Friday, July 14, 2000

$2.6M raised for new arts campus

Project near Music Hall needs approval of CPS board

By Reid Forgrave
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        More than $2.6 million has been committed to help pay for a one-of-a-kind arts campus proposed next to Music Hall downtown.

        Board members from the Greater Cincinnati Arts and Education Center announced Thursday that more than 10 percent of the promised $26 million in donations has been raised.

        If it makes its goal, the amount would be the largest private donation ever made to Cincinnati Public Schools.

        The campus would allow students in grades K-12 to study under professional creative and performing artists.

        Despite the fund-raising news — the project, brainchild of Cincinnati Pops conductor Erich Kunzel, has not been officially approved — the Cincinnati Public Schools facilities committee postponed until Aug. 10 a recommendation to the Board of Education to ap prove the proposal.

        “The administration wants to be sure we are examining all the information,” said Harriet Russell, a school board member and head of the facilities committee. “If you force a vote, you don't always get what you want.”

        The Board of Education has said it will match the $26 million if it votes to approve the arts campus idea.

        The committee delayed action because it expects to receive a recommendation in August from the administration. The administration will review three plans:


  • Demolish the School for Creative and Performing Arts and build a new facility (the Greater Cincinnati Arts and Education Center's plan).

            „Renovate the SCPA building on its current site.

            „Find a different site for an arts education center.

            Facilities committee members expect the administration to recommend Mr. Kunzel's plan for the $52 million center near Music Hall. The Board of Education will be permitted to apply for special interest-free loans because of the private/public partnership. The loans are available when private donors raise 10 percent or more of a proposed school construction project.

            Arts center supporters were disappointed that the facilities committee did not vote to send the arts center proposal to the Board of Education, but they remain optimistic.

            “I had hoped to have a motion come out today,” said Stanley Aronoff, incoming president of the arts center's board of trustees. “I didn't sense antagonism. I sensed a positive feeling on the part of all three board members.”

            Norma Petersen, a liaison between the Board of Education and the arts center's board of trustees, was unsure as to how the arts center's trustees would react to the delay.

            “We were really thrown a curve today,” she said.

            Mr. Kunzel is the prime fund-raising draw for the arts center because of his local prominence and international reputation as a conductor. He said the proposed center, to be located south of Music Hall, is unique because it would provide a direct professional-to-student relationship between creative and performing artists and students.

            The center, called “world-class” and a “crown jewel” by several organizers, would be open to community members for arts instruction during evenings. During the summer it could be used to hold festivals, Mr. Kunzel said.

            Before the committee declined action Thursday, Mr. Aronoff said “Any bump in the road just delays the time line for fund raising. The summer months are when Erich (Kunzel) is at his best.”

            Andrea Tortora contributed to this report.


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