinnati Reds baseball game or historical highlights of the first major league baseball team. Not surprising, there was some grumbling in the stands. A few think the museum is not a place to watch baseball and suggested this was simply a gimmick to get new patrons into the museum. With a whole summer devoted to American culture, the museum should be safe from such an accusation.

The only way to agree with this argument is to simply dismiss the historical compatibility of aesthetics and athletics. What do these critics have to say about Andy Warhol's Pete Rose on permanent display in this museum?

Are there other examples of the pairings of arts and sports? Can recognizing these cultural interests as siblings rather than enemies help strengthen school curricula?

Taft Names Violinist, Nokuthula Ngwenyama 2010 Duncanson Artist-in Residence

The Robert S. Duncanson Society of the Taft Museum of Art has selected violist Nokuthula Ngwenyama as the 2010 Duncanson Artist-in-Residence from a talented pool of local and national candidates. A nationally recognized orchestral soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician, Ngwenyama will be the Taft’s 24th resident artist.

Ngwenyama learned about the Duncanson Artist-in-Residence program during a visit to Cincinnati in April when she performed with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra at Music Hall. She describes the Taft’s historic Duncanson murals as “beautiful, peaceful works of art.”
The Taft Museum of Art established theDuncanson Artist-in-Residence program in 1986 to honor the achievements of contemporary artists of African descent working in a variety of disciplines and media. The program also honors the relationship between African American painter Robert S. Duncanson and his patron, Nicholas Longworth, who commissioned Duncanson to paint landscape murals in the foyer of his home, now the Taft Museum of Art.
“I think that it really shows the contribution that African Americans have made to the fine arts for such a long time. To be able to have a tie to that legacy is a wonderful honor,” Ngwenyama says. “To pay tribute to the relationship that Duncanson had (with Longworth) has given me a sense of tradition in this country that I wasn’t really aware of.”

Gramophone Magazine has proclaimed Ngwenyama’s playing as providing “solidly shaped music of bold, mesmerizing character,” and the Washington Post describes her as playing "with dazzling technique in the virtuoso fast movements and deep expressiveness in the slow movements.”
Ngwenyama’s orchestral appearances include performances with the Atlanta, Baltimore, and Indianapolis Symphonies, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the National Symphony Orchestra. She has been heard in recital at Tokyo’s Suntory Hall, the Louvre, the Ford Center in Toronto, the Maison de Radio France, and the White House.

Born in California of Zimbabwean-Japanese parentage, Ngwenyama came to international attention when she won the Primrose International Viola Competition and the Young Concert Artists International Auditions at age 17. She graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music. As a Fulbright scholar she attended the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique de Paris and received a Master of Theological Studies degree from Harvard University.
“I hope to highlight the legacy (between Duncanson and Longworth) and make sure it continues today,” says Ngwenyama, “and show that the arts cross racial boundaries.”

In addition to her performance activities Ngwenyama served as visiting assistant professor at the University of Notre Dame in 2007, teaching in the field of ethnomusicology. She joined the faculty of Indiana University as visiting associate professor from 2008-10. Ngwenyama is the current director of the Primrose International Viola Competition and president-elect of the American Viola Society.

During her residency, Ngwenyama will give public performances and workshops. She will also engage in educational outreach activities with students both in the classrooms and at the Taft.
Artist-in-Residence Events
Thursday, November 4, 6-8 p.m.
Taft Museum of Art
Reception with the artist. Free.
Sunday, November 7, 2-3 p.m.
Taft Museum of Art
Family Concert: Strings and Things, with Nokuthula Ngwenyama. Free.

Thursday, November 11, 7 p.m.
Allen Temple A.M.E Church, 7080 Reading Rd., Cincinnati
Nokuthula Ngwenyama in Recital
Sandra Rivers, piano
Free. No reservations taken.
Sunday, November 14, 2 p.m.
Taft Museum of Art
Nokuthula Ngwenyama in Recital.
Sandra Rivers, piano
All events are free but reservations are required and seating is limited unless noted above. For reservations or information please call (513) 684-4528 or 4516.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Should Greenacres Foundation Lose It's Non-Profit Status?

The American Association of Museums sets the standard for best practices of museums including the sale of art and artifacts. Generally museum collections are not seen or used as assets. Instead, the mission of museums includes holding collections in trust for the public. While museums can sell works that are duplicates or in other ways offer no value to their holdings to obtain other works of art, but not to satisfy a debt.

There have been a number of stories in the past couple of years debating questionable deaccessioning of art practices. Brandeis' Rose Museum has been at the center of a controversy that sees the school's interest in selling the entire collection to satisfy a financial need. And more recently, the Chelsea Art Museum risks losing its charter for putting up its entire collection as collateral for a loan to pay it's mortgage. Losing its charter may lead to the museum losing its non-profit status.

Just as the museum community helps to upholds ethics rules around deaccessioning, cannot the Greenacres Foundation be held to certain ethics violations if the foundation demolishes the Gamble House? Other than the Cincinnati Preservation Association, I've heard a loud cry by a number of Cincinnati residents against the destruction of the house.

Presumably the Gamble House is legally protected by its Landmark designation. However this has not protected it from the Foundation's interest in letting it deteriorate to its current state. Of course I would never agree to allow the house be demolished, especially since the CPA has offered to purchase and restore it. I have heard from some who think the Foundation has every right to do with the house they wish since they own it.

Do they own it or is the house held in their trust as a Landmark. Are they not responsible for maintaining it? If it is decided they can demolish, shouldn't the Greenacres Foundation give up their non-profit status? What do our city's non-profit organizations think? Our Attorney General, Richard Cordray?

FYI: The Gamble House in Pasadena, California