Art Pottery, Politics and Food
Friday, June 06, 2003

I had the great pleasure to receive an email from the Director of Cincinnati’s Contemporary Art Center this morning.
Charles Desmarais joined the CAC, as Director, in 1995. During his tenure, the Contemporary Art Center, which was founded in 1939, has achieved fiscal stability and has enjoyed significant increases in membership and audience levels. Desmarais led the institution through a $35.7 million capital campaign that surpassed its original $20 million goal to build the Center's first free-standing home, the Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art on the corner of 6th and Walnut in downtown Cincinnati. He has authored over 100 articles and exhibition catalogues and was awarded an Art Critics Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1979.

Mr. Desmarais, in the novel approach artistic people sometimes take, uses facts to rebut Chris Matthew’s flag hysteria.
According to the Director of the CAC:

…Matthews claimed that “$10 million of federal money – NEA grants” was used to help build the CAC. Would that the NEA had a fraction of that amount to give to any worthy institution!! The fact is that the National Endowment for the arts contributed $150,000 to the CAC endowment – about 0.4% (that’s fourth TENTHS of a percent) of the total building project. Congressman Armey could and SHOULD have known that…. There’s also NEA money in the CAC’s annual budget – less than 1% of the total this year…

Regular blog readers, I know, will be shocked, shocked I say, to learn Messers Matthews and Armey are rarely concerned with pesky details like facts when jackbooting around a television screen.
The Performance Artist who propelled Chris’ clean cotton panties into such a twisted state, according to the CAC website, is Zhang Huan an artist known for staging elaborate, ritualistic public performances that meld aspects of traditional Asian culture with contemporary performance. Zhang is considered one of the most influential members of the group "Beijing East Village," an art colony in the rural outskirts of Beijing. His works are in the collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Watari Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo.
As I suspected, the sly videotape aired by Mr. Matthews did not factually describe last weekend’s performance by Zhang Huan. According to Mr. Desmarais the performance “lasted about 15 minutes and ended with the release of peace doves and a very respectful, traditional folding of the flag. Come see the video, which should be available in the exhibition by Saturday.”

To everyone involved with the CAC, I've been dazzled by your new building's design and superb insertion into the downtown neighborhood. Now, I've been thrilled and made proud by your sorely needed art activism. Bravo!

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