By Lilia Walsh
I grew up in Cincinnati and my parents are both photographers. My mother, Maureen France, is a fine art photographer and teaches photography to the graphic design students at DAAP. My father, Tony Walsh, is a freelance photographer who has done work for The Taft Museum, The Art Museum, The Contemporary Art Center, and Midwest Living, as well as numerous individual artists.
Before my brother and I were born, my mother and father were very involved with the art scene in Cincinnati. While the art community here has been unusually vibrant for a long time, it has always been small and highly interconnected. Just as a result of living here and making art they came to know artists, gallery owners, patrons, and curators all over the city. They were very involved with the Cincinnati Artists Group Effort (CAGE).
However, when my brother and I were born, my parents’ social life was still based in the art world. Not wanting to give that up, my parents simply dragged us to art openings. I remember going to openings at The Contemporary Art Center (CAC), The Westin gallery and The Art Museum, which all followed a similar pattern: white walls, boring snacks, drunk boring adults, and art that took only ten minutes to look at, though my parents seemed to need hours.
What I remembered most about those openings when I was a child was being bored, but I now appreciate the art education I unwillingly received. Now I go to art openings voluntarily, and have gone to an estimated three hundred openings in my lifetime in Cincinnati.
The Cincinnati Artists Group Effort, or CAGE, was founded in May 1978. Its goal was to provide an alternative gallery to promote the work of artists in the Cincinnati area. The group displayed both performance and visual arts and occupied at least four different downtown gallery spaces over its twenty-year history.
The Archives and Rare books Library holds two collections on the Cincinnati Artist Group Effort: the first is the records of the organization, and the second is MAIL Art Show and More Art for More People collection.
You can view the online finding aids here (Under the heading Cincinnati Artists Group Effort):
The discussion board for “I was a member of C.A.G.E. Cincinnati Artists Group Effort” on Facebook contains this interesting paragraph on the very early beginnings of CAGE:
Robert Stearns (Director of CAC from 1978-1982) via FB email. Posted by Bruce G. Kreidler:
Bruce, it has taken me a while to get back to this CAGE story. Maybe everyone knows the early basics, but just in case: I have a story about the origins of CAGE, which included conversations I had with Amy Dinsmore in the spring of 1978, shortly after I started at the CAC. She had ideas about some minimal/conceptual installations and asked me what she might do with them. Her husband owned a building on 4th Street with an empty storefront. I encouraged her to use it. (Our first conversation, according to my calendar was at 1:00pm on May 12, 1978.) As I remember, she went ahead, cleaned and painted it stark white and installed 4, maybe 6, chains in a grid pattern from the ceiling. That was it. Some people, even artists, thought she was crazy. The space was more “empty” than the Carl Andre exhibition at the CAC down the street. She kept it on view for a while and got to wondering what to do next. I had been involved with the “alternative space” movement at The Kitchen in NYC before coming to Cincinnati. We talked about that and decided to call on some other artists. They were excited about the possibility of having a space to show their work. On June 30, I have a note about a meeting with “Amy + Space Group” at 5pm, June 30.” That had to include Lance Kinz, Sandy Utley, probably Carolyn Brown (later Krause) and others. Amy’s husband agreed to let them use the space. It started from there.
My parents were members of CAGE, and I remember going to events where artists would sit around painting ceramics to sell at the CAGE Christmas sale fundraiser, often called the “Bizarre.” It is strange to think of the moldy old editions of “Artist Pulp” in my parents’ attic as something that would be carefully archived. Usually the people our collections refer to are long dead, obscure, or fixtures of history, it is a strange sensation to come across the familiar faces of friends and family in the archive boxes in the stacks.
The Facebook group “I was a member of C.A.G.E. Cincinnati Artists Group Effort” currently has 50 members, including my neighbor, the mosaic artist Suzanne Fisher, printmaker Mark Patsfall, Kate Kern – visual artist in residence for Ohio Arts Council, James Duesing – professor at Carnegie Mellon, Stephanie Cooper – adjunct sculpture professor at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, and Any Marko – founder of the Brighton Arts Coalition, just to name a few.
Many artists and patrons in Cincinnati’s arts scene today were involved with CAGE, and it undeniably helped to foster an arts community that is surprisingly strong and diverse.
You can have your own Cincinnati arts education by perusing the collections at ARB.
If you would like to make and appointment to take a look at the collections, or one of the finding aids that is not online, please call: (513) 556-1959, or email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.