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.


Dee said...

Sorry to hear they didn't pay more attention to your perspective.