Sunday, June 17, 2001

What's the Buzz?

Chamber leader stresses the arts

        Continuing his introductory tour around all the “stakeholders” in Greater Cincinnati, Michael Fisher made his first pilgrimage to the region's arts community last week.

        Mr. Fisher, who took over the presidency of the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce in March, spoke to corporate donors to the Cincinnati Opera in Music Hall and emphasized again the importance of the arts to the quality of life that the business community covets here.

        “It really speaks to who we are,” he said of the arts, which contribute more than $100 million to the local economy.

        The opera has cultivated that connection to local corporate powers, collecting $420,000 in direct support for its programs this year.

        One of the opera's programs is its Community Open Dress Rehearsal Tuesday, co-sponsored by Convergys Corp. The group distributes 3,000 tickets to residents of Over-the-Rhine for a party in Washington Park — just across from Music Hall — and a performance of Madame Butterfly.

        Cheryl Campbell, a vice president at Convergys and a member of the opera's board, said it is one of many arts organizations that is truly committed to servicing Over-the-Rhine and other troubled neighborhoods.

        “What impresses me about the opera is it puts its money where its mouth is,” she said.

        Mr. Fisher faced the area's racial tension head-on, noting the protests at the chamber's Taste of Cincinnati event Memorial Day weekend.

        “I think it was healthy to have protests going on during that festival, and it went well,” he said. “Big cities — and I think we aspire to be a big city — understand and can accept that kind of diversity of opinion.”

— Cliff Peale

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