Unlike most art galleries, the Lois and Richard Rosenthal Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, has dedicated itself to displaying “the art of the last five minutes.” The CAC never wants to forget that life and art are inextricably linked, not just as a matter of historical record, but also in the here and now. Because of this mission, the Contemporary Arts Center does not collect art. Instead, it constantly circulates displays by new emerging artists in fields ranging from architecture and painting to performance art and new media.
Even the building itself is breathtaking. Designed by Zaha Hadid, the structure contains 16,441 square feet of gallery space and 2,366 square feet of performance space, none of which is dedicated to a permanent exhibit. Passersby are drawn into the building by an “Urban Carpet” which gradually leads and lifts them from the street through the front doors of the CAC, then along a suspended mezzanine ramp along the full length of the “landscaped” lobby all the way to the gallery entrance. In contrast, the galleries themselves are deliberately designed as a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle which never seems to fit together the same way twice.
The 6th floor Sara M. & Patricia A. Vance Education Center calls itself an “UnMuseum,” devoted to bringing participatory art to children, schools, and families. In contrast to a traditional museum’s sterility and careful hands-off attitude, the UnMuseum seeks to introduce contemporary art to families, schools, and new generations through as much physical interaction as possible.
Because the CAC is not a collecting museum, exhibition merchandise is constantly for sale. Its gift shop also carries a wide variety of household art ranging from the practical to the exotic. More traditional items such as CAC clothing and memorabilia are also available, as are books and media relating to current CAC exhibits. The gift shop also has an online storefront which can be found here.
Admission to the CAC is $7.50 for adults, $6.50 for seniors 65 years of age and older, $5.50 for students, and $4.50 for children ages 3 to 13. Memberships are also available.
The Contemporary Arts Center can be found at 44 E. 6th Street, Cincinnati, in close proximity to I-71, I-74, and I-75. Exact directions can be found here. Hours of operation are 10-9 Monday, 10-6 Wednesday through Friday, and 11-6 on the weekend. The CAC is closed on Tuesdays and holidays. All parts of the CAC are completely accessible to the handicapped.