The Playgoer: Cincinatti as Arts Capital?

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Cincinatti as Arts Capital?

"Cincinnati has the nation's fifth oldest symphony orchestra, the second oldest opera company, a Tony Award-winning Playhouse in the Park, the Aronoff Center for Broadway shows, a Shakespeare company, ballet, galleries, museums, a Contemporary Arts Center designed by signature architect Zaha Hadid, two impressive sports stadiums, the Freedom Center and the Banks on the way.
"Last year, arts, culture and entertainment activities brought more than 10 million people to the city center, according to a study by Downtown Cincinnati Inc.
"Yet, Cincinnati is struggling to determine what its identity should be. So far, city leaders have not adopted the idea that arts can define the character of a city. It has never created an image for Cincinnati as an arts and culture town."

From Sunday's Cincinatti Enquirer. (Hat tip: ArtsJournal)

What catches my attention is not only the chance to champion more arts centers throughout the country, but just the prominence of the word "old" here (the "fifth oldest symphony orchestra," "the second oldest opera company"). Here "old" doesn't connote bad, of course, but prompts sad reflection on how the arts in the US have not always been NYC-centric. The nation was once teeming with numerous cultural metropoli. But how long will the truly great legacy of, say, a Cleveland Symphony Orchestra persist into the 21st century? Such institutions will survive, if at all, as the reserve of an ever more stratified wealthy class in neglected and emptied post-industrial urban wastelands. A leisure activity alonsgide the golf course.

Wait, what am I saying--is New York headed in any different direction?

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