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Cincinnati excursions: the 2011 conference.

The Local Arrangements Committee for the Society's 37th Annual Conference in Cincinnati has planned three excursions for Friday afternoon. Each of them will leave at 2:15 p.m. from the downtown conference hotel, the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza, and the nominal fee for each includes bus transportation and any admission fee. Established in 1788 as a county seat in the Northwest Territory and on the banks of the Ohio River, Cincinnati quickly elevated itself to one of the most important cities in what was then considered the West. The three excursions promise to highlight Cincinnati's unique history through a range of cultural and historical experiences.

Conference participants who are interested in Cincinnati's historical development should sign up for the excursion to the city's splendid 1933 Union Terminal train station, which now houses four museums, an Omnimax theater, the Cincinnati Historical Society library, a four-manual E. M. Skinner organ, as well as the terminal for Amtrak. Built for the grand sum of $41 million, the terminal was designed to handle 216 trains per day, 108 incoming and an equal number outgoing. Through mid-century the terminal averaged only 128 trains each weekday, but it reached its full capacity during World War II. The terminal features a soaring Art Deco design by the New York architectural firm of Felheimer and Wagner. The central rotunda includes two 25 x 105-foot mosaic and frescoed murals by the German immigrant Winold Reiss. Each mural can be read on several different planes, and both begin with pioneer times and end in mid-1933. For $15, conference participants will enjoy a 45-minute tour of the rotunda and a guided tour of the Cincinnati History Museum that charts Cincinnati's history from 1788 and its beginning as Camp Washington through the mid-twentieth century. Highlights include a replica of the Cincinnati riverfront during its early years, a ninety-four foot replica of a steamboat, a reproduction of the Public Landing of c. 1850 (where an aspiring songwriter named Stephen Foster worked), and a fifty-foot model of the Miami-Erie Canal.

A second excursion will tour the Cincinnati Art Museum's Cincinnati Wing. Opened in 1881, the Cincinnati Art Museum is one of the country's oldest visual arts institutions, and the first general art museum west of the Alleghenies to establish its own building. The Museum chose as its first director Alfred T. Goshorn, who had headed the country's Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. The original edifice, designed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style by architect James McLaughlin, is now surrounded by a later addition that features a Beaux Arts facade. The newest portion of the Museum, the Cincinnati Wing, opened in 2003. It comprises fifteen new galleries covering 18,000 square feet displaying 400 objects, including selections of art-carved furniture, painting, sculpture, silver, ceramics, and arts and crafts metals, as well as art pottery from Cincinnati's Rookwood Pottery Company. The story of Cincinnati's artwork is woven through the galleries and placed in the context of five themes. The first addresses the theme of changing boundaries and demonstrates how the city developed from a frontier outpost, to Queen of the West, to Gateway to the West. The other themes include the sustaining of the arts by patrons, institutions, and industry; the rise of industrialization; art education through the Art Academy of Cincinnati; and the personal identity of the artists, which reflect diverse ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs, and/or gender-specific issues. For $10, the curator-led tour promises to give SAM members a sense of the prominent place the visual arts have played in the city's cultural life.

The third, and final excursion will explore Cincinnati's National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Opened in 2004, the Center hugs the Ohio River, the great natural barrier that separated the slave states of the South from the free states of the North. Cincinnati played its role in the antislavery movement, when in the 1830s the Reverend Lyman Beecher was persuaded to come to the city to head Lane Theological Seminary. Although he initially favored graduate emancipation and colonization over immediate abolition, Beecher eventually allowed the Seminary to serve as a center for antislavery agitation and uplift programs. Beecher's daughter Harriet penned her famous abolitionist novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) based on her family's experience of transporting a woman thought to be an escaped slave to a safe house. Currently, the exhibits of the National Underground Freedom Center seek to "reveal stories about freedom's heroes, from the era of the Underground Railroad to contemporary times, challenging and inspiring everyone to take courageous steps for freedom today." Designed by Booera architects of Portland, Oregon, the three pavilions--representing courage, cooperation, and perseverance--undulate to illustrate the fields and river that escaping slaves crossed to reach freedom. For $10, conference participants will receive a docent-led tour of the Center's exhibits, which bring to life the importance and relevance of struggles for freedom around the world and throughout history.

Each excursion has a limited enrollment of twenty participants, so SAM members are encouraged to sign-up early! For conference registrants who might choose to do some exploring on their own either on Friday afternoon or at other points during the meeting, the Local Arrangements Committee is preparing a conference insert of walking tours. Within ten square blocks of the hotel, attendees can walk to the Contemporary Arts Center, the Taft Museum, Music Hall (home of the Cincinnati May Festival, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and Cincinnati Opera), Great American Ballpark (home of the Cincinnati Reds, America's first professional baseball team), the Aronoff Center for the Arts (home to the Cincinnati Ballet), the Newport Aquarium, and Fountain Square. The latter features the 1871 Tyler Davidson Fountain and represents Cincinnati's chief public gathering place--the heart and symbol of the Queen City.

--bruce d. mcclung, Local Arrangements Committee Chair
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Author:McClung, Bruce D.
Publication:Society for American Music Bulletin
Article Type:Conference news
Date:Jan 1, 2011
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