Starting in March with the arrival of The Lion King and for the next 18 months, through the summer following the opening of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati will have one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to reposition itself in the national psyche.
"Cincinnati has a much better story to tell than the one we've told so far," Mayor Charlie Luken recently remarked.
How will Cincinnati tell its story to the 6 million visitors it can expect from near and far over the next year and a half?
Will concierges, taxi drivers, maitre d's and waiters be enrolled in Welcome to Cincinnati Culture 101 so they're ready to tell everyone everything with a smile?
Will arts and entertainment find ways to collaborate, so that opera and baseball and Tall Stacks and the Taft Museum of Art's re-opening will fit together to tell a single big story about what's right in Cincinnati?
Will University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music Dean Doug Lowry find ways to showcase the University of Cincinnati gem even though the Vine Street hill looks like an insuperable obstacle to out-of-towners?
What is the story Cincinnati wants visitors to take home?
"That this city's culture is about as rich per square foot as it gets in the Midwest," City Councilman Jim Tarbell says readily. "That we still have a viable downtown. It's not what it could be, but comparatively speaking, we're good."
In five months, will Cincinnati be ready to greet the world as a city on the move with a lively downtown and a renewed will to make the top 10 in the annual "Best Places to Live in America"?
"I'm not convinced we're where we need to be as far as May," says Mr. Tarbell.
"This is an opportunity second to none," Mr. Tarbell continues. The Contemporary Arts Center is expecting 800 journalists for the May opening. The New York Times called it one of the year's top 10 visual arts events. The opening of Great American Ballpark will be one of summer's major sports events.
"It's way too quiet," rumbles Mr. Tarbell. "I don't like quiet. We should be anticipating like crazy."
CULTURE IN 2003
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!