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How to Be Hip Guilt-Free

By John Fox · April 9th, 2008 · Editorial

I had another one of those weeks when threads of different conversations and chance meetings and passed-along news articles twist around each other and form a string of an idea.

Last week's CityBeat previewed the MusicNOW Festival, a four-day celebration of avant garde Rock/Jazz/Chamber music organized by Bryce Dessner. He's the hometown-boy-done-good who moved to Brooklyn and started The National with his brother and other Cincinnati friends, and they're the opening act on R.E.M.'s upcoming national tour.

This was Dessner's third annual MusicNOW event in Cincinnati, and he's stated many times that he enjoys having this sort of concert experience here because, basically, we need it. He's rebuffed suggestions of moving to event to New York or Chicago to seek bigger audiences.

Rick Bird wrote a preview story for the Soapboax Cincinnati web site that placed MusicNOW in the context of the growing number of local entrepreneurial arts and culture happenings. His list of "hip, alternative pop art events" included the Fringe Festival, 48 Hour Film Project, Scribble Jam, Lite Brite Indie Pop and Film Test, MidPoint Music Festival and MusicNOW.

Two things popped into my head immediately. First, CityBeat has been a media sponsor for every one of these events, and we actually produce Lite Brite and (starting this fall) MidPoint. We're proud to have supported these fellow entrepreneurs.

I also realized what else events have in common: They receive very little if any government aid and not much local corporate support. Which sets me off on one of my rants about Cincinnati.

The short version is this: Mainstream Cincinnati loves to tout our region's incredible arts and culture organizations when political and business leaders want to convince people outside of Cincinnati that Cincinnati is, in fact, pretty cool. Our city leaders, however, don't want to actually spend money to help those incredible organizations survive and grow.

I understand that many local companies give money to the arts. When CityBeat hosts our official MidPoint kickoff party Wednesday at Below Zero Lounge, we'll announce several key corporate sponsors who are stepping up to promote the local music community.

Still, Nike is a major sponsor of the MidPoint-like music festival in Portland, Ore., its corporate headquarters. Where is Cincinnati's Nike to find a few hundred thousand dollars in its office sofa cushions to help take our "hip, alternative pop art events" to the next level?

Late last week I met with Jason Bruffy and Eric Vosmeier of Know Theatre to talk about their plans for the 2008 Fringe Festival at the end of May. Talk turned to sponsorships and funding, and they mentioned that the city of Indianapolis, seeing the success other cities were having with Fringe events, allocated money to create a Fringe Festival organization.

And so when the city of Indianapolis -- or its Chamber of Commerce or its tourism board -- promotes its Fringe Festival as a reason to visit, they can do so guilt-free because they actually helped support the organization. Now that's cool.

CONTACT JOHN FOX: jfox@citybeat.com



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