If Cincinnati were Paris, Ellen Bierhorst would be its Gertrude Stein.
In July the 71-year-old psychotherapist-poet ended her Lloyd House Salon, a gathering in Clifton where some of the city’s most engaged citizens grappled with local leaders and each other about politics, art, life and death. Open to anyone and any topic, the salon convened every week “come hell or high water” for 10 years.
Free from the confines of short soundbites, visitors to the salon such as mayors, City Council members and aspiring public servants often used the forum to stump and debate, and Lloyd House “salonistas” relished the chance to cross-examine them around a potluck dinner table.
Longtime salon-goer Steve Sunderland, 71, a professor of peace and educational studies at the University of Cincinnati, remembers a visit from Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper as emblematic of what made the salon unique.
“He stayed the whole evening, and people had an opportunity to talk to him about what his background was, what his dreams were,” Sunderland says.