Last week, Cincinnati Art Museum Director Aaron Betsky and Patricia Hynes, deputy director of institutional development, met CityBeat at the museum to talk about the upcoming season and other subjects. Since we’ve already published the museum’s Fall schedule, I’m going to use this column to bring up some of the other information they shared with us. While the recession has definitely had an impact, the museum continues to move forward with exhibitions and programming ideas.
• Betsky seems committed to pursuing the notion that art museums need to do more than put exhibits on the wall. He took particular pride in noting that Cincinnati’s first “dance explosion” — site-specific, choreographed outbursts of “surprise” public dancing, like the train-station scene in Slumdog Millionaire — was not the much-publicized Fountain Square event but rather earlier at the art museum.
To that end, he’s very high on the Reel Art film series, which is trying to use film to connect with the museum’s exhibitions and purpose in general. It began with last weekend’s Herb & Dorothy and continues with 2002’s Russian Ark, the singletake journey through the Hermitage, on Sept. 18 and 20. The schedule is up at www.cincinnatiartmuseum.org for the rest of the year.
• The museum is also planning to bundle exhibits and events into a series with the thematic focus “See America” for next year. It will include photo exhibits like Walker Evans: Decade by Decade (June 12-Sept. 5) and Thomas Schiff: Las Vegas (April 3-July 18).
• Earlier this year, the museum — which has free general admission — dropped the charge for ticketed special exhibitions but instituted a $4 parking fee. (It is waived for museum members.) Since then, Hynes reported, the number of general museumgoers who also attend the special shows has doubled, from 30 to 60 percent. And membership numbers, which were in decline, have spiked up since the parking fee was started.
• The art museum, which had two Egyptian mummies in its collection, has given one to the Cincinnati Museum Center permanently — it will be included in the latter’s Lost Egypt exhibition that opens Oct. 3. The mummy was sold to the museum in the 1920s and presented as being the remains of a young princess age 8 or 9. However, more recent radiographic tests have shown it to be a boy.
• Who knew? Cincinnati Art Museum has what Betsky claims is the best collection of circus posters in the United States because the dominant printer of such posters — Strobridge Lithographing Co. — was located here. The museum is planning a show of those posters in conjunction with the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Fla., for the 2010-2011 season.
• Meanwhile, the museum continues to try to organize a Tom Wesselmann retrospective to honor the Cincinnati-native and giant of Pop Art who died in 2004. Betsky said the Guggenheim Museum is considering being a partner and that several overseas museums are already interested in taking the show.
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