Friday, February 26, 2010

The Fine Arts Fund Refuses To Have a Public Dialogue

After trying to engage in a discussion about supporting the arts throughout Greater Cincinnati, the Fine Arts Fund has told me personally they have no intentions of having a public discussion with me.

I've been informed, by phone, the Fine Arts Fund is not interested in participating in any of my blog discussions and refuses to respond to any Twitter queries in public.

Being an advocate for the arts is about inviting more people to the a public table.

NEA National Medal of Arts Comes to Ohio

The Oberlin Conservatory of Music is a recipient of the 2009 National Medal of Arts, the highest award given by the United States government to artists and arts patrons in recognition of the wealth and depth of their creative expressions.

The Oberlin Conservatory of Music is the only professional music school to be so honored by President Obama.

The other honorees for 2009 are: singer and songwriter Bob Dylan; director and actor Clint Eastwood; graphic designer Milton Glaser; architect and sculptor Maya Lin; singer, dancer, and actress Rita Moreno; soprano Jessye Norman; arts patron and design advocate Joseph P. Riley Jr.; painter and sculptor Frank Stella; conductor Michael Tilson Thomas; composer and conductor John Williams; and the School of American Ballet.


I'm not sure if this is a Lenten penance, but I was recently invited to offer my confession on Hyperallergic regarding my dislike of Impressionism.

Thank you Hrag. I do feel better now.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New OAC Project Support Program

The Ohio Arts Council (OAC) has created a Project Support program to provide a funding category to a broad range of organizations that present arts programming. Arts, cultural, community-based and social service organizations that have received FY2010/20011 OAC Sustainability funding with budgets under $1.5 million may apply to this program. The deadline to apply to this program is April 1, 2010.

“One way we felt the OAC could respond to the changing economic conditions was with a more flexible funding category,” said Julie Henahan, OAC executive director. “This Project Support funding will be useful for organizations wanting to respond to unforeseen opportunities, one-time special events or initiatives, or changing community conditions.”

In FY2011 (July 1, 2010-June 30, 2011), the Project Support program will serve as a transition program to a more broadly defined project category that will be in place for FY2012 (July 1, 2011-June 30, 2012) and beyond.

Proposed projects can address a variety of artistic and civic aims that may include: the production of new or innovative works of art; use of cultural assets as an economic development tool; cultivation of new audiences for the arts; forming strategic partnerships that further artistic and community priorities; or increasing cultural tourism.

Organizations must demonstrate excellent artistic, educational and cultural value, responsiveness to their community, credible planning and evaluation strategies, and rigorous financial and management accountability. Attention to these qualities ensures that funded organizations are prepared to advance their artistic missions and make significant contributions to their community’s health and vitality.

For more information on how to apply, visit the OAC Guidelines at

The Ohio Arts Council is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally and economically.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Why do I Keep Missing The Fairey Murals?

With the snow melting now, the Shepard Fairey murals are reportedly going up. I know this because I follow the CAC on Facebook and Twitter. For the past few days a number of slide shows have developed showcasing the work around town. The slide show is a great marketing tool for the museum and the show. It is a good way to let me know where this "street artist" is at the moment and where I can see the having to go to the museum. (hmm...)

However, while keeping an eye on the slide show reporting, I realized I've walked or driven past at least 2 or 3 of these murals in the past week, but never noticed them. I think perhaps this is because I've seen so many pictures of these murals in other cities so don't notice these as anything new in my personal visual landscape.

As copies of other murals in other cities, the Fairey murals here in Cincinnati seem to be more like the old Mail Pouch Tobacco ads, only without the nostalgia.

Perhaps that's the copy the commercial.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fine Arts Sampler Challenge

It's that time of year again when the city of Cincinnati stops supporting the arts to support the Fine Arts Fund.

Today, the Fine Arts Fund kicks off it's 10-week capital campaign with a goal of $11 million. There will be many events throughout the Greater Cincinnati region, particularly this weekend with the Fine Arts Sampler Weekend. This is certainly one of the most exciting arts weekend in the city. A time when art is almost unavoidable to see and experience (my kind of weekend). Art venues from both sides of the river as well as in many of our northern suburbs open their spaces in the hopes for bigger audiences to participate in classes, see and hear performances, and meet artists. With such a grand showcase, the Fine Arts Fund hopes even in this economy to encourage people to see the importance of the arts and support them....them, being the Fine Arts Fund.

You see, during the FAF 10-week capital campaign the "big eight" agrees to suspend all fundraising efforts. Of course this is to insure FAF campaign success. But this also supports the old trickle down theory of arts support the FAF pushes. According to their notion, if you support the FAF and the big institutions, our smaller arts organizations will survive. As I've maintained from the beginning of this blog, trickle down doesn't work in economics and it certainly doesn't work in the arts.

Enjoy the Fine Arts Sampler this weekend. There really is so much happening in the arts here in Greater Cincinnati. And as you recognize this wealth of art again this year, I challenge you to truly support the arts. You can do this by personally becoming a member of any of our arts organizations. There are many art organizations that have wonderful membership packages filled with events and activities in which you will want to participate throughout the year. Your access to the arts is more direct if you are member of an arts organization.

Challenge: For any event, art class, and venue you visit this weekend, consider giving directly to that arts organization. Or even better, become a member of an organization you have visited this weekend.

Your access to the arts is more direct if you support the art organizations than if you support the Fine Arts Fund. So don't stop supporting the arts these next few weeks.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cincinnati's New Art Dialogue is Playing an Old Tune

A couple of weeks ago I, with a number of others in the city, was invited by The Enquirer to participate in a new local arts dialogue. After a series of budget cuts in the past couple of years that effectively closed the curtain on media coverage of the visual arts here in Greater Cincinnati, Tom Callinan sees this re-engagement of the arts as a civic duty and responsibility to the city. I don't disagree. In fact, I'd go as far as calling it a moral responsibility. As an arts writer and local blogger, I welcome being part of this discussion.

A few of us met this past week for our first conversation. After introductions we voiced some concerns and some ideas. A general consensus though seemed to be that the Enquirer must work towards including more voices into the discussion. Some of us suggested this can be achieved by presenting new stories or profiling different local arts organizations, or simply by providing a comprehensive listing of the various art events and educational activities happening all over Greater Cincinnati throughout the year. Of course, our meetings can also be seen as an effort to achieve a more comprehensive and honest discussion about the arts.

However, less than 24 hours after Tom Callinan met with us. the Enquirer published a series of stories on "The State of the Arts" presented by the same old voices, pushing the same old language. One opinion piece by Ray Cooklis claims, "And when those major institutions struggle, problems can be magnified for the smaller, less established arts groups on which so much of the future depends." The major institutions to which Cooklis referred are "The Big Eight. The Enquirer included a slide show beautifully parading these local institutions.

This top down approach to funding (resulting in rejecting an honest engagement of) the arts is exactly the problem many of our local arts organization struggle against. This dialogue is not new, it's wrong. People in the arts (especially those in our major institutions) and those who do honest and real foundation work like The Cleveland Foundation and the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation know their success results in the opposite approach. They know that the strength of our museums and galleries rests squarely on the strength of our smaller arts organizations. Organizations like the Clifton Cultural Arts Center and Funke Fired Arts that actively reach out to the community providing educational programs that enhance those offered by out museums instill the love of art. They are the recruiters of future patrons of the arts.

Until claims like this one and phrases like "the big eight" are eliminated from the conversation, there will be no new dialogue, just the old song and dance.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Where is ArtWorks?

With so much talk about the upcoming Shepard Fairey Supply and Demand at the CAC, there seems to be a growing recognition of street art or at least the commercialization of it. With the soon to be unveiled area murals painted by Fairey, local businesses (not yet revealed) are in the ready to be celebrated as partners in art.

Where are our local artists? In all of the local promotion of this exhibition, I have seen little recognition of our own street artists, specifically our MuralWorks artists.

CAC Director Raphaela Platow suggests, "the boundary between commercial art and contemporary art is artificial," and as we unveil the commercial murals, a perceived wall blocking recognition of Cincinnati's contemporary street artists seems to be erecting around town.

I don't necessarily blame this on the CAC. The UnMuseum on the 6th floor plans to include works by ArtWorks and Able Projects in conjunction with Supply and Demand. The weakness in promotion of our local artists seems to rest with ArtWorks. I've criticized Artworks in the past for their inability to represent and promote the local arts in any respectable way. The response was mixed, but mostly called on me to recognize this 8 year old non-profit organization as strapped for help and perhaps money. I don't buy it.

ArtWorks has a strong p.r. and development arm flexing itself during the spring and summer months. During these months we see a continuous call for artists to teach and work through the summer on projects that include many of our city's murals. And the Secret ArtWorks fundraiser is arguably one of the most successful annual art mixers as the place to be. Like the ease of properly labeling works, offering props to our local artists is nearly effortless with social networking. And now with Supply and Demand ready to open and ArtWorks working on collaborative programing with the CAC, permitting our local artists to be virtually invisible is inexcusable. Such failure to promote our artists results in merely commercializing or commodifying the local arts.

So perhaps Platow is correct: "the boundary between commercial art and contemporary art is artificial." Is this the goal?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Experience the Alternative

The galleries in Brighton (just inside the west end of Cincinnati) are some of the most exciting in the city. As most are alternative galleries, they are wonderfully difficult to pin down. Local artist and writer, Matt Morris, is actively involved in the Brighton art district. Recently, Matt sat down with Jane Durrell of WVXU to talk about the Brighton galleries.

Brighton is a new must-experience Cincinnati space.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Cincinnati Art Snob Opens Door to More Community Engagement as well as National Presence

With my launch party days away I'm seeing a long sought after evolution of the Cincinnati Art Snob. While the discussions on the blog have changed from almost exclusively exhibition reviews, to artist interviews (which I plan to continue) to reactions to current news in the arts, my interest in maintaining an intellectual discussion in the arts locally and nationally is beginning to blossom.

The basic mission of the custom art tours I provide is to invite more people into our art discussion here in Cincinnati by offering a more comprehensive presentation of the arts throughout Greater Cincinnati. Of course, my mission is not completely selfless. Designing and offering these tours allows me to to become more engaged in my city's people, history, and culture. Just as art is not created in a vacuum, this discussion about the arts must extend to various members of the community as well those in other cities and states. Social media like this blog, Facebook, Linked-in, and especially Twitter has permitted me to be part of this larger discussion in the arts. This interaction has resulted in a few concrete projects that I hope will further enrich the art discussion we can have locally.

I have recently been invited to participate in a local arts dialogue with a number of leaders in the Greater Cincinnati arts community. The group is still forming, but I look forward to learning more from those who have likely advocated in the local arts community much longer than my 5 years.

Another upcoming project I am very excited about is with the quarterly magazine, Visual Overture. Visual Overture is much like an art exhibition in print. With a juried quarterly competition that invites artists from all over the world, the magazine showcases seven emerging artists. Visual Overture has asked me to be their single juror for their Spring issue. By the way, the deadline for submission is April 1st.

And just last week, I was invited to write an essay for well-known New York art writer, Hrag Vartanian. This invitation came as I confessed my dislike for Impressionism. He responded by allowing me to rant on his blog, but of course I realize this means I must step up and defend my stand against this rather popular style. I always tell my students they don't have to like everything I show them in our art history class, but they do have to be able to explain why they don't. Hrag is providing me a chance to do the same.

So as the Cincinnati Art Snob evolves, the blog will do the same. Though any change will not be at the cost of an intellectually honest discussion. With my refocus in the local arts as well as maintaining a presence outside of the city, I hope my contribution to the conversation will be much more valuable to the arts.