Holocaust museum offers free admission in wake of recent antisemitism

Citing the recent surge in antisemitism across the country, Cincinnati’s Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center will waive museum ticket costs for the remainder of the year.  The award-winning museum is open at historic Union Terminal from December 8 through January 2, 2023.

David Wise, interim CEO of the Holocaust & Humanity Center, said there is a need to educate the public about Judaism and the Holocaust at a critical time.

“As the only Holocaust museum in Ohio, our organization is in a unique position to bring the lessons of the Holocaust into the civic conversation. It is our responsibility to ensure the public can learn from the lessons of history, and this is a clear and immediate way for us to make an impact in this critical moment,” Wise said in a statement.

“We all must choose to stand up against antisemitism, and that starts with educating ourselves.”

There are daily antisemitic incidents around the country. Locally on Dec. 4, two men vandalized the Hillel House at the University of Cincinnati.

The Fox19 story reports that last year, the Anti-Defamation League reported that Ohio saw a 92% increase in antisemitic incidents, making 2021 the highest year on record.

Recent antisemitic rhetoric incidents coming from all sides of the political spectrum and ideological diverse actors highlight the problematic increase in Jew hatred. Read More »

Hamilton County Commissioners and ArtsWave Announce COVID Relief Grants for Hard-hit Arts and Cultural Nonprofits

Melissa Gelfin De-Poli and Cervilio Miguel Amador dancing The Nutcracker from a previous Cincinnati Ballet season. Photography: Peter Mueller

Thanks to Covid-19, this has been a terrible time for everyone, including workers and performers in the arts, who have been among the hardest hit in the nation. And the new variants have not made their comeback any easier.

Hamilton County has teamed up with ArtsWave to announce that it will award $2 million in nonprofit arts and cultural grants funded through the County’s allocation of American Rescue Plan (ARP) dollars.

The grants will be awarded to combat the negative economic impact of Covid-19 on the local arts community and to fuel the region’s economic restart. Links to the applications and funding guidelines are available on the County’s Covid relief site – https://513relief.org/ and https://www.artswave.org/apply.

The Covid-19 relief grants will cover costs incurred due to business disruption, in a two-year period in which performing arts venues and museums lost significant box office and admissions revenue. The grants can also cover costs of mitigation expenses for re-opening and adaptations required for digital programming. Total grant amounts will be based on operating revenue from the prior fiscal year.
ArtsWave will host a virtual information session on Wednesday, February 3, 2022, from 12–1 p.m. answering questions and outlining the eligibility and application process. To join the information session, visit artswave.org/apply and click on “Hamilton County ARP Arts and Culture Grants Information Session.”

Read More »

What a year! Looking back and ahead in the arts

View of the CSO performing a livestreamed concert in Nov. 2020

I’ll never forget the fear in the eyes of both performers and audience members in the first few live, indoor performances I saw in the early months of the pandemic in 2020. We were masked, spaced vastly apart and there was no intermission to avoid viral spread. Otherwise, many performances were livestreamed online, with musicians masked and separated by space and screens.

Then in 2021, as vaccines became available and theaters began to reopen to full audiences, there was elation and relief by many who were able to finally attend a show in person.

Every concert, play, ballet or art exhibition I attended in 2021 was deeply moving because it showed the perseverance of artists — indeed of all humanity — during this unprecedented time. I feel that we’ve come a long way.

Now, we are buffeted again by the Omicron variant. Just announced, there are at least two museum “pauses” (Cincinnati Art Museum is closed Jan. 3-12 and the Taft Museum of Art is closed Jan. 3-13).

“Hairspray” is postponed to a later date due to Covid in the cast.

There are also a few postponed performances. At the Aronoff Center, “Hairspray” scheduled to play January 4 – 9, 2022 is being rescheduled due to breakthrough positive Covid cases within the company of “Hairspray.” Ticket holders are encouraged to hold onto their tickets while the engagement is being rescheduled.

At Music Hall, the Vocal Arts Ensemble of Cincinnati is postponing its January 8 and 9 performances of “The Song Among Us” to a later date, to be announced. The release states that the postponement “is prompted by production challenges exacerbated by the recent rise in positive Covid cases across the nation.” Ticket holders may complete this form or call the box office at 513-381-3300 for ticket options, including donations, exchanges, and refunds.

I prefer to see the glass half full.  I believe we will get through this, and the arts will persevere.

Singers Michelle DeYoung and Sean Panikkar share bows in Mahler’s “The Song of the Earth” with the CSO. (Photo by Lee Snow)

I wrote a list of some of my favorite performances in 2021 in a column for the Business Courier. My list begins with Mahler’s “Das Lied von der Erde” by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in Music Hall last March, and ends with “The Marriage of Figaro” at CCM in November. I’d like to know some of yours, too. (Let me know here, or on Facebook.)

And looking ahead, here is my list of “best bets” in 2022. It’s really just a broad sweep — because there are so many chamber music, vocal concerts, art exhibitions and dance performances that have yet to be announced. I think we have a lot to anticipate.

Verdi’s opulent “Aida” will be presented at Cincinnati Opera in summer 2022. Photo courtesy of Opéra de Montréal, Yves Renaud

CAM’s ‘Monuments Men’ is richly rewarding

A visitor views a photo wall with the Berlin 202 that toured America in the ’40s. Photo by Cliff Fennel

Cincinnati Art Museum’s “Paintings, Politics and the Monuments Men: The Berlin Masterpieces in America” (July 9-Oct. 3) is a fascinating, not-to-be-missed exhibition on several levels.  It explores the controversy of removing art that was patrimony of the German people after World War II. It tells the story of Cincinnati’s own “Monuments Man” Walter Farmer. It also tells the true story of the first blockbuster exhibition of European art to tour in America.

I attended the media preview last week, and of course, I was wowed by the star of the show, Botticelli’s “Vivid Portrait of a Lady.” Susan Stamberg did a lovely piece on NPR about her.

There is much more to ponder here, starting with four of the original paintings that toured America after the war and drew an unprecedented 2.5 million visitors.

My personal favorite was this 17th-century landscape by Philips Koninck, “Panorama of Holland,” on loan from the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin. It was shown in all 14 stops of the US tour. You must stand there a while to drink it all in — the sunbreak in the threatening sky, the water ways and the little villages.

But there are so many other riches in this exhibition — a Watteau, a Titian, a Rubens. Then there is the remarkable story — and the excellent book that goes with the exhibition. Its authors and co-curators, Peter Jonathan Bell and Kristi A. Nelson, were there last week for a long-postponed opening. Of courses, the show was to have opened during the pandemic last year.

The co-curators Bell and Nelson share a moment/photo by Cliff Fennel

I plan to make several visits. Do go when the crowds are not large. You might also want to learn more in these special events:

Summer Teacher Institute July 13-15: Cincinnati Art Museum Calendar of Events – Cincinnati Art Museum

See the Story Book Club: Monuments Men by Bret Witter and Robert Edsel – July 17, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Join librarians from the Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library and members of the Cincinnati Art Museum staff for this bi-monthly book club. You can check out the book, e-book, or audio book at CinLib.org/monuments-men

click here to join the discussion on July 17th at 11:30 a.m. Find out more here.

Art After Dark | A Monumental Celebration – July 30. 5-9 p.m. Free admission. Registration not required.  Enjoy live music from the Monday Night Big Band in the Alice Bimel Courtyard, swing dancing with Pones, food for purchase from Dewey’s Pizza, cash bars and free admission to special exhibition Paintings, Politics, and the Monuments Men. #ArtAfterDarkCincy

Monuments Men Symposium – September 24 (details to be announced)

More will likely be added to the calendar in September. Here’s the link.

Live and in-person shows, finally

CSO audiences and musicians have been greatly socially distanced for this spring’s in-person shows.

I am one of the lucky people who has been able to see live, in-person concerts at Music Hall as organizations have begun opening up now that Covid appears to be waning.

Cincinnati is one of the first cities in the nation to welcome people back into the concert hall, albeit with plenty of Covid mitigation. I have to admit, for my first visit back to Music Hall — even before the vaccine became available to most people — I had some trepidation. But the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, as well CAA, which oversees Music Hall, have taken excellent precautions. With all of the social distancing in a 2200+ seat hall, an audience of 300 seemed pretty sparse. And with 90-minute concerts and no intermission, I barely encountered anyone at all. Just parked the car, donned a mask, saw the concert and left.

I loved this concert featuring Mahler’s “Das Lied von der Erde.” And how great that the orchestra made it available free for streaming a few weeks later.

Mandy Gaines

Now that the state is allowing 30% of hall capacity to be seated, it is nice to see up to 500 people. It really does make a difference, and I’m sure it does to the musicians, as well. Here’s my review of the Pops last weekend with Cincinnati treasure Mandy Gaines and that terrific singer Darius de Haas.

Melissa White made her subscription debut in Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3, “Strasbourg.”

And here’s my report of Louis Langrée’s Mozart festival with the CSO, the first time nearly 500 were allowed attend.

Thankfully, we have had our art museums to visit over the pandemic. Now, we can look forward to the May Festival — a slimmed-down version of that massive choral experience, of course. Read about it here.

And Cincinnati Opera will return as well, although not in Music Hall but at Summit Park, on land that was formerly the Blue Ash Airport. (Years ago, I met a relative there, who was delivering us a cello on his private plane… ) Here’s the story.

And yes, theater is returning too. Playhouse in the Park will seat reduced audiences for two productions this spring, and also offers some outdoor events. Here’s the announcement.

Cincinnati Ballet will begin moving into its new, $30.8 million home in Walnut Hills this June. (Click here to read about it.) The company has done an admiral job presenting both outdoor and indoor performances during the pandemic.

All of these organizations have had to toss out their planned seasons and re-imagine them with new productions and concert programs.

I admire CCM for putting together an imaginative performance series online. I have enjoyed myriad virtual shows over the past year. But there is nothing like experiencing a performance live and in person.

We’ve all missed all of it, terribly. I feel grateful to live in a city where arts leaders are creatively and safely reopening to allow in-person experiences.



Museums shuttered due to Covid

The Taft Museum of Art’s annual holiday display, with Cynthia Lockhart

During the pandemic, our local museums have done a great job keeping visitors safe, with social distancing, hand sanitizer and mask-wearing. However, the current surge is just too dangerous for comfort. This week, the Taft Museum of Art and Contemporary Arts Center followed the lead of the Cincinnati Art Museum, and are closed indefinitely. (The Art Museum hopes to reopen on Dec. 15.)

Here’s the Taft/CAC joint statement:

Jointly, the Contemporary Arts Center and the Taft Museum of Art have made the decision to temporarily close to the public, effective Saturday, December 12, 2020 in light of Governor Mike DeWine’s announcement on December 10.

As Ohio continues to reach an exceedingly high number of COVID-19 cases, DeWine has
requested that individuals stay home unless necessary: “The next three weeks will really be
the most important three weeks for all of us in this pandemic,” adding, “We cannot afford, on
the very eve of a safe and effective vaccination, to further overwhelm our hospitals and health
care providers with a holiday tsunami.”

We will continue to remain closed to the public until further guidance from health and government officials.

This was a difficult decision, made in support of our community’s health, and based on DeWine’s recommendations that residents should only leave the home if necessary.

We know our institutions are among the safest places in the Cincinnati region, and we are
voluntarily and temporarily closing our doors to the public in the interest of broader community
health outside our walls. We are pleased we had the chance to safely allow the community the
chance to see and experience art in person, and we look forward for the chance to do so
again. At this time, all in-person programming will be temporarily suspended, but virtual
programming and offers will continue.

The Contemporary Arts Center and the Taft Museum of Art will continue to share updates on
COVID-19 to inform our staff, volunteers, and visitors of effects to operations and safety on
their respective websites: contemporaryartscenter.org and taftmuseum.org.

Art Museum closes for three weeks to promote wellness

Cincinnati Art Museum recently closed an important exhibition by Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal… ” This work is his “Guernica,” 2016. Mixed media, including sport jerseys.

Cincinnati Art Museum announced today that it is temporarily suspending in-person visitation to slow the spread of Covid-19.

The museum will take a “community health break in support of health care workers and Cincinnatians” starting tomorrow, Nov. 21, through Dec. 14.

The outdoor Art Climb will remain open, and CAM’s digital offerings will allow the community to stay engaged with the museum during this time.

Cameron Kitchin, Cincinnati Art Museum’s director, said the decision is voluntary, and that the museum considers it a responsibility to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“Community wellness, in all of its dimensions, is our guiding force at the Cincinnati Art Museum. Today’s decision is difficult, yet our museum is clear-eyed about our place in civic responsibility,” Kitchin said in a statement.

The museum intends to reopen in time for its big upcoming show, “Frank Duveneck: American Master,” opening on Dec. 18.Read More »

Chamber Orchestra announces lineup for Summermusik e-festival

CCO musicians performing at Pyramid Hill

In lieu of its usual month-long Summermusik festival, Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra has 13 virtual events on tap to enjoy at home, Aug. 8 through Aug. 29.

The Silver-Garburg Piano Duo

Three will be three “live” events — online performances in real time, with stars including the Silver-Garburg Piano Duo, who wowed us in person at the festival in 2019 (Aug. 9); the superb young cellist Coleman Itzkoff, a Cincinnati native and CCO principal violist Heidi Yenney’s son (Aug. 16); and pianist Alon Goldstein, one of the stars of the 2017 festival (Aug. 23).

Those “eConcerts” will be hosted by music director Eckart Preu, and you’ll have a chance to ask questions.

Other events include “virtual watch parties” with local collaborators, a special WGUC Music Cincinnati Broadcast (Aug. 16), and “CCO2GO Rewind” events that were taped around the region earlier this summer.

Best of all, it’s all FREE. Access begins on Aug. 8th on the CCO’s website, ccocincinnati.org. Here’s the full lineup.Read More »

Cancellations, digital programs, relief funds: How Cincinnati’s arts organizations are coping with COVID-19

A previous production of The Magic Flute/ provided by Cincinnati Opera

Cincinnati Opera’s news yesterday that it must cancel its 2020 Summer Festival — the company’s 100th anniversary — was just the latest in an ongoing wave of arts cancellations due to COVID-19. Because of extended stay-at-home orders and closures, it was literally impossible to begin set-building and rehearsing, let alone fly in the international stars who were coming from Italy and the Czech Republic.

I doubt that entire seasons have ever been canceled for such a plague, although world wars have interrupted some. Of the many arts organizations that I have interviewed this month, a few leaders have predicted to me, that, until people feel comfortable being with other people in a theater, museum or a concert hall (and you can add to that, restaurants and stadiums), they will not return. And that won’t happen until there is a vaccine.

As Ensemble Theatre’s D. Lynn Meyers tells me in Friday’s Business Courier, we all thought things would be closed for a weekend, and then it would be back to normal. Now we talk about the “new normal.”

The Blue Wisp Big Band at Caffe Vivace last month.

I began observing how the coronavirus was impacting our city’s freelance musicians about a month ago, when restaurants closed, and musicians began streaming their music live from empty bars, for tips. That article, “Virtual Reality,” on April 3, included some jazz musicians, as well. Trumpeter Matt Anklan, an adjunct at Miami University, said that 60 percent of his income is from freelance jobs — now completely gone.

A spot check of Cincinnati’s major arts organizations, “Critical Stage” on April 10, told stories of how groups are struggling to hang onto their staffs even as they tally their losses. Losses will be big. ArtsWave — which was just midway through its annual, $12.4 million campaign when the virus hit — predicts that losses in Cincinnati’s arts community could top $30 million if there is no arts activity all summer.

Van Gogh’s Undergrowth with Two Figures at Cincinnati Art Museum

Still, there was a note of optimism, despite the expected red ink. Cincinnati Art Museum’s Cameron Kitchin told me, “The arts are about connecting and inspiring. What greater time of need do we have for inspiration and connection than right now, in this time of social distancing and flickering hope? If we look at what the arts to able to provide for humanity, this is a moment where we are called to action.”

Friday’s article (April 17) is about how small and mid-sized arts groups in our region are coping. There will be more stories to come, including some with good news of how people are stepping up in a time of crisis.

As I wrote in a column at the very beginning of the trickle of online arts offerings — now a tsunami — the arts offer escape, joy and comfort. Don’t forget, these organizations can’t wait to welcome you back, live and in person, when we all reach the other side.

As all theaters, museums close, Zoo closes and Aquarium is next in precautionary measures against COVID-19


With museums, theaters and even the Zoo closed, and the Aquarium closing Monday, I’ll be posting some virtual entertainment options. Cincinnati Museum Center, above, is also closed.

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden announced yesterday that it will be completely closed for the foreseeable future due to Covid-19, starting today, for the safety of the public, staff, volunteers and also the animals. Click here for more info.

“We know you have concerns about our staff and animals and want to reassure you that our animal team will continue to provide excellent care for our animals,” Zoo Director Thane Maynard said in a news release. “We have a surplus of food and essential medical supplies, so we can take care of them while we’re closed.”

In an effort to keep its loyal members and community connected to their favorite animals while the Zoo is closed, Home Safari Facebook Live sessions will be offered weekdays starting on Monday, March 16 at 3 p.m.  Each session will highlight an animal and provide an activity that you can do at home.  The first safari will feature everyones favorite hippo, Fiona.

At the same time, the Newport Aquarium, another big draw for families, announced that it is OPEN TODAY but will close tomorrow, March 16, through March 27. The Aquarium’s website has information on refunds if you have already purchased tickets. Click here for more information.

Of course, all of Cincinnati’s theaters and museums are closed, too. (Scroll down this blog to see the major announcements.)

So — I’ve been listening to a lot of Cincinnati Public Radio — WGUC-FM 90.9 classical radio and WVXU 91.7 and WMUB 88.5. You can live-stream it at cinradio.org.

Watch for my upcoming posts about VIRTUAL OPTIONS of concerts and operas that are being aired to the international community to watch during the pandemic.