Sunday, May 9, 2004

Taft Museum enhances Cincinnati life


For more than eight decades, the historic Taft Museum of Art downtown has enriched the quality of life in Cincinnati. This week, the museum moves into a new era during which this already priceless resource should become even more of a cultural touchstone for our community.

Cincinnati.Com Special section
The Taft reopens this week after a $22.8 million renovation and expansion that took more than two years. After patrons' and members' openings during the week, the museum will hold a free, public grand reopening on Saturday and next Sunday. Considered one of the nation's finest small museums, the Taft boasts a permanent collection of artistic gems, notably European and American master paintings and exquisite Chinese ceramics.

Those gems have been housed in a building that is essentially a work of art itself. Officially known as the Baum-Longworth-Taft House, the 1820 structure at the east end of Fourth Street, is a National Historic Landmark, considered one of the nation's finest examples of Federal architecture. Among the interior highlights are pre-Civil War-era murals by African-American artist Robert S. Duncanson. After the house was bequeathed to the people of Cincinnati by Anna Sinton Taft and her husband, Charles Phelps Taft, it was remodeled and opened as the Taft Museum in 1932.

The current project not only has refurbished the Taft gallery rooms familiar to generations of art lovers. As a special section in today's Enquirer shows, it has dramatically expanded the museum's exhibit space with the new Fifth Third Bank Special Exhibitions Gallery, along with an education room, lecture/performance hall, parking garage and tea room.

The new space will allow the Taft to supplement its permanent exhibit with special displays, lectures, concerts and more. "This project enables us to achieve a stronger presence in Cincinnati," said Director Phillip C. Long.

The importance of that presence to our community is great. Along with the area's other top-notch cultural institutions, it helps attract not only visitors, but businesses and people who want to live and work here.

The Taft Museum's restored, enlarged presence is indeed something to celebrate.

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