Sunday, May 18, 2003

Cincinnati Wing spreads smiles

Museum unveils local masterpieces, free admission

By Marilyn Bauer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Matthew and Adair Molinsky of Mount Lookout look at "A Sailing Party," a 1924 painting by Edward H. Potthast in the Cincinnati Wing.
(Tony Jones photo)
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There was a sea of smiling, happy faces while the band played on and the mayor issued a proclamation. Saturday morning marked the start of a two-day community festival to celebrate the opening of the Cincinnati Art Museum's newly renovated, 18,000-square-foot Cincinnati Wing.

"I woke up this morning smiling," Mayor Charlie Luken said. "And even the rain can't dampen my enthusiasm."

Despite steady rain throughout the day, 1,648 people turned out to witness the opening of the wing's 15 galleries and for the ribbon-cutting ceremony that symbolized the end of $5 general admission at the 117-year-old institution.

The first capital project undertaken by the museum in nearly a decade, the Cincinnati Wing showcases the museum's unrivaled collection of 400 works of 19th- and early 20th-century painting, sculpture, furniture, metalwork and ceramics. Much of the work has never been exhibited.

What: Cincinnati Wing Ding festival.
When: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. today.
Where: Cincinnati Art Museum, 953 Eden Park Drive, Eden Park.
Parking: Free parking available 10 a.m.-6 p.m., with shuttles to the museum available at the Park and Shuttle on Gilbert Avenue, next to the Greyhound bus station.
• Noon: Fairview German Language School Choir (grades 1-6).
• 1 p.m.: Contemporary Dance Theater's Kinesphere Improv Group.
• 1-3 p.m. Children's photos with art in activity tent (cost $1).
• 2 p.m. Madcap Theatre presents When You Wish Upon a Fish.
• 3 p.m. Forget-Me-Not Historical Dance Company.
• 4 p.m. School of Creative and Performing Arts presentation.
• All day: Roving docents will lead informal tours; for those who buy a membership or upgrade their membership, a drawing will be held for two international plane tickets to destination of your choice; poster and screensaver giveaways.
Information: 721-ARTS or
The $10 million, 18-month renovation of the wing featuring art by Cincinnatians or artists with strong Cincinnati ties was made possible through private donations and grants.

When museum director Timothy Rub announced that a $2.15 million gift by philanthropists Dick and Lois Rosenthal would permanently make the museum a free place to view art, the crowd broke into applause, whistles and cheers.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony, scheduled at the museum entrance, was moved inside because of the weather. The 80-foot, bright red ribbon, stretched across the entryway to the corridor gallery of antiquities, made the lobby look like a gigantic Christmas present to the community.

The Rosenthals, surrounded by their family, appeared elated by the turnout. The couple simultaneously cut the symbolic bow, then led a procession starting with the University of Cincinnati Marching Band down the hallway to the entrance of the new wing.

"It's free, finally," said first-year Xavier University student Anna Burdick. "I've been in St. Louis where everything is free - the museums, the zoo. Now we can go to art things in Cincinnati, too."

Lois Rosenthal and Cincinnati mayor Charlie Luken.
(Tony Jones photo)
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Beyond the politicians, benefactors and volunteers decked out in sunflower-yellow T-shirts, the museum was filled with families, friends and out-of-towners.

"It's stunning," said Michael Walek of York, Maine, a former Cincinnati resident.

"It's a great representation of a city that was at the top of the Midwest art scene in its day. I think it will bring awareness to the public that there's a high style of arts and crafts in the period represented in the wing. Someone can actually come in and see the transformation of art in the city over time."

Transformation seemed to be on the lips of many.

James Y. Cheng, architect of the project and design director at Cincinnati's KZF Design Inc., said of the new wing: "It's part of the transformation of the museum. The large windows open the museum up to the community, and the Rosenthals' gift makes sure the community can see the art."

James Y, Cheng, architect of the wing, talks with excutive director Timothy Rub and Richard Rosenthal.
(Tony Jones photo)
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The new windows are indeed staggering and seem to have removed a few cobwebs from the august organization. This modern orientation can also be seen in Mark Fox's installation, Dust, which includes a mirror image of the grand arches of the museum's interior made from floor sweepings.

The wing offered numerous opportunities to opine about the past.

A 30-foot-long by 71/2 -foot-high mural, painted by Spanish abstractionist Joan Miro, hangs adjacent to the new Terrace Restaurant, which will open June 3.

The mural was originally commissioned by the Terrace Plaza Hotel to grace the wall of its gourmet dining room. The mobile "20 Leaves and an Apple," made by Alexander Calder in 1946, hangs before the mural, and also came from the hotel.

"Our phones have been ringing off the hook," said Anita Ellis, CAM's director of curatorial affairs, who first conceived of the wing 15 years ago. "People want to donate all sorts of pieces to the museum.."

Museum trustee Georgine Wolohan said: "This is a place for everyone. The new wing is a celebration of our history and also looks forward to the future with great hope."


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