Cover Story: The 25 Most Influential People in Cincinnati Arts

People love lists. Top 100 songs of all time. Hollywood's top power brokers. The best presidents. All-century baseball team. Lists, in a clunky and inexact way, try to quantify people, businesse

Jymi Bolden

Tom Neyer Jr.

People love lists. Top 100 songs of all time. Hollywood's top power brokers. The best presidents. All-century baseball team. Lists, in a clunky and inexact way, try to quantify people, businesses and issues into neat rankings that always seem to create some level of controversy. But the bottom line is that such lists simply are the opinion of one particular group or person — you're free to disagree with the selections and come up with your own picks.

For the fourth year in a row, CityBeat offers our ranking of people and institutions making the biggest impact on Greater Cincinnati's arts community: the 25 most influential, plus a second group of up-and-comers. As always, this list reflects who we think is influential right now — not who we wish were influential or who we'd like to see be influential.

In a perfect world, minority artists and arts administrators, people under 30 and individual artists of all disciplines would occupy most of the spots on this list.

But, hey, this is Cincinnati after all — there's nothing perfect here.

And so our arts world, like Cincinnati in general, is most influenced by middle-aged white men with money. Funders make a big impact — be they business leaders, politicians or fund-raisers.

Most on this list are linked with institutions or businesses in the city of Cincinnati (in many cases, downtown Cincinnati). The majority are middle-aged or older white men, although 13 women appear. Only two African Americans make the list.

In general, spring 2000 finds Cincinnati's arts community on a continuing rise. As evidenced by the accompanying articles on downtown's "avenues of the arts," politics, business and savvy arts administrators are converging these days to produce what could potentially be a renaissance for the local arts — new, high-profile facilities; new leadership; new cooperation; new funding.

What does it all mean for artists, arts followers and Cincinnatians in general? A little hope that, finally, the arts can assume their proper place in this city — as economic development engines of their own, as rewarding careers for talented locals who want to stay here and as valuable community elements revered at least as much as sports stadiums, convention centers and department stores.

Notes: Last year's ratings are from CityBeat's issue of April 22-28, 1999. No one affiliated with CityBeat was considered for this list.

Hamilton County Commissioner

After being a member of the Regional Cultural Planning Committee (RCPC) from 1997 to 1999, he accepted the chairmanship of a "transition team" seeking to create a new entity, the Regional Cultural Alliance (RCA).


REASON FOR CHANGE: Finding the requisite funding to pay for an executive director, a support staff and other expenses of doing business for the RCA's three-year start-up period has taken much longer than many imagined (including CityBeat, which last year envisioned the new director as the second most influential person on the arts scene).

Under Neyer's leadership, the transition team has focused on establishing an organizational structure for the RCA, in addition to obtaining funding from public sources. That makes sense, and Neyer tells CityBeat that during May there will be a public announcement regarding a three-year funding plan that lays a foundation for the future, including seeking a director, who Neyer hopes to have in place this summer. Funding will come from various governmental entities, generally seen as the best source of new funding.

While all this has surely been complicated and behind the scenes, it's also likely that progress has been slow because Neyer is a busy guy on Hamilton County's board of commissioners. Bottom line: Neyer is the only current elected official in Greater Cincinnati who's spent significant time working on behalf of the arts. The future of RCA is on his shoulders right now, so we're counting on him to carry the ball and make big things happen in the months ahead.

President, The Cinergy Foundation

Cinergy has elevated the concept of positioning through corporate support of the arts to its utmost in Greater Cincinnati. Hale is proud of the fact that approximately a third of the company's corporate giving goes to the arts, about triple the national average for large corporations, a figure he does not see as changing. Hale reviews 1,200 to 1,500 requests for funding annually, often taking a hands-on approach to ensuring that the foundation's funds are well invested.


REASON FOR CHANGE: The foundation continues to be the bellwether that other arts funders look to for leadership. Under Hale's guidance, Cinergy helps approximately 200 arts organizations in Ohio and Indiana, and that's what we call influence.

Actress and activist


REASON FOR CHANGE: Hodges has certainly been the highest profile theater artist in Greater Cincinnati during the past year: She had a major role in Ensemble Theatre's regional premiere of Warren Leight's Side Man and made everyone sit up and take notice as she played Dr. Vivian Bearing in the Cincinnati Playhouse's regional premiere of Wit. She's been everywhere, including additional shows at ETC, the Playhouse and the Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival.

But she's also an artist with a heart: She joined an ad hoc group of artists who publicly took issue with the plan that would have displaced Over-the-Rhine's Drop Inn Center to make way for a new School for Creative and Performing Arts adjacent to Music Hall. She influenced a decision earlier this year to sidestep the homeless shelter with buildings located on Central Parkway. Hodges gets our vote as an artist who uses her position in the public eye to bring attention to important causes. More artists should follow her lead.

Director, Arts Services Office, Cincinnati Institute of Fine Arts

In a quiet, self-effacing manner, she runs an office that assists Greater Cincinnati's smaller arts organizations, enabling many more of them to grow and thrive. From forums and seminars to individual advice and counsel, arts administrators have found her to be a reliable source of moral and intellectual support.


REASON FOR CHANGE: Now in its third year, the Cincinnati Chapter of Business Volunteers for the Arts, which Hallenberg administers, is providing talent from the business community to organizations in need of direction and expertise in fields such as strategic planning, marketing, financial management and computerization.

More than 100 volunteers have gone through the training program and worked with various arts organizations. Several have joined boards, and many more are strengthening some of our community's most diverse arts organizations. Hallenberg is influencing the people who will lead our arts scene for years to come.

Regional President, Huntington Banks

The well-known and respected Northern Kentucky banker chaired this year's Fine Arts Fund, the volunteer-driven united arts drive that raises money for the arts.


REASON FOR CHANGE: On his broad shoulders fell the task of raising millions to support Cincinnati's largest arts organizations via the 2000 Fine Arts Fund drive, which on April 28 announced exceeding its goal with $8.9 million in contributions. He inherited the challenging task of chairing the drive a year after P&G's chairman and CEO, Durk Jager, spurred the record-breaking 50th-anniversary push. Grayson's base in Northern Kentucky also helps drive the notion of better regional support for the arts. He and his volunteer team toiled earnestly this spring to arrive at a total 6 percent increase over the 1999 drive.

President, Cincinnati Art Academy

Since 1994, he has ably led the Art Academy, Cincinnati's oldest college-level training program for professional artists and designers. In 1998, he orchestrated a split from the academy's long-term parent, the Cincinnati Art Museum, and many say that the academy has never been in better financial shape. The Art Academy quietly affects our arts scene on a regular basis while also being an outstanding educational institution.


REASON FOR CHANGE: Sometime in the next few years, the Art Academy will shed its Victorian digs in Eden Park (adjacent to the Art Museum), in addition to an old school building in the heart of Mount Adams, in favor of more student-friendly environs elsewhere. Regardless of where they end up — rumors have the school exploring possibilities in Over-the-Rhine — the Art Academy could bring a new sense of vitality, not to mention more creative talent, to the area. Smith's role as president means he'll be making lots of decisions that will have a long-term effect on the new "avenues of the arts" CityBeat envisions.

Executive Director, Art Opportunities, Inc.

For four years, the energetic Harkavy has administered ArtWorks, an annual summer program that gives high school kids summer jobs with real arts experience. Last summer she visited Chicago to re-connect with Gallery 37, the model for ArtWorks, and learned more about Cows on Parade, a one-time promotion that raised significant money for the arts. She's brought the concept home to Cincinnati and made it work.

LAST YEAR'S POSITION: Other Influentials

REASON FOR CHANGE: As the Big Pig Gig is about to stampede through the city with more than 365 prominent porkers — 10 percent more, by the way, than the number of cows in Chicago last summer — we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that Harkavy's tireless dedication to this amusing civic project could well create an endowment that will benefit our city for years to come. The auction of cows in Chicago raised $3.4 million; in November the pigs go on the block, and if one-third as much gets raised for Art Opportunities, Inc., its programs such as ArtWorks, and other arts organizations in Greater Cincinnati, we'll be in pig heaven. And, under Harkavy's direction, hundreds of individual artists have earned $1,000 stipends to bring individual pigs to life.

The Bengals stadium will be ready this fall; the Reds stadium will occupy the public's mind, both in design and cost, for another three years. The sales tax we pay to support these palaces — not to mention the public debate over their value — will be a fact of life for years to come.


REASON FOR CHANGE: Before the 1996 vote approving a half-cent sales tax to generate revenue in Hamilton County for sports stadiums, it might have been possible to get voters to go for some modest assessment for the arts (in addition to a much-needed levy for the Cincinnati Public Schools). Now, with cost overruns, pre-occupied county commissioners (see our No. 1 choice) and an angry public distrustful of new taxes and local political leadership, it could be years before we get approval for even a teeny-tiny tax appropriation to support the arts as an economic development driver for our region.

Executive Director, Emery Center Corporation/Cincinnati Preservation Association

She's stepped up from her position as the director of an organization involved in preserving some of Cincinnati's most historic buildings and neighborhoods to head the corporation that's bringing back the Emery Center as an Over-the-Rhine attraction for both housing and performance.


REASON FOR CHANGE: Sullebarger and her board have taken a common-sense approach to return the Emery to life. Stage one is to get 62 units of housing ready for eager tenants. Stage two will be to use the critical mass of more residents to attract funding for the Emery Theater's renovation. Once that's in place, the Emery will not only be a showcase but also an attraction bringing more people to Over-the-Rhine and providing the arts community with a long-needed mid-sized (1,200-1,500 seat) performance hall.

Producing Artistic Director, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park

If you read CityBeat, you know that Stern is the godfather of the burgeoning local theater scene, one that was gasping for breath when he arrived here in 1992. With the able support of Executive Director Buzz Ward, Stern has proven that you can achieve financial success while presenting excellent theater. The Playhouse has a record number of subscribers and a renewal rate that's the envy of other regional theaters. Stern's track record with new plays will continue in 2000-2001 with a world premiere of a new work by Keith Glover.


REASON FOR CHANGE: Stern remains the most influential administrator of an arts organization in Greater Cincinnati. He fostered the establishment of the League of Cincinnati Theatres, but his leadership goes well beyond the world of theater. After eight years, he is the senior-most artistic leader at any arts organization except the Cincinnati Symphony (which will experience a change in that arena in 2001), a man who knows that being visible to his patrons and speaking out about larger issues helps make his organization stronger than ever.

Arts Writer/Theater Critic, The Cincinnati Enquirer

Her arts column and other arts coverage for Cincinnati's dominant daily newspaper continue to provide a platform for advocacy. Some complain that her personal preferences and acquaintances sway her coverage, but it's undeniable that she has helped heighten general awareness of the arts — while writing for a newspaper that gives negligible evidence of caring about much beyond corporate news and sports.



Chairs, Richard and Lois Rosenthal Foundation

In 1999, the Rosenthals, already significant supporters of the arts — from the new Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art to the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park's annual Rosenthal New Play Prize — sold their company, F&W Publishing, to give them more time to lead the efforts of their family foundation.


REASON FOR CHANGE: Not only will the energetic Rosenthals focus their undivided attention on the arts, they'll do it from a new location: a renovated building in Over-the-Rhine on Liberty Street, where they plan to offer arts programs that will expand the horizons of kids with fewer opportunities. That's what we call influence.

Director, Contemporary Arts Center

To support the Zaha Hadid-designed building planned for the CAC's new home, the center's dedicated director has achieved several sizeable gifts, including a $5 million contribution from Richard and Lois Rosenthal, after whom the building will be named (see No. 12).


REASON FOR CHANGE: Some local arts supporters think the CAC dropped the ball by failing to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 1990 controversy over its Mapplethorpe exhibit. But fund-raising for the new building has picked up steam as it nears the finish line, showing solid, widespread support for the center's mission. Desmarais has the right vision for his organization and the ability to achieve a positive outcome that will make a big difference in downtown Cincinnati.

Artistic Director, Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival

He's just turning 30, but the ebullient leader of "Baby Shakes" is approaching the status of old-timer as he launches the seventh season of the company he co-founded. CSF's production of Beckett's Waiting for Godot revealed an appetite for more than just the works of Shakespeare performed by a resident company of actors. As a result, Minadakis announced a nine-show new season that mixes the classics with some contemporary, award-winning plays. In addition, CSF will launch a "studio," which Minadakis calls a "research and development" wing to nurture new plays and techniques. He's been accepted into the respected Studio Program for Directors at the Royal National Theater in England in the first year it's been possible for Americans to participate.



LAST YEAR'S POSITION: Former director Elissa Getto was 24

REASON FOR CHANGE: With Getto's departure, the Cincinnati Arts Association (which manages the Aronoff Center, Music Hall and Memorial Hall) has a real chance to strike out in a new direction with more aggressive programming. Rumors of stodgy thinking by the board worry us that we'll end up with another financially conservative manager with no vision or heart. For better or worse, the new CAA executive can set the course for much of what people see and enjoy in Cincinnati's arts world.

Former Chairman, Regional Cultural Planning Committee

His family foundation is supportive of many arts institutions in Greater Cincinnati, and he sits on the boards of many of the largest organizations.


REASON FOR CHANGE: After leading RCPC for three years, Budig has taken a back seat in the next phase of the process. But his involvement in that process built respect for his pragmatic leadership. And his foundation continues to be one of the most prominent private supporters of the arts, making big things happen, such as the establishment of a new academy for the Cincinnati Ballet late last year.

Executive Director, Cincinnati Art Museum

Fresh from the Hood Museum of Art at New Hampshire's Dartmouth College, he arrived in January to head up the city's oldest arts institution, founded in 1881.


REASON FOR CHANGE: He's the newest leader of a major arts organization in Cincinnati, and he's saying quite publicly that it's important for the CAM to become more engaged in the community. "We need to come down from the hill," he said in his first news conference, and he's still beating that drum. He'll certainly liven things up at an institution that has a tendency to be old-fashioned and conservative in its approaches to engaging the public.

Artistic Director, Cincinnati Opera

For three seasons he has presented innovative and attention-getting productions for local audiences, expanding his reputation — and the opera's — on the national and international scene. The opera has had more marketing oomph than most of our arts organizations, and now there's a product that's worth promoting.


REASON FOR CHANGE: Muni continues to be an impressive innovator. This summer he'll interlace two operas on one weekend to make his season more attractive to out-of-town opera enthusiasts. The opera will commission a new work for their 2004 season to mark the opening of the Underground Railroad Freedom Center in 2003, which tells us Muni plans to be a player here for the foreseeable future.

Producing Artistic Director, Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati

Meyers has sustained and built upon ETC's position as "your premiere theater." In addition to a world premiere by the respected playwright Lee Blessing in her 1999-2000 season, she brought Cincinnati audiences the regional premiere of Warren Leight's Tony Award-winning Side Man, the show's first production outside New York City. Leight came to see the show and liked the local vibes: He'll be back in the September to premiere his new show, Glimmer, Glimmer & Shine, before he takes it to New York audiences.



Executive Director, Cincinnati Institute of Fine Arts

McCullough-Hudson is an effective executive who works hand-in-hand with her board (following a new strategic plan announced about a year ago) to sustain the financial health of Cincinnati's most prominent arts organizations. In 1999, the Institute added nine "associate" members to the fold: The Arts Consortium of Cincinnati, The Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, The Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival, Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, Theatre IV/ArtReach, Hamilton's Fitton Center for the Arts, the Northern Kentucky Symphony, Madcap Puppet Theatre and The Children's Theatre. Each earned ongoing operating support, not to mention the cachet of being part of the inner circle, which should further strengthen them.


REASON FOR CHANGE: Sometimes it seems as if CIFA is the Switzerland of our local arts scene, delicately stepping around political issues in an effort to maintain neutrality. In spite of that, McCullough-Hudson remains someone who clearly has an impact on the arts.

Executive Director, The Carnegie Center

She heads the facility in Covington that's really becoming an arts center for all of Northern Kentucky, with big galleries for visual arts and a theater that, once renovated, could become a regional draw for live performances. Once the new ADA-necessary "connector" makes the building more accessible, the Carnegie will be eligible for federal funding. Then things should really begin to pop.


REASON FOR CHANGE: She was the new kid on the Covington block a year ago, but since then she's shown true leadership skills. She's brought on influential new board members, undertaken a strategic planning process and propagated a whole neighborhood full of innovative ideas to get kids and adults involved in the arts.

Executive Director, Arts Consortium of Cincinnati

As the leader of the facility in the West End that focuses on minority arts, educations and performances, she provides programs and events for kids and adults in the inner city. Art exhibits and theatrical productions at the Linn Street facility focus on pride in African-American heritage.

LAST YEAR'S POSITION: Other Influentials

REASON FOR CHANGE: CityBeat wants the Arts Consortium to be a player. New funding from the Cincinnati Institute of Fine Arts (see No. 20) should help, but it's time for Bradley-Morton to step up and get more people to take notice of her organization. Eighteen months ago, big plans were announced for a new, more expansive facility to broaden the Consortium's impact. Since then, we've heard nothing. Our city needs to bring minority arts to a broader public awareness. We hope Bradley-Morton will raise the Arts Consortium's profile by planning and publicizing activities and events so everyone in Cincinnati will notice and take pride in our community's fine African-American artists.

Robert J. Werner, dean of UC's College-Conservatory of Music since 1985 who has overseen the dramatic physical renovation of CCM's performance and classroom facility, in addition to the growing national reputation of its programs, retires this summer. Jay Chatterjee, who has taught for 32 years at UC's College of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning, will relinquish the deanship there after 18 years. He's taking a year's sabbatical, then will return as a teacher. He has worked closely with UC President Joseph Steger to retool UC's campus with signature architecture, and he has been intimately involved in the way Cincinnati looks, serving on the city's Urban Design Review Board.


REASON FOR CHANGE: Werner and Chatterjee have overseen the education of performers, artists, designers and planners who shaped not only our community but the national arts scene. They've been charismatic leaders, and their successors will have big shoes to fill. The new deans will have a chance to sustain what's been done and to extend the impact of these high-caliber programs.

Money is flowing fast and furious to the world of e-commerce, especially the new companies popping up like spring dandelions in buildings lining upper Main Street. Will they share upcoming profits with the arts? These young entrepreneurs aren't schooled in the ways of an older generation of philanthropists, but they're working cheek-to-jowl in Over-the-Rhine with many of the area's artists and performers, so maybe they'll take some interest. Or at least drop some spare change in the cushions at the local coffee house.


REASON FOR CHANGE: They weren't really a presence last year.

Mayor, City of Cincinnati

His leadership at City Hall has already quieted the noisy City Council (ranked 9th on last year's list). The mayor hasn't stepped up to the plate for the arts like Roxanne Qualls, whom he succeeded, but he hasn't indicated that the arts are a lower priority on his agenda either.


REASON FOR CHANGE: A year ago, he was still reading the news on Channel 5. But his strength in office so far suggests he could be setting policy and priorities for a term or two, and that's bound to affect the arts. We hope he recognizes the powerful asset the arts represent in the big picture for our city and our region. (For the positive role a mayor can play in promoting the arts, see "The Philadelphia Story" on page 27.)

Brad Broecker, President, Broadway Series Management Group/Vice President, SFX Theatrical Group. He's responsible for what many Cincinnatians think of as culture: touring Broadway shows at the Aronoff Center. While lots of his decisions are dictated by what's available, Broecker's ability to market successfully has a big impact on downtown businesses, including restaurants. Right now, when the Broadway Series has a show in town things are hopping; when they're absent, it's back to the doldrums. Last year's position: 17.

Carolyn Gutjahr, Manager, Arts Allocation Grant Program for the City of Cincinnati. If you're an individual artist in Cincinnati, there aren't many sources of support. Gutjahr tirelessly heads up a program that dispenses a modest amount of city-generated tax dollars to projects and artists who could not do their interesting projects without such support. Last year's position: 21.

David Herriman, ProArts Chairman and arts supporter. He's seldom the biggest donor to a project, but Herriman's support always makes a difference. He's a philanthropist who isn't hesitant to put his money behind controversial projects. We salute him for his fearless support of everything from social causes such as Stonewall Cincinnati to mainstream arts such as the Cincinnati Playhouse. Last year's position: 20.

Kim Humphries, artist. He's stepped up to the line to manage this summer's ArtWorks program while Tamara Harkavy (see No. 7 above) and others are herding pigs. A long-time curator for the Contemporary Arts Center, Humphries is ready to spread his wings in new directions. Bear witness to his funny, avant garde theatrical production last fall of Gillambardo's Hams. We'd like to hear more from this guy. Last year's position: Not ranked.

Rick Jones, Executive Director, Fitton Center for the Creative Arts. He heads up the facility in Hamilton, which is the best model we have for a community arts center. It's popular and well-attended, and that's because of Jones' leadership. Last year's position: 18.

Jay Kalagayan, Artistic Director, The Know Theatre Tribe. A year ago we thought his group had a promising future, and they haven't let us down. Since last year he's moved up the theater ladder to direct several full-length plays at Gabriel's Corner, in addition to staging a program of his own short plays. Last year's position: Who should be influential (in a perfect world).

David Klingshirn, Executive Director, American Classical Music Hall of Fame. For several years the former pharmacist has been a one-man marketing machine, convincing people that his museum could be a viable idea. He's made friends in high places and built a blue-ribbon board of musical experts. Now you can visit exhibits in a pleasant space on Fourth Street once occupied by Herschede Jewelers. Last year's position: Not ranked.

Erich Kunzel, Conductor, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. A year ago we were impressed with his leadership for a new School for Creative and Performing Arts in the neighborhood around Music Hall. But when that effort found itself at odds with local homeless advocates, Kunzel and his fellow organizers took a high-handed approach that made lots of enemies. A scaled-back project seems to be on track now, but the whole effort has tarnished Kunzel's local reputation as an advocate for the arts. Last year's position: 7.

Lisa Mullins, Executive Director, Enjoy the Arts. Her organization makes it possible for high school kids and young adults to afford the arts. She's always seeking new ways to get her customers interested. Through her efforts, she's building audiences for the future. Last year's position: 15.

Anton Shilov, Producer, Downtown Theatre Classics. He's melting a lot of grease paint with his outspoken "I'm doing it my way" attitude. But his big plans include musicals, using past and present talent from CCM (including another brash bad boy, Worth Gardner, the former CCM professor and Playhouse artistic director who returns this fall to direct a show). If the 23-year-old raises the $1.2 million budget he's proposed, he'll be making waves on the theater scene. Last year's position: Not ranked.

Kathy Wade, Executive Director, Learning Through Art, Inc. Yes, it's the same Kathy Wade who's a premier Jazz singer all over town. But she's involved in programs that promote the arts and literacy, and her summer "In the 'Hood" concerts are events no one should miss. Last year's position: Other Influentials.

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