Contemporary Arts Center


Contemporary Arts Center today

Then: In 1998, CityBeat reported on the planning stages of the new Contemporary Arts Center (CAC). Three architects had been selected for interviews, and Charles Desmarais, then executive director of the CAC, mused that the new building would provide far more than a new home for the museum. "As much as what this project does to strengthen the cultural infrastructure of the community," Desmarais said, "there's a ton of equally important reasons to do it that don't have anything to do with artistic measures. This is a major new addition to the Aronoff area that will help to strengthen the whole economic renaissance happening in that neighborhood." (Issue of Feb. 5, 1998)

Now: Renaissance indeed. With the new building designed by Zaha Hadid lending a much-needed contemporary slant to the downtown Cincinnati landscape, the CAC continues to undergo a major renaissance from the inside out. Thom Collins, the senior curator who helped to oversee the building and program changes, left Cincinnati for Baltimore, where he is the executive director of the Baltimore Contemporary Museum. Desmarais has transitioned into the position of curator-at-large, and Matt Distel, who assisted Collins and Desmarais through the entire move, physically and programmatically, is serving as interim curator.

"We're very fortunate to have Matt," explains Andrée Bober, interim director of the CAC. While the CAC is actively searching for its next executive director, the board is not looking to replace Distel anytime soon. "We believe that a new director would want to staff the CAC with people of his or her choosing," Bober says. "The search committee has been working aggressively (to find someone). We hope to announce the new executive director this spring."

Overall, Bober says, the new CAC has exceeded expectations, especially in the realm of membership. "Nearly 5,000 people became members around the time of the grand opening," she states. "Now we have over 7,000 members. Clearly, the new building was the initial draw, but people have felt compelled to join to support the CAC and what we represent in the community."

Looking forward, Bober hopes the CAC continues to grow. "Financially, we're in a stronger position than we've ever been in before," she explains. "We want to continue to have the most compelling programs and attract members and visitors from around the world."

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? updates cover stories from throughout CityBeat's 10-year history.

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