Friday, April 18, 2003

City plan divvies up arts funding

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

There's $350,000 for the Cincinnati Opera and $250,000 for the Cincinnati Ballet. The major museums get $725,000. Galleries, theaters, arts education and other groups will split the rest of Cincinnati City Council's annual $2.2 million arts giveaway.

The Arts and Culture Committee on Thursday recommended an arts spending plan that spreads the wealth equally among the large arts institutions that benefit from the Fine Arts Fund and a dozen smaller arts groups such as the Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival and Artworks.

In a year when City Council is eliminating agencies to cut the budget, its largesse to arts organizations is unprecedented. City Council more than doubled its allocation to capital arts projects, to $4.4 million, over the next two years.

That's on top of $432,170 in grants to individual artists and programs, and $208,670 in annual support to the Arts Consortium, an African-American arts group in the West End.

Committee Chairman James R. Tarbell is almost single-handedly in charge of doling out the capital arts money, a responsibility he describes as an "all-day, every day challenge."

"The good news is that we have so many wonderful opportunities out there to support the arts. The biggest challenge is picking and choosing. But that's a challenge I relish," Tarbell said.

Tarbell, City Council's lone Charterite, is a former concert promoter and restaurateur.

He is holding back about $2 million in arts capital funding to create arts "districts" in Over-the-Rhine, to be designated later.

"We're calling this the five-year plan, and we're pretending this funding will continue into the future indefinitely," he said.

Seven of the eight institutions that received money last year - the first year of the city's capital arts program - are back again this year. In addition, the Contemporary Arts Center will get $125,000 over the next two years to complete its new museum project downtown, scheduled to open in May.

Tarbell said a rush to get the project finished in time has led to escalating overtime bills, and the center doesn't have money for major interior improvements such as a security system, wiring, signs and a humidity control system.

The museum's director, Charles Desmarais, did not return a call seeking an explanation of the cost overruns Thursday.

The Arts Committee is also deviating from its original mission to stick exclusively to capital projects. Tarbell has also included $40,000 for a blues and gospel music festival on the riverfront and $5,000 for a traveling exhibit on the history of arts in Cincinnati, bypassing the city's usual policy of awarding operating grants only through a competitive process.

City Council will vote on Tarbell's proposed spending plan Wednesday.

Arts grants

Cincinnati City Council's Arts and Culture Committee approved almost $2.2 million in grants to arts organizations Thursday.

Art Academy of Cincinnati, $250,000 contribution toward new Over-the-Rhine facility.

Arts Consortium of Cincinnati, $70,000 toward the African-American arts group's tentative plans to expand in the West End.

Artworks, $10,000 for renovations at its Race Street galleries.

Cincinnati Ballet, $250,000 for new offices at Liberty Street and Central Parkway.

Cincinnati Museum Center, $250,000 toward improving the sound system, repairing the roof and other projects.

Cincinnati Opera, $350,000 to renovate the north wing of Music Hall.

Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival, $25,000 for more comfortable theater seats.

Contemporary Arts Center, $125,000 for cost overruns.

Emery Theater, $250,000 to "jump start" a campaign for rehabilitating the Over-the-Rhine building.

Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, $20,000 to rehabilitate the Vine Street theater.

Greater Cincinnati Blues Society, $40,000 to promote a three-day, three-stage gospel festival.

Learning Through Art Inc., $15,000 to expand the "Books Alive for Kids" program in Cincinnati schools.

Miracle Mile of Flowers, $50,000 for flower boxes in Over-the-Rhine.

School for the Creative and Performing Arts, $5,000 for a traveling exhibit on the history of arts in Cincinnati.

S.S.NOVA, a Mohawk-area "fringe art center," $35,000 to help build a new humidification system, elevator and fire escape.

Taft Museum, $350,000 toward the museum's $19 million campaign for a major renovation, to include a parking garage and new lecture hall.

Walnut Hills Art Center, $50,000 to support the Cincinnati Preservation Association's attempts to save the Walnut Hills Presbyterian Church tower.


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