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Tri-State arts organizations prepare for in-person events this summer

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Posted at 5:00 AM, May 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-28 11:04:00-04

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a long, strange year for many businesses and organizations, but perhaps none more so than for arts organizations.

"We've really had to pare back financially," said Ian MacKenzie-Thurley, executive director of the Fitton Center for Creative Arts in Hamilton, Ohio. "And that's a real challenge, particularly for any arts organization."

Paring back for the Fitton has meant staff reductions and scaling back in-person art exhibitions.

The pandemic also has left many professional actors without work at places such as Playhouse in the Park, which suspended live performances on its Marx Theater stage.

"It's been a very strange year, and it's been a very tough year, especially performers who have been out of work for 15 months now," said Blake Robison, artistic director for Playhouse in the Park.

For other organizations, such as the Cincinnati Art Museum, it has been a year of shortened hours and limited-capacity crowds.

With pandemic restrictions now lifting, though, many of those organizations see Memorial Day weekend and the summer ahead as a turning point for them and the community.

The Fitton Center is kicking its summer programming off with a 50th-anniversary celebration of its Hamilton Current Art Exhibition, starting at 6 p.m. Friday. More than 150 pieces of art will be displayed inside the Fitton Center and digital versions of that art projected on the outside of the arts center facing Monument Avenue that evening, MacKenzie-Thurley said.

"And you'll be able to come down at our opening event and there's going to be a band, DORA bar, so you can enjoy a drink and this incredible digital art," he said.

The outdoor light display will then continue from 8 p.m. to midnight through June 4.

Playhouse in the Park will look forward to its season of live shows this fall with an official groundbreaking of its planned expansion in Eden Park starting in mid-June, Robison said.

"It feels hopeful and liberating to announce we are heading into a full season of great shows," said Robison after Playhouse in the Park announced its 2021-2022 season.

That season will begin in October with "West End Story" and "Need Your Love," two stories set in Cincinnati.

Meanwhile, Jill Dunn, the Cincinnati Art Museum's marketing and communications director, said," "We're so glad we are now open to the public our traditional hours."

She said even though the museum is still requiring masks and social distancing inside, the hours will allow more people to see its newest exhibition, "Paintings, Politics and the Monument Men: The Berlin Masterpieces" when it opens in July.

"There is already a ton of excitement," Dunn said. "It's going to be about paintings from Europe that toured in America after World War II."

The Cincinnati Art Museum also will host a Juneteenth flag-raising ceremony at the foot of its new Art Climb on June 1, plus other outdoor activities throughout the summer, she said.

On Thursday, the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra also announced that its annual Fourth of July concert, “Red, White & BOOM!” will return to Riverbend Music Center after a year's hiatus. That performance will be followed by Classical Roots celebrating its 20th anniversary on Aug. 20 at Music Hall.

"We're so excited about seeing the restrictions lifted, about people emerging from their cocoons, both physically and artistically," said MacKenzie-Thurley of return normalcy starting this summer.

The Rebound is a resource to help our community make it to the other side of the financial fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. If you have a question or story idea, email us at therebound@wcpo.com.

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