Choate, the founding artistic director of Revolution Dance Theatre, and Cameron Kitchin, the director of Cincinnati Art Museum, met for the first time as they talked with ArtsWave ArtsWrap. They quickly found shared inspiration.
"The art museum opened its doors in 1886," explained Kitchin. "On that day, Mayor Amor Smith, Jr. opened with the words 'A gift of the people, for the people.' Our museum was founded with a very different set of goals than most of the European or East Coast institutions — this was ours. This was an institution of the westward expansion of our country."
Those founding principles resonated with Choate, a graduate of Cincinnati's School for the Creative and Performing Arts and former dancer with Dayton Contemporary Dance Company's second company. "Listening to you talk," he said to Kitchin, "I realize that the space between our two organizations is not that far. When you say things like this 'gift of the people, for the people,' it makes me think of why Revolution Dance Theater is what it is today."
Despite a rich history, Black artists have not been able to fully resource or capitalize on their visions, Choate reflected. Hearing about the art museum's origins, he felt validation for his dream of a Cincinnati-based professional African American ballet company.
"What we see now, all these years later, is what can happen when people embrace the arts as their own. What inspires me is looking at those stories — if it can happen for them, certainly it can happen for us."
For Kitchin, the importance of supporting Choate is itself rooted in Cincinnati's legacy.
"All art, when it was made, was contemporary," he said. "Artists living in our community today are just as important, just as thoughtful and have equally complex problems to address with the community. Our special exhibitions are often focused on living artists today, because we draw that link from the historic collections to present day and into the future."
With leaders like Kitchin and Choate, the future of Cincinnati arts is as significant as its past.