Stung by a drop in income from all sources — donations as well as sales — the Cincinnati Art Museum has laid off seven staff members, or about 4 percent of its staff. That will allow it to continue through the foreseeable future with its hours and exhibition schedule preserved, Director Aaron Betsky says. "People are thinking twice about spending money in all areas," he says. All departments are being affected, Betsky says, although no department curators have been laid off.
Ever wonder what happened to Dennis Barrie, director of the Contemporary Arts Center when it showed Robert Mapplethorpe's The Perfect Moment in 1990, resulting in pornography charges that a Hamilton County jury rejected in a landmark local case?
If you've been hearing rumors that Scott Boberg, the current Curator of Education at the Contemporary Arts Center, is leaving, then you've been hearing right.
Today, the Enquirer posted a story about the Cincinnati Museum Center considering the addition of a 11,200-square-foot green roof system, which is an awesome prospect. The roof would be covered with plants, could last longer than a normal roof, and would better deal with storm run-off. Not only that, but it would double the amount of green roof space in the city.
But buried at the bottom of this article is mention of another part of the issue. "The other components of the center's project - funded by a $2.4 million local tax levy, the city of Cincinnati, the state and a National Parks Service program called Save America's Treasures - include restoring long-unused dining rooms and exterior repairs," the article states.
It's the National Parks Service program that I think deserves a little more attention. Frankly, it seems amazing, not only for what it has done for the country, but for what it has done for Cincinnati.
Save America's Treasures (SAT) was started in 1998 and has the directive of "protected America's threatened cultural treasures," like a governmental, art-saving Boondock Saint. Actually a daughter organization of both the National Parks Service and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, it has completed more than 850 projects since its creation with what seems like a focus on architecture.
In Cincinnati alone, the SAT in 2003 granted $199,000 in 2003 to the Majestic Theater, $250,000 to the Cincinnati Union Terminal, $150,000 to The Showboat Majestic. And in 2005, they granted $135,250 to restore Joan Miro and Saul Steinberg Murals from Terrace Plaza Hotel and get them on display at the Cincinnati Art Museum.
This 11 x 75 ft mural by New Yorker artist Saul Steinberg is one of the only murals he made.
What other badass art has the SAT helped saved, you might ask. Well, how about the Palace Theatre in Columbus. Not a theater buff, what about the The New York Philharmonic Leonard Bernstein Collection. Still not impressed, what about the Moundville Archaeological Park in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Oh, you're more into recent history, they gave$295,586 to the USS Joseph P. Kennedy in Massachusetts. Maybe you just like to party, in 2006 Gadsby's Tavern in Alexandria, Virginia got about $50,000 . And my personal favorite, in 1999 they granted $331,000 to save the Anti-Slavery Pamphlet Collection in Ithaca, New York.
The collections of dances, photographs and other documents that have been touched by Saving America's Treasures is astounding, not to mention the dozen of courthouse they've helped to restore across the country.
Just check them out. Our government isn't complete screwed up all the time.
I got to downtown's Weston Art Gallery in the Aronoff Center for the Arts on Saturday and was deeply impressed with one of its three shows, Supplemental Ornament: Sculpture and Prints by Althea Murphy-Price.
I know Matt Morris gave this a strong review in a recent CityBeat, but I wanted to add my voice, too. She is incredibly meticulous, yet also open to playfulness, inspiration and imagination in the way she uses synthetic hair to create sculptural objects — and lithographs — that both transcend her medium and yet are all about what we do with our hair. One piece is a stunner that I hope finds its way into a museum: "All That Remains: Rug Series" lays out synthetic hair clippings — fibers, really — on the gallery floor in a delicate pattern. It's like a painstakingly constructed devotional object, something Asian monks might have used to focus their minds. One looks at it and prays that nothing will happen — no breeze, no water leak — to make it move a hair.
Be sure to see this beautiful show, on display through Jan. 10.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and therefore most art is also a matter of personal taste. But this guy ... this guy is taking it to a whole new level.
I’m smarting from an Oct. 21 article in The New York Times by Nicolai Ouroussoff called “Art and Commerce Canoodling in Central Park.” The piece reviews the most recent stop of the Chanel Pavilion designed by Zaha Hadid (of local reputation for designing the Contemporary Arts Center) in loose collaboration with Karl Lagerfeld. I won’t recount all my bruises from Ouroussoff’s varied grievances; you can read through them here.
I took in several art shows that I recommend, for various reasons, this past weekend.
At designsmithgallery (1342 Main St., Over-the-Rhine), a selection of gorgeous vintage platinum and oil-pigment prints from Doris Ulmann, the early-20th-century photographer who moved from more formal and traditionalist pictorialism toward a newer documentary style, are on display. These once belonged to the Folk singer and Folk-song collector John Jacob Niles, a friend of hers, and are from his estate. The show will be up through Nov. 22 and, while small, is well worth a visit. (www.designsmithgallery.com.)
On Saturday night, I attended the opening of the strange — and, in its way, quite fun — I Will Never Recover From This Macaroon by artist/CityBeat contributor Matt Morris at Semantics Gallery (1107 Harrison Ave., Brighton). The space inside and out is filled with installations and interventions — olfactory as well as visual — that connote the debris of a very conceptual house party where smart people put a lot of thought into how they break and discard things. It's up through Oct. 25 and is well worth a visit. And Morris' tissue drawings are extremely intriguing. At 7 p.m. this Saturday, there will be a reading of experimental texts.
Finally, while some of The Carnegie Galleries' The Bold, The Beautiful and The Bizarre show of work by five artists left me admiring the craftsmanship but not feeling anything about the inspiration, Brenda Tarbell's amazingly beautiful ceramics need to be seen. They seem as shimmeringly alive as underseas crustacians in their organic shapes and textures. It takes considerable willpower to resist handling them; they have the alluring power of a visit to the sea. The exhibition only runs until this Friday, so stop by at 1028 Scott Blvd. in Covington (www.the carnegie.com).
In the Fall 2008 posting of Forbesflash.com — the Web site of Forbes Magazine — Kip Forbes, vice chairman of the company and son of founder Malcolm Forbes, includes Cincinnati's Taft Museum among the list of his nine favorite U.S. art museums.
Kip Forbes, like his father an art aficionado, studied art history at Princeton and has written several books on the subject. He chose Taft because: "(It) is a jewel filled with Old Masters from Rembrandt to Whistler in a house built by the family of our 27th President."
Other museums on his list, none in Ohio, include San Francisco's de Young Museum, Detroit Institute of Arts, Pasadena's The Huntington, Atlanta's The High Museum, The Frick and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum of Oklahoma City.
— Steven Rosen