Sunday, June 15, 2003

Three former Cincinnatians see hometown differently



By John Eckberg
The Cincinnati Enquirer

When former Cincinnatian Debra Gawrych travels across the country, she hears a lot about her hometown. And lately she's been hearing more good than bad.

Gawrych travels as chief executive of Common Boundaries, a Greensboro, N.C., company that promotes leadership skills for individuals and organizations.

She recently was on a plane from Santa Fe with a connection in Cincinnati.

She was sitting near an older couple headed for the opening of the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Arts.

"They were so excited to be coming to town," she said. Gawrych believes such excitement is infectious and will, eventually, woo converts to a community.

Gawrych, a Sycamore High School graduate who consults for local corporate giants such as General Electric and Procter & Gamble,believes Cincinnati hasn't gotten a fair shake on the world stage, but that is changing.

"Cincinnati has never been afraid of showing its warts, but we take the raps and rise above it," she said. "We laugh at ourselves, but there's still a grace and culture, and when people go to Cincinnati, something magical happens."

But Gregory Hawkins, a former Cincinnatian now living in Los Angeles, says not much is happening to improve the image of Cincinnati among the African-American community on the West Coast.

"It's still tarnished, especially in the Los Angeles area. People bring it up when I tell them I'm from Cincinnati," said Hawkins, a 39-year-old African-American who grew up in North Avondale.

"A lot is based on the economic condition of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer," he said.

No former Cincinnatian knows more about image and the steps that are needed to change an image than former mayor Jerry Springer, who is a potential Democratic candidate for U.S. senator from Ohio.

"Image is overrated, I think," Springer said. "To the extent that image is vanity, people should not be concerned with it."

Springer is a world traveler. Last year and the year before, he says, he used to hear lots of comments and questions about the Cincinnati social climate.

But that's no longer the case.

"I heard it two years ago but nothing for the last six months. I can't remember one incident," Springer said. "If you're worried about what people will think about you, well, then do enough good things and people will probably start to think well of you.

"If the city does good things, the rest will follow."

What the international media are saying

The Times of London declared, "Zaha Hadid's art center brings class to ribs 'n' beer Cincinnati."

The New York Times boldly proclaimed it "an amazing building, a work of international stature that confidently meets the high expectations aroused by this prodigiously gifted architect. ... the Rosenthal Center is the most important American building to be completed since the end of the Cold War."

The Washington Post: "This is a very good building, and in some ways - on the inside especially - quite a wonderful and original one" with a "fascinating flow of spaces ... interior spaces so fine and winning ... the architecture is a coup."

The Los Angeles Times: "A significant achievement in museum design."




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