A Mandate for Change

For Bill Seitz, a local artist and gallery director for The Carnegie in Covington, his role as an arts activist began with a modest Nov. 15 press release. Its mission was spelled out across the fron

For Bill Seitz, a local artist and gallery director for The Carnegie in Covington, his role as an arts activist began with a modest Nov. 15 press release. Its mission was spelled out across the front page: "Petition drive to request an Arts section in The Cincinnati Enquirer."

Seitz was upset with the modest arts coverage in The Enquirer, and he thought other members of the local arts community were angry, too. But he didn't realize just how many people shared his disgust with Cincinnati's morning daily.

It's been 11 weeks since Seitz's announcement, and his anti-Enquirer petition is still going strong. His original goal was to collect at least 500 signatures by Dec. 31. It now looks like he'll be able to deliver more than 1,200 signatures to The Enquirer.

It's clear Seitz has an arts mandate. What's still unclear is how The Enquirer will respond to the petition.

"I think the beauty of this campaign is that The Enquirer is going to understand that the whole arts community is looking at them," Seitz says, speaking from his Prospect Hill home. "Now, they (The Enquirer) will have to figure out what they want to say. It's not just Bill Seitz and The Carnegie talking to them."

Recent reductions in the paper's arts coverage compelled Seitz to undertake the petition drive, he says. He wanted its administrators to know that people in the local arts community were upset. More importantly, he wanted to show The Enquirer that the arts community was capable of uniting around a common cause.

"I think our arts community still needs to do a better job at bringing ourselves together," Seitz says. "I know that there have been individual attempts to contact The Enquirer before. But this is a concentrated effort to contact The Enquirer. I think it proves that the arts community is growing. I also think we can be huge."

Piles of Midwestern newspapers scattered across Seitz's dining room table help support his key argument: The Enquirer's arts coverage pales next to comparable dailies. On the front page of The Louisville Courier-Journal's Sunday Arts & Leisure section, Seitz points to stories about architecture, photography books and the visual arts. On the same day, The Enquirer ran front-page Tempo & Taste stories about holiday CDs and a TV miniseries.

Seitz has done his homework. He's collected related articles from other publications and a study by the National Arts Journalism Program on arts reporting. He notes that his petition isn't solely based on the personal wants of Cincinnati's arts community — he believes Cincinnati's artists and arts organizations deserve the same level of coverage that their peers receive in similar cities.

Seitz wants to know why The Enquirer isn't doing as good a job covering the arts as its sister Gannett paper in Louisville. Basically, he says, Cincinnati's arts community deserves better.

"I want to make (The Enquirer) aware of the research so they can compete," Seitz says. "They are a community leader. They have to step up to the plate and involve the whole community. The arts community is not being covered in the way it wants to be covered.

"I can give them the names of 25 local artists who are worthy of coverage. We want to see something that's going to impress us. If you're going to do something, let's do it right."

The extraordinary response to his petition has led Seitz to continue his campaign through early February, when he plans to drop off the petitions at The Enquirer. He hopes he can meet personally at some point with Enquirer administrators. He has a lot of information he'd like to share.

Despite all his hard work, Seitz believes he's just a messenger. In his opinion, the real heroes are the people who took time to sign the petition.

In my opinion, Seitz is a true activist. He's the type of person the arts community has been needing for a long time. Let's hope his message doesn't fall on deaf ears.

Send your name and comments to Bill Seitz, 455 Milton St., Cincinnati, OH 45210; 513-421-7272; or [email protected].

Contact steve ramos: [email protected]

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