Thursday, December 12, 2002

Revolutionary idea

Building for a team that wins


Now comes a project unlike any other in recent history.

It would benefit the entire region. The city of Cincinnati, the kingdom of West Chester, the riverfront of Northern Kentucky. All may enjoy its superior product. Hint: the product is as indigenous as goetta, but has a much longer shelf life.

Unlike the commercial enterprise enriching the Brown dynasty and showcasing their various unlucky and inept employees on eight dismal occasions a year, this building would be busy all the time, showcasing winners. And cost virtually the same as the football palace overruns.

Breaking a long tradition of subsidizing failure in Over-the-Rhine, this project would instead amplify its assets. The "plant" is clean - no smokestacks, no pollution. Its influential neighbors promise to lend support to the feisty, rambunctious newcomer.

Halfway there

The new School for Creative and Performing Arts at Music Hall is a little past the halfway mark in its private fund-raising. Half the $52 million cost is to be shouldered by the Cincinnati Public Schools, half by private donors. Nestling next to Music Hall, it will replace 92-year-old SCPA in Over-the-Rhine and Schiel Primary in Corryville with the nation's first kindergarten-through-high arts campus.

It's more than a school - not that educating 1,500 talented kids from all over the Tristate is not itself a noble purpose. The plan also includes community meeting space, classes for continuing education and an 850-seat theater.

"This project is just what we need to be doing," says Paul Bernish, who heads the fund raising. "We should look for partnerships and more ways to use the buildings.

"Think of having somebody like, say, Doc Severinsen, here for a concert, and you'd make it part of his contract to teach a class next door." Kids also could work next to professional gaffers and sound engineers at neighboring WCET. Word would get around, wouldn't it? Maybe we'd be famous for something besides being snubbed by Bill Cosby and tormented by Larry Flynt and the Klan.

People here love the arts. We may have let a pro basketball team slip through our fingers, but we have clung stubbornly to our symphony, opera, ballet, theater and museums. We are one of only a handful of cities to do so.

And an Urban Institute study found the average arts patron here to be younger than expected. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed under 25 say they went to a professional performing arts event. (This seems high. Maybe respondents were counting artists such as Britney and The Boss.) But in any case, the 800 Greater Cincinnatians chosen at random say they bought more tickets to arts events than to sporting events.

Fund-raisers have tapped the usual suspects - the extraordinary Mrs. Pat Corbett, various foundations, the feds. They still need about $12 million, and they'll be ratcheting up the public appeals after the holidays. So, maybe you'll buy a ticket to one of the inevitable benefit concerts.

Or at least stand up for them and applaud.

E-mail or phone 768-8393.

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