Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Essex Studios Art Walk dates for 2011

Here are the 2011 dates for Essex Studios Art Walk:

March 4th & 5th
May 6th & 7th
October 7th & 8th
December 2nd & 3rd

All Art Walks take place from 6pm-11pm. They are all free to the public and there are plenty of free parking lots available.

Make a note of this....I put them on my calendar over there on the right.

Cincinnati's Artistic Legacy Continues.

Housetrends Cincinnati is now featuring a story on the Herman and Bessie Wessel House. The story tells of Greater Cincinnati's most well-known 19th Century artists. The Wessels were students of realist, Frank Duveneck. As teachers, they continued to pass on Duveneck's ideals.

Housetrends focusses on the Wessel home as a scene for the art crowd during the 1920s. According to the story, the couple worked there as well as held large art-themed parties. For 20 years, after their deaths, the house was rented to art students.

While the story focuses on the house's past and it's possible future as a house museum and center for American Art, it also recounts a time in the city when artists (not p.r. handlers) maintained the artistic legacy of Greater Cincinnati. Herman and Bessie Wessel's preservation of artistic ideals, education, and conversation are keys to this end.

Best wishes to Carl Samson as he continues to preserve our artistic legacy.

Monday, February 21, 2011

CAC Dusts Off Street Art Swag

With the opening of Keith Haring: 1978-1982, the CAC will again be host to a party for local hipsters and others who support art parties. This show, like last year's Shepard Fairey show, will also give the CAC an opportunity to organize another summer public mural project.

The CAC claims major exhibitions and programs like these serve their mission to make contemporary art more accessible to a larger audience. It is true artists like Keith Haring worked to reach a larger audience by painting in public spaces. But this goal to engage larger audiences is not particular to street artists. All artists work to be part of a larger discussion.

And it is a discussion, not a spectacle for entertaining the masses.

Last summer's whitewashing of a couple of Shepard Fairey's murals I argued was the result of the CAC's refusal to lead any discussion on important issues surrounding Fairey's work. Large murals of child soldiers painted just outside a school was an opportunity for an important the CAC refused to lead.

Like last year, there is yet no indication the CAC has the courage to discuss those issues that find a place in Haring's work. Some of the fundamental topics found in many of his whimsical paintings and drawings include power and threat, death and deliverance, religion, sexuality, heaven and hell. The show is opening this week, though the CAC includes no indication these topics will be discussed.

Failing to engage these tough topics, opting instead for parties, Raphaela Platow's commitment to expanding audiences and making art accessible is a false one.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Rep. John Boehner Responds to Miami University Professor

Dr. Sara L. Butler, Professor of Art History at Miami University, emailed John Boehner encouraging his support for the NEA. Here is a portion of his reponse:

"The Founding Fathers established a federal government for the primary purpose of securing a common defense. Is continued spending on art programs an appropriate use of federal taxpayer dollars?"

Dr. Butler invites us to express our opinion. Here is his contact information.

Representative John Boehner.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


A fascination with Cleopatra can be traced throughout a history of painting as well as our own American cultural history. Picking up from where the ancient Romans left off, American cinema and television has recorded versions of the story of the seductress who lured both Julius Cesar and Mark Antony in an attempt to control Rome and Egypt. Ironically, myths like these are attracting large audiences to more recent research (Stacy Schiff's Cleopatra: A Life is currently #5 in the NY Times Bestsellers) about Egypt's most famous queen. While intrigued by her portrayal, many really do want to know the truth about her life. This search for truth through underwater archaeology, and not theatrics, is what's most impressive about Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt opening this week at The Museum Center.

The exhibition features the artifacts, statues, jewelry, coins, and daily items uncovered by a team of underwater archaeologists led by Franck Goddio, as well as an excavation on land led by Dr. Zahi Hawass. Goddio began this search along the Mediterranean coast of Egypt in 1992. The exhibition includes underwater footage of his team retrieving artifacts not seen in centuries.

The find is incredibly breathtaking. Recognizing these objects in the context of Cleopatra's rule is certainly interesting. The uncovering of two ancient cities, Canopus and Heracleion, which had been lost beneath the sea nearly 2,000 years ago reveals more to us about the life of ancient Egypt. And it is this last point about Egyptian culture, more than Cleopatra, this viewer found most valuable.

It is the seeing of these objects not so much as part Cleopatra's story, but in the context of what is happening in Egypt today that is most interesting. The excitement of unveiling and seeing these objects from history matched that which I shared with Egyptians today. At the same time, a realization that the Egyptian Museum is now facing the loss of artifacts, made the opportunity to see these objects, much more powerful to me.

Walking through the dark galleries at the Museum Center, I felt as though I was the one on the search for Egyptian artifacts. Perhaps this was the intent of the designers. The dark galleries are the setting for this exhibition permitting lighting effects as well as easy viewing of what seemed to be a total of about 10 flat screens mounted throughout the exhibition. In the dark, the artifacts themselves glow, making them easy to spot, but not always so easy to see. Detailed engravings, and stylistic elements on many of the sculptures are sometimes difficult to make out in the shadows that dance throughout the exhibition.

Despite the dark galleries the greatest impact of the show is undoubtedly the pair of colossal 16-foot granite statues of a Ptolemaic king and queen from the 4th-3rd centuries B.C.E. The video of unloading these was shown weeks ago as a teaser, but like all art, you must see these pieces in person. Goddio told me these stood at the entrance of a temple Cleopatra and each ruler before her would have entered to pay tribute to the gods.

Goddio was in the gallery answering many of the media questions about each of the artifacts. He was so incredibly animated. Certainly proud of his work, but seemed more excited about each of the artifacts as he tried to impress upon us the importance of each piece to Egyptian culture and history. When I asked him what it was like to see the colossal sculptures in particular in the museum, I hoped to pull from him at least some of the awe I felt seeing them for the first time. Pointing to the space behind the heel of the foot of the king, Goddio said this was the first thing he spotted. Because of the granite under water, he couldn't tell what it was until he found the king's toes. With eyes so big, he shared the moment he uncovered and realized the scale of these pieces.

It is this moment, facing Egyptian history that is the pinnacle of this exhibition. We do this the same way Goddio does it, by engaging the artifacts.

I understand the attraction to blockbuster exhibitions. I really do get the need to attract not only typical museum patrons but the hope to tap into a wider audience. Technology, music, lighting, and special effects work to attract newer and bigger audiences to museums. National Geographic and Arts and Exhibitions International certainly know how to use these tool to this end and the Museum Center has benefited well with past exhibitions like Real Pirates, Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit, and America I Am.

Like these exhibitions, Cleopatra has a built in intrigue. The flat screens may draw people into the exhibition, but in another level of irony, the theatrics keep us further away from the stories the artifacts try to tell...further away from Cleopatra. These tools to engage instead keep Cleopatra on "the big screen." In fact, the exhibit ends with examples of paintings depicting Cleopatra throughout history and finally, a series of film clips of Elizabeth Taylor, Vivian Leigh, Claudette Colbert, and more recently Lindsey Marshal.

Though as a whole, Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt does provide a wonderful opportunity to learn more about her, Egypt, and the continuing excavations. The Museum Center is hosting a number of programs for children and adults, including a discussion with Franck Goddio about his work. This talk is tomorrow, Friday, February 18 at 7:30 pm and is free and open to the public.

The exhibition continues through September 5, 2011. While there seems to be plenty of time to see it, the tickets are timed and dated. You will want to order your tickets in advance.

For information on the exhibition and the accompanying programing, please contact The Museum Center.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Essex Studios Opens Logo Contest Rather Than Pay for Art

Logo contests have become a rather popular tool of marketing on the cheap. These contests promise artists recognition (for winning a contest?), an audience, but almost never money. I've seen a number of non-profit organizations and for-profit companies use this tool as a way to save money. In the end, companies and organizations own a logo for which they didn't have to pay. The benefit to the artists is nothing more than being able to say, "See that? I designed it....for free."

As unfortunate as it seems, I've come to expect such strategies to avoid paying artists for their work here in Cincinnati. But even in this pool of cynicism, I was disappointed to learn Essex Studios has just opened a call for submissions to a logo contest.

Essex rents studio space to artists and has events like Art Walks, in which artists can participate for a fee. With access to artists and artist's money, I would think Essex Studios would consider switching things up a bit and pay an artist for designing a logo.

Since when does supporting the arts mean artists supporting us?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

UC Can Support the Arts By Making a Pledge to CCM

As ArtsWave celebrates this first Sampler weekend and marks the first million raised, the Enquirer reports the College Conservatory of Music (CCM) at the University of Cincinnati is facing debt that may prove debilitating to their status as an elite institution.

While this weekend may be the official launch of the ArtsWave capital campaign, the fundraising push began at least a week ago with an email blast to UC staff, faculty, and administrators. Dean Robert Probst from DAAP and Dr. Thomas Boat of UC Physicians are both UC Campaign Co-Chairs urging the entire University of Cincinnati community to donate to ArtsWave with a list of incentives.

In their work to support ArtsWave they argue,

"A thriving arts sector makes for a better place to live, work and raise a family. That’s why the University of Cincinnati proudly participates in ArtsWave’s Annual Community Campaign (formerly known as the Fine Arts Fund). Music, dance, theatre, museums, festivals, and more – create lively neighborhoods and revitalized communities, attracting residents and businesses. They also bring people from across the area together to share meaningful experiences."

With its students and faculty, programming, and the Preparatory Department, CCM can make the same argument but with a further, more international reach than ArtsWave.

Perhaps the University of Cincinnati should refocus its fundraising efforts to benefit CCM. As part of the university community, faculty, staff, students and administrators already have a vested interest in the Conservatory. What's more, UC, CCM and the Preparatory Department students are already lending themselves to ArtsWave during their capital campaign.

UC support of the the arts should be a pledge to their own CCM.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wexner Center Wins Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Grant

The Wexner Center for the Arts and Ohio State University will use the largest programming grant in the center's history to launch a four-year initiative on the South American country's arts and culture.

A $782,300 grant from the New York-based Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will help support exhibits, lectures, conferences, a film series, performing-arts events and educational projects about the emerging nation.

Starting with the 2011-12 season, OSU and the Wexner Center will forge relationships with key Brazilian artists, academics, critics, teachers and cultural organizations through trips, residencies and commissions.

See the Columbus Dispatch for more on the grant.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

ArtsWave Should Be Having this Discussion

As they launch their capital campaign, ArtsWave is continuing to hone its mission and defining its future funding guidelines. They should be considering artists grants. As they've told me recently, they are not in the business of competitive grants for individual artists. But during a brown bag lunch, Ms. Mary McCullough-Hudson suggested that such grants may be something for ArtsWave to look at in the future.

Art in America has a good story on funding of individual artists. The article presents the challenges of setting up guidelines for such grants as well as some solutions.

As the article notes, when the NEA killed artists' grants in 1994, it pulled significant financial support and recognition of our artists. But the story neglects to point out though is that yanking was a powerful gesture to the art world that funding artists is simply not a worthy effort.

ArtsWave should reconsider its cue from the NEA and work to establish artist grants with the community support they hope to gain in the coming weeks during the Sampler.

Ohio Liberal Arts College Deaccessions to the Tune of $1.4 Million

A Roy Lichtenstein and works by Whistler were donated to Baldwin-Wallace College decades ago, but few saw them until they hit the auction block last March.

With a small storage space on the Berea, Ohio college campus, the artwork was at risk.

"We were one sewer backup from having the collection destroyed," said spokesman George Richard. "It would be irresponsible for us to do not do something." "They were quality pieces, but we had trouble preserving and maintaining them," said Richard. "We had obligations to protect it."

Protecting it by way of selling it to the highest bidder.

These donated pieces to Baldwin-Wallace were like cash under a mattress. Of the $1.4 million, $100,000 was placed as an endowment for the college art department and the rest will fund capital improvements.

College President Richard Durst said selling the collection was the right thing to do.

"It is a shame when you have works of art that nobody ever sees," Durst said. "Art is supposed to be used by people who appreciate it. There was never that opportunity here."

Though it seems as though Baldwin-Wallace appreciated the opportunity to use the art.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Want to Create a "Ripple?" Cut Out the Middle Man.

ArtsWave is launching their capital campaign by allowing Macy's to sponsor six weekend days of art activities and events throughout Cincinnati and surrounding communities. Promoting parties, plays, talks, concerts, and even an online game (?!), ArtsWave hopes to raise at least $11 million.

ArtsWave introduced a new name and a new and larger mission that includes supporting arts and cultural institutions based on impact. However, they are not sure yet how this $11 million will be dispersed. This year they plan to determine the new funding criteria before NEXT year.

So where will your money go?

If you want it to go to the arts, simply become a member of an arts organization of your choice or purchase art from local artists. Use the Arts Sampler to help determine which neighborhood arts organization you wish to support and fill out a membership form before you leave.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hotel Art Goes Pop

I left Where We Are Now at the Cincinnati Art Museum wondering if all contemporary art is pop art. The works come here from the 21C Museum Hotel in Louisville ahead of the opening of the boutique hotel in Cincinnati. Accessibility to contemporary art is perhaps first and foremost to a hotel collection, and what's more accessible than popular culture?

With Batman, Superman, a hip hop artist, American flags, music from the 80's this collection is certainly accessible to just about anyone who would stay at 21C. In a museum though, I grew tired and for a moment wished I was in a hotel so I could nap. Perhaps that's the catch; "Where Are We Now" may not be a rhetorical but a trick question. As a 21C collection, the answer is a hotel. At an art museum it is an endorsement of hotel chain.

And that's where we are.