Build Real Diversity
Events like the MidPoint Music Festival are great and great for Cincinnati (MidPoint preview, issue of Sept. 22-28). But I didn't go, and most of my friends didn't either. I think it's important that people know why.
Looking through the list of bands and their genres, I saw almost 100 percent Rock, Pop and Rock and Pop offshoots. MidPoint's Web site says that there's no method to this madness, it's just that the bands with the highest ¨overall scores" get invited regardless of genre. Unfortunately, my friends and I don't listen to much Rock or Pop — Hip Hop is our staple — so 250 bands is impressive but leaves something to be desired. But more than that, reading John Fox's plea to come downtown and enjoy Final Friday, a new exhibition at the CAC and several other events (¨They're All Big," issue of Sept. 22-28), I'm left with a particular feeling: Almost all the events this city seriously promotes and sponsors seem to be for white guys. There, I said it.
Anybody that knows me has I'm sure already said, ¨Wait a minute, he's white!" And yes, it's true. But what I love about cities, and particularly the cities that CityBeat arts and culture writers tend to mention as the ones we should look up to as supportive of the ¨creative class," are their diversity — racial diversity, cultural diversity, all kinds of diversity.
And while Cincinnati needs more Bill Donabedians and Sean Rhineys, what it really needs is for more people to go the extra mile to support music, art and culture that shows we can and do support diversity in Cincinnati. And that means supporting things we might not fully understand, agree with or be used to.
More than anything, I'd like to see CityBeat work to fill a void that myself and many of my friends see developing in our citywide conversation about the need for change in Cincinnati. The void is between supporting social justice and equality while at the same time embracing art and culture (and the development it spurs). When CityBeat expresses its support for social and economic change in Cincinnati while at the same time promoting the city's art and culture, I hope people recognize that particular kinds of art and culture are supported much more frequently and completely than other kinds. So when Fox says ¨Change won't come to Cincinnati unless individuals get off their asses and make it happen" within the context of supporting downtown and MidPoint, please recognize how justice and art collide.
Bottom line: It's going to take deliberate action by Cincinnati residents to make this a better place to live. I challenge Cincinnatians who care to think about how art and change are related and then work to make sure that when you're supporting one you're supporting the other.
Keep up all your hard work Cincinnati — we'll make this a better place to live!
— Gavin Leonard, Over-the-Rhine
A Complex Mission at CAM
Jean Feinberg's arts feature on the many building projects that have transformed Cincinnati's cultural institutions over the past decade (¨A Decade of Growth," issue of Sept. 15-21) provided a welcome summary of all the changes that have occurred and their impact on the community. While pleased that she found merit with the design and installation of the new Cincinnati Wing at the Cincinnati Art Museum, I was nevertheless disappointed both by her characterization of the art presented in these new galleries and by her suggestion that the decision to proceed with this project was parochial and, therefore, not worthy of an institution with an encyclopedic collection.
In recent years, a new generation of scholars and curators has come to look at the history of American art through a much wider lens, recognizing in the process that the contributions to its development made by places like Cincinnati had not been sufficiently understood or appreciated. While we certainly should not exaggerate this city's significance in the national context, neither should its real and very important achievements — which can be seen in the work of notable artists such as Powers, Duncanson, Duveneck and Twachtman, to name just a few — be dismissed out of hand. In this regard, it may be helpful for your readers to know that the Cincinnati Art Museum received major support for this project from the Luce Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, which described it as a ¨model" of its kind.
On a related subject, I found equally curious was Feinberg's suggestion that the investment made in the Cincinnati Wing was questionable given the encyclopedic scope and quality of our collection. Setting priorities and allocating resources at an institution like this is, at best, always a delicate balancing act precisely because, as she suggests, there are so many important needs to address. Such decisions are, however, best judged over the long arc of time, for the Cincinnati Wing is but one of a number of capital projects either completed in recent years or still in planning that are devoted to the presentation of our rich and varied holdings of art and artifacts.
The intention here has not been to privilege one part of the collection over another, atthough in the short term this is, inevitably, how it may appear to some. The real question — and the one that is most worthwhile discussing because it speaks to the identity of the museum — is this: Can we present and, indeed, celebrate our holdings of the work of Cincinnati artists because this makes our institution distinctive and reflects the history and cultural achievements of this city while, at the same time, honoring the equally important commitment to presenting a collection that spans the history of human achievement in the arts? I believe we can do both and that the community and its art museum will be the better off for it.
Makes No Sense
Schools closing early? Classes canceled? Sports and after-school activities canceled? One would think you'd need a good reason to put a halt to developing tomorrow's leaders, but not if you're George W. Bush.
There's no excuse for closing schools and sending kids to a campaign rally for any candidate. This week's visit by the president was not a state visit, it was a campaign rally. There's a big difference.
Would Butler County tolerate closing schools and sending marching bands to welcome John Kerry? How about Ralph Nader? How about David Cobb? Uh-huh, that's what I thought. It's the same thing, folks, and it's yet another example of Republicans thinking they can have one set of standards for themselves and another for everyone else.
Every elected official in Butler County is Republican, and this is what happens under one-party rule. We can hope that enough independent-minded voters turn out with the sense to impart some balance, but don't hold your breath — if Butler county voters had sense, they wouldn't have one-party rule in the first place.