Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Art opening can show city the way

This is a story about how an art museum can save a city by singing its praises.

But first, the city must change its tune.

Timothy Rub, director of the Cincinnati Art Museum, believes that can happen here.

But first, he said, the city must "learn to speak louder and more persuasively about what makes this place not only good but different, and, perhaps, even better and more interesting than other places."

He said this without a hint of Cincinnati chauvinism.

Then, he took me on a guided tour of the museum's breathtaking work in progress, the $8.8 million Cincinnati Wing.

Telling the story of art in Cincinnati, the wing contains 15 galleries of works made with Queen City pride. It opens during Ohio's bicentennial on May 17, 2003.

That opening could usher in a new golden age for Cincinnati. Along with a series of grand openings, 2003 could also be a grand coming to our senses about touting the city's enormous assets.

In addition to the Cincinnati Wing, the city's 2003 calendar has dates set aside for the opening of the new Contemporary Arts Center, a revamped Taft Museum and the Reds' Great American Ball Park, as well as the return of Tall Stacks.

To enjoy 2003 to the fullest, Cincinnati needs an attitude adjustment.

The city must stop beating up on itself. Quit hiding its light under a basket. Take risks. Solve longstanding problems. Foster Cincinnati pride. Celebrate the city's good points.

The Cincinnati Wing can put the city on the right path. A 20-by-45-foot window near the entrance reconnects the museum - while reintroducing visitors - to the hills and river basin that have attracted and inspired generations of artists.

Inside the galleries, paintings, sculpture, wares of silver, wood carvings, furniture, Rookwood vases, as well as a fireplace, tell a story of creativity and cooperation.

Men and women, artists black and white, worked side by side to make things of beauty in a place called Cincinnati.

The wing will spotlight the greatest hits from the museum's hometown holdings, plus new works from local artists. Placing the new next to the old, said the museum's director, "brings the present in conversation with the past."

That conversation will make this point: Take a chapter from the past to make a better tomorrow. The spirit of cooperation, responsible for so much of the best from Cincinnati's past, can help save the city from its present troubles.

"This is a shining part of Cincinnati's identity," Timothy Rub added. "We all need to celebrate it, look at it, support it, nurture it."

Celebrating, supporting and nurturing the opening of Cincinnati Wing, and the rest of 2003's landmark events, should be a top priority at City Hall. And in every Tristate home.

These events represent progress and positive thinking. Twin chance occurrences around here.

City Council needs to devote more of its time and money to promoting Cincinnati's strengths. Too many scarce resources have been squandered on issues of negativity, such as the debate du jour over the bills of monitor Dr. Alan "`Call me Kal' and the meter's always running" Kalmanoff.

Someone at City Hall must have a 2003 calendar. Time to look ahead. Start making plans for a grand celebration.

This is not a cry to ignore what has gone on since the riots of 2001, to paper over problems.

This is, instead, a call for greatness. Build on what's good. Make everyone's life better. Help Cincinnati realize its potential.

Call Cliff Radel at 768-8379; or e-mail cradel@enquirer.com.

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