Thursday, November 30, 2000

Arts patrons reach out to neighborhood

Over-the-Rhine children invited

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Richard and Lois Rosenthal this weekend unveil their newest arts initiative, which will provide free arts classes to children in Over-the-Rhine and surrounding communities.

        Uptown Arts at 123 E. Liberty St. will be a hub of dance, music, theater and vi sual arts classes for children ages 4 to 10 who live within five miles of Liberty and Main streets. Registration begins Saturday and continues next week. Classes begin Jan. 2.

[photo] Richard and Lois Rosenthal sit in the ballet studio of their new art center, Uptown Arts, in Over-the-Rhine.
(Gary Landers photo)
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        The arts patrons and former owners of F&W Publications wanted to serve the Over-the-Rhine community, so they bought and renovated the old Geise Cigar Box factory, built in 1899. “We tried to keep the factory feel of the building,” Mrs. Rosenthal said, pointing out the original ceilings and exposed plumbing.

        The three-story building includes space for performances and art exhibits, along with studios for all arts genres.

        It hasn't been all work. Mrs. Rosenthal eagerly talked of excursions to buy feather boas, tiaras, canes, top hats and firemen's hats for theater classes.

        She pulled out a taupe fringed shawl from a costume cabinet and recalled how John Schenz of Schenz Theatrical Supply helped her envision the possibilities.

        “This is a magic carpet,” she said. “Doesn't every child need a magic carpet?”

        Students can choose from an eclectic roster of classes, ranging from Suzuki violin to Nigerian dance.

   • Registration: 1-4 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Dec. 4-8.
   • Classes: 2:30-5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m.-noon Saturday.

        The Rosenthals have hired 10 artists as instructors, and they plan to host visiting professionals from organizations including Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and Cincinnati Ballet.

        Class sizes will be limited to 20 so children get individual attention. “To me, it's important that children who come here feel valued,” Mrs. Rosenthal said.

        “We want this to be a place where kids develop discipline and self-esteem,” Mr. Rosenthal added. “The bottom line is we really want to make an impact on their lives.”

        They'll measure that impact by checking in two to three years whether children have better school attendance, increased proficiency test scores or have fewer behavioral problems since enrolling in arts classes.

        “What impact have we made? If we see it's not as much as we hoped, we'll do some tweaking of the program,” he said.

Latest in a list
        As the Rosenthals prepared to sell F&W last year, they searched for a new project. When they thought about what they wanted to tackle next, they looked to their other accomplishments — the Rosey Reader program that provides books to children in grades K-3 in 31 Cincinnati Public Schools, and the Rosenthal Next Generation Theatre Series at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.

        “It's wonderful to see children interacting with live people instead of television and computers,” Mrs. Rosenthal said.

        Uptown Arts paired their commitment to social activism and their dedication to the arts. They spread the word in the neighborhood by contacting schools and social service agencies.

        “It has been so wonderful to get phone calls like, "I have a 5-year-old and she can sing like a bird. Can she be in your music class? And my son. He's 7. He can dance. Can he come, too?'” Mrs. Rosenthal said.

        Angelic Cody of Walnut Hills plans to sign up her 6-year-old daughter, Jariah, for ballet and violin. “We've been waiting for a program like this to come to the Over-the-Rhine area,” she said.

        Two agencies that have helped publicize Uptown Arts have gotten positive responses from parents.

        “As far as I know, there aren't a lot of options available for them in their immediate community,” said Helen O'Neal, coordinator of Family and Children First at Vine Street Elementary. “That's what's so exciting. It's so accessible for them.”

        Meshelle Miller, drug prevention coordinator at the Can Do Resource Center, said there are many artistic children in the Over-the-Rhine community. “We have a lot of kids with a lot of energy down here. This gives them a chance to channel it in a positive way. ... This is just really exciting for all of us. We're probably happier than the kids. We wish we could participate.”

        The Rosenthals could have retired, but chose to undertake this commitment to children and the arts.

        “I think Dick and I are at a point in our lives that whatever we do, we want to put a lot of heart into it,” Mrs. Rosenthal said. “To us, this is something that, spiritually, makes us feel good. I'm not ready to go to Florida.”

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