Sunday, January 5, 2003

Another public art project goes to bat

Shaping culture in 2003

March is shaping up to be public art month in Cincinnati with a city commission at the new Theodore M. Berry International Friendship Park for "Seven Vessels Ascending/Descending" by internationally renowned Welsh sculptor David Nash, and Bats Incredible!, the third public art project for downtown (including the Covington and Newport riverfronts).

If Bats!, which promises monumental sculptures built from Louisville Sluggers, can follow in the hoof prints of the Big Pig Gig, it will draw hundreds of thousands of cultural tourists along its viewing route and further warm Greater Cincinnatians to a concept - public art - that's still new enough here to be suspect.

About 250 Bats! sculptures made from 11,000 Sluggers will begin to rollout Opening Day (March 31). Project coordinators hope to have as many as 50 on view for the Reds' opener. Some are planned for the parade route. Expect to find one in the parade.

For the first time, the Reds are throwing out the welcome mat for a public art project, and baseball fans will "definitely" see Bats! at Great American Ball Park says the project's communications director Betsy Neyer.

Last year's flower pots parade (by the Cincinnati Horticulture Society) didn't build on the Pig Gig. A lot is riding on pulling off another project with tremendous buzz, especially in a year where downtown will be swarming with out-of-towners.

Bats! has the potential to be as significant a goodwill ambassador as the Big Pig Gig (which lives on in our hearts) and give visitors one more great story about our town to take back to their towns. Value? Priceless.

Bats! could even help lure regular folks residents and visitors east of the new ball park to Friendship Park, where public art has always been intended as a significant element.

The fate of a second sculpture lies with the Cincinnati Park Board and whether or not Director Willie F. Carden decides to do the right thing.

"The Crystalline Tower" by Miami University professor Susan Ewing and Czechoslovakian sculptor Vratislav Novak won an international design competition (sponsored by the Park Board) for a $200,000 commission to build a sculpture in the Friendship Park.

Mr. Carden wants to renege on his commitment and use the money to correct a bad pour of concrete. He stayed his execution in November pending Ms. Ewing's submittal of structural plans and additional information, a move brought about by an outcry by the artistic community. In early 2003 we will know if the tower stays or goes.

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!