Sunday, January 5, 2003

Museum Center's main man

Shaping culture in 2003

Douglass McDonald is the business mind behind Cincinnati Museum Center.

A certain new Zaha Hadid-designed contemporary art center is grabbing headlines, but by the end of 2003, it will be Cincinnati Museum Center president and CEO Douglass McDonald wearing the crown of box office king of culture.

The number of people coming through the doors at the new downtown museum will be miniscule compared with the hordes Mr. McDonald will welcome to Union Terminal for blockbuster touring exhibits Baseball As America in August and St. Peter and the Vatican: Legacy of the Popes opening in December.

Mr. McDonald came to Museum Center in April 1999, and Job One has been finding the solution to stabilizing the institution financially.

He hasn't been as public a presence as local fine art museum directors, but he's been plenty busy behind the scenes making the case that what's good for the Museum Center is good for the region.

He's about to prove it. He's the guy who's going to put heads in beds, expecting attendance of at least 250,000 and visitors from as far away as Chicago and Pittsburgh for St. Peter and the Vatican. Visitors staying downtown will eat and shop. Maybe they'll go out at night. They may even check out the Center for Contemporary Art.

The Museum Center isn't stabilized financially, but Mr. McDonald's first blockbuster season looks like a mighty fine argument for what the center needs most: a regular funding stream.

Despite being the most populist cultural institution in town (with almost 1.5 million visitors in 2001 to Cincinnati History Museum, Cinergy Children's Museum, the Museum of Natural History & Science, the Robert D. Lindner Family Omnimax Theater and the Cincinnati Historical Society Library), Museum Center isn't a recipient of Fine Arts Fund largesse.

Museum Center will be an economic jet engine for Cincinnati in 2003, likely generating at least $100 million in economic impact (in 2001, it measured $75.6 million). In 2003, Mr. McDonald's blockbuster exhibits will demonstrate exactly how much Museum Center benefits the region (and downtown) and why it is the smart investment.

Watch for Mr. McDonald to be a passionate and persuasive advocate of a new push for public funding of Cincinnati's entire cultural community.

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!