Sunday, January 5, 2003

Laura Long: Downtown force

Shaping culture in 2003

Laura Long plans to embark on "positioning Cincinnati as a leading cultural arts destination thereby providing significant, sustainable economic and social growth."

Don't expect to see banners waving around downtown or four-color advertising supplements in out-of-town Sunday papers.

No, Ms. Long, executive director of Cincinnati Business Committee, a group of local CEO's, is busily laying the kind of foundation that won't crack no matter the seismic activity around her. Expect the quakes to be significant, whether the subject is the "T" word (tax) or naming the governing body for this new effort.

The research phase was completed last year. Top arts marketing consultant Louise Stevens - her company has been steering Indianapolis' famed efforts for several years - has been coming back and forth to Cincinnati for months, huddling with "stakeholders" and overseeing a round of late autumn interviews in which arts leaders and others were probed public funding issues.

In November, Ms. Long offered a brief power-point presentation of a benchmarking report that will be released this year. Arts support here will be measured against 10 other cities, including Denver, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Charlotte, N.C. Most of these cities support their cultural life with some sort of tax, whether sales, hotel, entertainment, amusement or property.

Also expected to be among the report's findings: the arts here are "under-leveraged," and one of the places they can be most useful is in assisting retail.

"Branding," Ms. Long urged the crowd gathered by Greater Cincinnati Foundation. "We need to own the arts the way Procter & Gamble owns soap."

What's the difference between the new CBC initiative and the three years of effort that went into regional cultural planning that began in the mid-1990s?

Buy in.

A few years ago the people pushing along regional cultural planning were upstarts and outsiders. Now some of them have moved to the inside, some executive offices have changed hands (particularly at P&G) and riots and boycotts have had an unsettling effect on our complacency.

We're playing catch-up now, but it's better late than never.

25 forces that will shape culture in 2003
1. The big economic squeeze
2. Clear Channel's dominance
3. Suburbanites: Will they roam?
4. The plea for racial healing
5. The media's message
6. A whole new ball game
7. Edgy art center opening
8. Tall Stacks rolls back
9. Will tourists go home happy?
10. How Fine Arts Fund carries clout
11. You can't fight City Hall
12. Laura Long: Downtown force
13. The CSO's growing empire
14. Rosenthals' big impact
15. Northern Kentucky development
16. Museum Center's main man
17. Lobbyist Weiland
18. UC at crossroads
19. The Nederlanders make a comeback
20. MidPoint: Rebuild the city on rock 'n' roll
21. The Schuster Center alternative
22. Another public art project goes to bat
23. The brain drain
24. Local film community gains focus
25. Dancing around visa problems
The wild card of 2003: War
2003 dates to keep in mind

DEMALINE: The arts
KENDRICK: Alive & Well
Get to it!