Friday, February 08, 2002

New city panel hosts performers

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Arts and Culture Committee of Cincinnati City Council has some serious work ahead of it.

[photo] Members of the Children's Theater perform Thursday during the inaugural meeting of the Arts and Culture Committee of City Council.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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        The committee will decide how to divvy up $1 million in capital arts funding, help encourage more private sector support for the arts and hopes to revive the city's lagging tourism industry.

        But Thursday, frivolity was on the agenda.

        Chairman Jim Tarbell gaveled the inaugural meeting to order Thursday afternoon. But the meeting more closely resembled a free concert showing off the talents of the city's employees and some small, unrecognized arts groups.

        It started with Cincinnati Firefighter John L. Winfrey singing the national anthem, followed by Mr. Tarbell's rendition of “God Bless America” on the harmonica.

        After a couple of video and slide presentations, the audience of about 150 watched performances by the Cincinnati Children's Theater, the Linton 6 (a jazz sextet), the City Hall Renaissance Orchestra (made up of city employees), the Cincinnati Dancing Pigs and the Comet Bluegrass All-Stars, among others.

        Chris Monzel is vice chairman of the committee, and Minette Cooper is also a member. But if the first meeting is any indication, Mr. Tarbell will be the defining personality.

[photo] John Deatrick, city transportation director, plays trombone during the Arts and Culture Committee meeting.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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        “Arts are the heart of this city. I don't know of any industry that better represents the best qualities of our city than arts and culture,” Mr. Tarbell said.

        Arts issues are intertwined with issues of safety, cleanliness and inner-city development, he said.

        If Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra conductor Paavo Jarvi composes a masterpiece, but no one wants to come to Music Hall in Over-the-Rhine to hear it, “it's all for naught,” Mr. Tarbell said.

        Mr. Tarbell said solutions to arts issues would have to come from across city departments, including Planning, Community Development, Public Works and Parks.

        As if to underscore that point, he introduced an unlikely choice for the committee's staff liaison: John F. Deatrick, the director of Transportation and Engineering Department.

        Mr. Deatrick, who has a master's of fine arts degree, brought a slide rule and a trombone — and a picture of his acclaimed Fort Washington Way project. The highway overhaul included artistic touches in the street lights and retaining walls.

        “Jim, before you came along, the arts at City Hall was like a trombone without a mouthpiece,” he told Mr. Tarbell.


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