When we joined the CAC in the 1950s we were just back from two months abroad, having saved our money and quit our jobs to make the trip. CAC was young and so were we, and I think we were fired with the idea of keeping our culture level high and open. Also, it didn’t cost much to belong, an important element in our free-time life.
The institution, having thrown off its slightly fusty original name, “The Modern Art Society,” now was the more staccato “Contemporary Arts Center” and after some years of moving about had settled into renovated space on the lowest floor of the Cincinnati Art Museum.
The area, regained from basement, had become two galleries and the office, such as it was, was under the stair. The CAC had two staffers: Robert Luck, Director, and his secretary, assistant and general factotum, Carolyn Shine, who would go on to move upstairs and become Registrar for the Art Museum and later a curator there. She also became my life-long friend, but that’s aside from the subject here.
Obviously, volunteers were welcome in this lightly staffed endeavor, and at some point I became one of them. Because I could type I was put to doing so and in the course of producing final copy of the director’s letters did something unpardonable – I edited them. I was already a journalist with newspaper and public relations experience, so sharpening the text came naturally but was of course a high-handed thing to do.
The sensible director – and I’m not sure now if Robert Luck or his successor, Allon Schoener, was then in place – instead said, in effect, since you’re so smart why don’t you write our news releases? So I did. And eventually he said, about an ambitious Modigliani show he was putting together for the Center, “We need you to go to New York for us. To contact press. We can give you $50 toward the trip.” Round trip airfare to New York was then $75, so I was out $25 before even getting there, but I went, slept on a friend’s couch, and managed to get a mention of the show in Vogue Magazine. I also learned a lot that would be helpful in my later life as Press Officer for the Cincinnati Art Museum, so it was an even enough exchange.
Unaccountably, to me at least, the Modigliani show is unmentioned in the current CAC web site time line. Not abstract enough, this many years on? That early 20th century elongated take on the human form still looked shatteringly modern on the walls of the CAC’s bottom floor galleries at the Cincinnati Art Museum in the mid-1950s.
What we got, my husband and I, aside from my volunteering, was a nodding acquaintance with much art we wouldn’t have seen otherwise, the fairly sparkling social life of the openings, and the habit of being around museums and galleries. These are good habits to have, for a whole variety of reasons, and our lives were and are richer for them.