Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What is Culture in Greater Cincinnati?

Not long ago, Vanity Fair took some shots at the Queen City and local bloggers and Enquirer editor Tom Callinan came to the city's defense. Here we are only a couple of months later and Portfolio.com ranks Cincinnati 65th in the nation of cultured cities and the locals are lining up defenses again. You can read (if you dare) comments here that have begun listing our museums, festivals, the CSO, etc. Sure, we have lots of places to see culture (I offer tours to many). I don't think anyone has ever argued this, and certainly Vanity Fair and Portfolio.com do not criticize the number of events and venues. So what's missing? Cincinnati culture.

So, you want to challenge the ranking? Identify Cincinnati's culture. This does not mean, list venues for culture. What is the culture of Greater Cincinnati?

Can you identify it?


Monday, April 26, 2010

Results of my art jury duty: 2010 Summer Issue of Visual Overture is now available

I recently had the opportunity to judge 185 works of art by emerging artists from around the world. The result is the Summer 2010 quarterly publication, Visual Overture.

You can take a peak here at the 7 artists whose work I selected. Order a copy to see the artists' complete profiles and my comments.

Thank you to all of the artists for submitting their work and thank you to Arlissa Vaughn and Visual Overture for this quarterly juried "exhibition in print.


Greater Cincinnati Art Organizations Fail to Win NEA Awards.

Only one Greater Cincinnati art organization was awarded an Access to Artistic Excellence Grant from the NEA. Congratulations to The Westcott House, which was awarded $10,000 to support summer design studios for students, lectures, discussions and hands-on exercises at the Frank Lloyd House in Springfield, OH. Despite the number of arts organizations and programs to invite and encourage access to the arts here in Greater Cincinnati, no other grants were awarded.

Currently many of our local art organizations are working to drum up support for the Fine Arts Fund in these final weeks of their community campaign. Anyone who follows my blog knows where I stand here: the mantra that art is everywhere and access to the arts is depended on our support of the Fine Arts Fund argument has been tiring and misguided. But what has been most painful to watch are the local art organization Facebook pages posting "support the Fine Arts Fund" messages during this time when they are not permitted to do fundraising for themselves.

So here we are, in the final days of the Fine Arts Fund "community campaign" with the possibility of less access to the arts if the FAF fails to meet its goal again this year.

Well, there are thousands of dollars awarded to art organizations (outside of Greater Cincinnati) in order to secure access to the arts. Time spent campaigning for the FAF may be better used to develop innovative programming and successful grant writing and applications to the NEA.

As always, my wish is for working towards a stronger and more sincere support of the the arts here in Greater Cincinnati.


Cincinnati Artists Featured in OAC The I of the Text at Riffe Gallery

The Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Gallery will present The I of the TEXT from May 6 – July 11, 2010. Curated by Liz Maugans, the exhibition features the work of 16 Ohio artists who use words as the driving force to create an experience around the myriad associations and meanings of text. The artists focus on the ways that the meaning of text and our interaction with it are transformed by current events, technology, socioeconomic status and race.

“The artists employ language in the form of conversations, alerts, advertisements and petitions that…explore a chasm between private and public spheres,” said Curator Liz Maugans. “They catalog how language is inventoried and stored, critiquing larger issues of power and commerce and the impact it has on our domestic affairs.”

Join the Riffe Gallery for the opening of The I of the TEXT on May 6, 2010 from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. with an opening reception from 5 – 7 p.m. Curator Liz Maugans will lead a tour of the exhibition on May 7, 2010 from noon – 1 p.m. Artists in the show include: Denise Burge, Cincinnati; Si-Yun Chang, Bay Village; Jeffry Chiplis, Cleveland; Kristen Cliffel, Cleveland; Dana L. Depew, Cleveland; Joe Immen, Columbus; Julie Mader-Meersman, Cincinnati; Deborah Orloff, Sylvania; Andrew McAllister, Akron; Herb Vincent Peterson, Columbus; Arturo Rodriguez, Toledo; Seth Rosenberg, Cleveland; Jennifer Schulman, Stow; Talia Shabtay, Columbus; Peter Tabor, Lakewood; Reid Wood, Oberlin. The Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Gallery will hold a Creative Writing Workshop Monday, May 17, 2010 from 5 – 8 p.m. Educator, author and writer Mimi Brodsky Chenfeld will return for another round of aerobics for the imagination in the Riffe Gallery. Adult participants should bring paper and pencils, open minds, hearts, free spirits and a brown bag dinner! Register for this free creative writing workshop online at www.riffegallery.org by Wednesday, May 12, 2010.

The Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Gallery will also hold a Family Day Workshop Sunday, June 27, 2010 from 2 – 4 p.m. During the workshop with local artist Talia Shabtay, children ages 6 – 17 will create original poetry using book pages and black markers. Words and sentences will shed their original meanings and adopt new ones, both visually and grammatically. Participants will then have the chance to illustrate their poetry using drawing and collage techniques. No poetry writing experience required! Registration is required as space is limited and all children must be accompanied by a registered adult. Registration begins May 6 and ends June 21, 2010 online atwww.riffegallery.org.

The Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Gallery is located in the Vern Riffe Center for Government and the Arts, 77 S. High St., Columbus, OH. Admission is free. Gallery hours are Tuesday, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., Wednesday and Friday, 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., Thursday, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. and Saturday, and Sunday, noon-4 p.m. Closed Mondays and state holidays. Visit www.riffegallery.org or phone 614/644-9624 for more information. The Riffe Gallery is supported by the Ohio Building Authority. Media Sponsors include CD101, CityScene, Ohio Magazine, Time Warner Cable and WCBE.

Free group tours are available Wednesday through Friday throughout the run of each exhibition. To schedule a group tour contact Riffe Gallery director Mary Gray at mary.gray@oac.state.oh.us or 614/728-2239.

The Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Gallery showcases the work of Ohio’s artists and curators, exhibitions produced by the Ohio Arts Council’s International Program and the collections of the region’s museums and galleries. The Riffe Gallery’s Education Program seeks to increase public appreciation and understanding of those exhibitions. Admission is free. For information, call the Riffe Gallery at 614/644-9624.


Friday, April 23, 2010

A Call to Amateur Bowlers with Cameras

I grew up in a bowling family. My sister and I were bowling alley kids who spent at least one night a week playing video games and eating bowling alley food while our parents bowled in a league. Our parents still bowl in a league almost every year. My uncles bowled for years and I have a second cousin, Jim Ragnoni, who currently plays on a senior professional tour. I also have a nephew. Dimitri Harris, who seems to have inherited the Ragnoni bowling gene.

I, on the other hand, am not a very good bowler. This may be why I love pictures of amateur bowlers bowling. Who can resist pictures of gutter balls, funny bowling shoes, and glee over unexpected strikes. Whenever I see pictures of others bowling, I get the urge to go bowling. Pictures of no other sports or entertainment venues strike (intended pun) me this way. Slide shows of bowling parties or just of friends bowling capture genuine moments of expression. Well, most bowling slide shows do.

Star Lanes on the Levee had their grand opening party recently. While I didn't go, I looked forward to the slide show that was sure to appear on Metromix Cincinnati. I was certain as soon as I viewed the pictures, I'd make plans to go bowling. However, of the 36 pictures that make up the slide show, none show people bowling. None. In fact, if I hadn't known this was a launch party for a bowling alley, I may not have guessed. Few of the pictures include the actual lanes. I had to run through the slide show 3 times before I noticed any bowling balls. And the iconic shoes? Missing.

Now I know Metromix's slide shows have a formula that includes smiling pretty people all dolled up for a party. I get it. I'm willing to accept that I shouldn't have expected to see actual bowling league shirts. But if Metromix wants me to go Star lanes on the Levee, include pictures of people bowling; gutter balls, surprise strikes and spares, and yes....the bowling shoes.

So to all amateur bowlers with cameras out there, send me your bowling pictures. Metromix Cincinnati left me hungry for bowling....pictures.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

A City's History Reduced to a Cell Phone Slide Show?

Yesterday I posted about resisting the temptation to rely solely on photography to view architecture. Visiting old homes in Cincinnati in particular is the only way to truly experience place, history, and home.

Recently a judge required a tour of the Gamble House. What we are left with however is a slide show created by a cell phone. This legally imposed private tour seemed to present some interesting aspects profiling Gamble's life. Imagine what a more constructed and researched tour would uncover of our history. Certainly such a visit would offer so much more than what pictures can document.

The cell phone slide show instead reveals what we lose when we ignore our history.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My Summer Plans in Greater Cincinnati: Touring Home

Last weekend I was reminded again of the inferiority of digital images when it comes to experiencing architecture. On Saturday I had the opportunity to visit the William P. Boswell House in Indian Hill. After a number of semesters as an undergrad learning about the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright through slide presentations, and then as a grad student at the University of Chicago walking by the Robie House almost daily, I knew my afternoon would be filled with right angles. To be honest, I was looking forward more to meeting new people or seeing familiar faces than touring the house during this official launch of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy Conference taking place later this year.

The drive through Indian Hill to the house was beautifully teasing. Immediately, I wanted a closer look at all of those homes I passed on the way to the Boswell House. These seemed much more interesting to me than the grid I was about to enter.

The William P. Boswell House (blogger slide show) was completed in 1959. The familiar Prairie style structure was no real surprise to me until I walked into the house. The beautiful woodwork is much more soothing than I expected. I anticipated the hard-edged style emphasized in pictures, the efficiency of space and storage, and a compactness stressed by the pyramid roof that seems to further compress space. But this house is enormous! Since the house's construction its kitchen and baths (5 of them!) have been renovated. The size and spacious feel of the house is achieved through efficiency as well as Frank Lloyd Wright's ability to wed indoor and outdoor spaces. Both of these characteristics are lost when looking at slides of the Prairie House style. Unfortunately these characteristics have also been abandoned with recent house design in favor of studding our American landscape with "mcmansions."

I enjoy slide shows as much as anyone else. In fact, I've relied much of my work on the quality of reproductions of art and pictures of architecture. Fortunately, having access to and taking the time to actually visit these architectural spaces offer an experience we all know cannot be matched by a slide show.

Greater Cincinnati has many such structures: historic buildings, house museums, older homes. To see them, resist the temptation to simply visit websites. Instead, take a drive or walk this summer and experience them. This is my plan for the summer.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Insider Ohio Has its Eye on Cincinnati

Insider Ohio has been doing its homework.
Currently they are featuring the the Arts, Dining and Music scenes of Cincinnati.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Art Exhibition and Benefit for 2009 Taft's Duncanson Artist-in-Residence, Brian Joiner

The Robert S. Duncanson Society of the Taft Museum of Art annually recognizes the achievements of contemporary African American artists through the Duncanson Artist-in-Residence program. In 2009, the Taft named Brian Joiner. As the Duncanson Artist-in-Residence, Joiner was the creative director and teacher of a number of educational programs at the Taft Museum of Art.

This week, we in the art community learned that Brian is gravely ill.

Pamela and Lennell Myricks are planning an exhibition/benefit to be held on Friday, April 23 from 5-10PM at the studio of Mary Barr Rhodes above the Carl Solway Gallery, 424 Findlay Street, Cincinnati OH 45214. Carl Solway, one of the world's most important art dealers, will be showing his private gallery collection which few have seen. There will also be an exciting exhibition on the third floor in Aisle Gallery with the work of Terence Hammonds and Mark Patsfall. Eugene Goss and Billy Larkin are providing celebration music. This will be a major art world event not to be missed.

There will be a huge selection of work from every series Brian has completed. Prices will range from $50.00 to $12,000.00. For non collecting friends there are many options. Please attend to celebrate an incredible body of work. For Brian's care there will be a donation box for small donations. Larger donors may send a check to Raymond Thundersky Inc. for Brian Joiner.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

FAF Embracing Community Art Center Partnerships?

This week, the Fine Arts Fund announced on its blog a program that links our larger arts organizations, like the Cincinnati Art Museum to neighboring art communities north of the city. Fine Arts Fund Presents is designed to increase the presence of our celebrated art organizations with events scheduled in Blue Ash, Sharonville, West Chester, Fairfield, Hamilton, and Oxford.

This series presents another effort to engage our northern suburbs with the hope we can entice their residents to come to Cincinnati to visit the museums, see an opera, the ballet and other art venues. Ultimately, the goal is to present Cincinnati as the city it is; one with an artistic wealth that many other cities should envy (West Chester, ahem).

I've always been an advocate for sincere partnerships in the arts and real collaborative programming that honestly engages the communities. For this, I am excited about Fine Arts Fund Presents. I think it is a good way to close out the FAF Annual Campaign. At the same time, I get uneasy about any programming that functions through only recruitment strategies and neglect to include those that increase retention.

I do understand the importance of reaching out to our neighbors north of us, even as far north as Oxford hoping to grow and sustain arts patronage. I actively pursue this myself by marketing my art tour series in Mason and Fairfield and by simply assigning my Miami students to visit the CAM (making a museum visit and a written art analysis 40% of a student's grade, works wonders). But I do believe that community outreach can sometimes reach too far with risks of overlooking those in our own backyard. Big investments in recruitment efforts with no solidly planned retention programs is costly with little reward. I do imagine residents north of us are excited to attend many of the the Fine Arts Fund Presents events, but it doesn't really follow that this programming will result in their visiting the city. I expect instead when it is all over, the exciting and positive reviews will come in with most ending, "the people of (fill in the suburb here) look forward to next year when they will have another opportunity to get a taste for Cincinnati's art," or something like that.

The FAF enjoys touting "Art All Around Us," but honest engagement of art in our communities relies on seeing our art centers as partners in programming not as mere venues for art attractions. Community outreach is a valuable recruitment tool, but that is all it can do, recruit or entice new visitors. Programming that reaches the core of our community, our diverse neighborhoods, our history is the stuff that truly engages an audience through celebration and results in a sense of civic pride that will help retain our current residents and art patrons. Who would want to leave a city that is active in self-pride? Outreach is fine, but reaching in our communities to recover its wealth would almost certainly entice those who live in West Chester, Mason, Loveland, Liberty Township and even as far as Oxford to visit Greater Cincinnati to be part of our proud city.

I do wish success to the Fine Arts Fund Presents in attracting large numbers of people to each of these events. With this success though I hope the FAF and our larger arts organizations will explore more opportunities to develop programming that honestly engages the wonderful neighborhoods art centers within the city.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

My Review of the Jim Dine Portfolio in Aeqai

The Cincinnati Art Museum is hosting a gala on April on April 17th, during which Jim Dine will be honored with the Cincinnati Art Award. The museum has also invited 8 local artists to contribute to a portfolio of prints commemorating the Cincinnati-born artist.

You will find my review of the portfolio published in this month's Aeqai. It also appears in Express Cincinnati.