UrbanCincy Visual Showcase tonight in OTR!

Tonight Final Friday takes place throughout historic Over-the-Rhine. There will be dozens of galleries and businesses to visit, wine, food music and more. As part of this month’s Final Friday gallery hop, UrbanCincy has organized the first-ever UrbanCincy Visual Showcase that will run from approximately 6pm to 10pm in the former A Lucky Step showroom on Vine Street (map).

Participating in the showcase are Jake Mecklenborg, Jeremy Mosher and Allister Sears. Together they will be displaying a variety of print and video pieces that highlight Cincinnati’s urban core and city life in general.

Mecklenborg will be debuting a video that features a bike ride from Cincinnati’s Fountain Square to the Ohio State Capital Building in Columbus. Sped up to roughly 600mph, or about the speed of sound, the video takes viewers along the network of bike trails that connect the two cities highlight the scenery along the way in addition to the gaps found in the trail system. Jake will also be showing his photography work of the Cincinnati Subway he has put together for a book he is currently writing on the rapid transit system’s history that will be published later this year.

Mosher will be showcasing his unique Cincinnati cityscape collection through his critically acclaimed videography tonight. He will be joined by Allister who will be participating in his first gallery exhibition that will showcase his cityscape photography with a particular social perspective.

All of the participating artists will have prints available for purchase either on-site, or have ordering forms ready to be filled out in case you are interested. There will also be light refreshments and music at the gallery space – making it a perfect stop before or after a trip to Lavomatic or Senate. The gallery is free and open to the public, so be sure to come out and support local artists and businesses tonight in Over-the-Rhine for Final Friday.

Walnut Street photograph by Jake Mecklenborg

WNKU celebrates 25th Anniversary, plans for bright future

Thursday, April 29 marked the official 25th anniversary for local radio station 89.7 WNKU. WNKU serves as a strong force in the local community and will be engaging in some terrific things they have planned to celebrate this special milestone.

First though, a little perspective on the station and my experiences with it might be useful. In the early 1990s, my brother-in-law started telling me about WNKU and I would tune in on occasion. Things were much different then at the station than they are today. While they did play good music, it was secondary to the news offering and it was hard to even know when music was going to be played. Oh, and the signal, the major complaint for years, was awful which made it hard to pick up the station.

Around 2000, I started to listen to the station more as I had moved back into Cincinnati from college and things had become a little more musical. From that point I have had an ongoing and interactive relationship with the station. This involvement included volunteering for fund drives (they are a public station, you know, which means you can become a member here), helping at events, and even recycling my Christmas Tree with them. Needless to say, the station holds a special place in my heart. Forget Clear Channel, WNKU even with its warts, is the one radio station for me in Cincinnati. As for that signal? Well it is significantly better now than it was two decades ago, though it is still imperfect. Oh, and did I mention that I won the contest for the Top 89 of 2006 (yes that is me in the picture)?

Aside from community involvement such as presenting this weekend’s Spring Pottery Fair, WNKU does play some great and diverse music. Just a few of the artists played earlier this week in a one hour stretch on Michael Grayson’s Morning Music include Widespread Panic, Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell, Brazilian Girls, The Avett Brothers and Norah Jones. There is a little something for everyone, and WNKU is bound to introduce some new artists to us as well.

To celebrate their 25th anniversary WNKU will be hosting a concert series of course! In talking through plans with Director of Development Aaron Sharpe earlier this week, there is palpable excitement over some of the shows they are helping to bring to town. It all starts tonight with a special show featuring Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $20, or in advance online or by calling (859) 572-6700 – $15 for members and $18 for non-members.

If you are unable to make it to the show tonight at Highlands High School (map), there will be plenty of other shows in the series for you to attend. Most of these are in the traditional venues around town, but Aaron did say that the station is hoping to organize a special blowout concert towards the end of the summer as the grand finale, so stay tuned for details.

The anniversary party they hosted was at last night’s final Tunes & Blooms show which featured a live broadcast and had about 3,200 people show up to catch Jake Speed as well as The Turkeys.

As WNKU embarks on the next 25 years, I asked Aaron what the future held. There were a few things he mentioned including offering a second station on their HD broadcast, and acquiring other frequencies to help with distribution as they recently did with 94.5FM in West Chester. Additionally, the station just hired its first full time sales position as things continue to grow and change.

Whatever the future may hold, we do not know. But what we do know is how great a community partner WNKU is today. Happy anniversary WNKU! You have risen from humble beginnings to places that nobody dreamed of, and we all look forward to seeing what is up your sleeve for the next 25 years.

Community Campaign raises $11M for Fine Arts Fund

The Fine Arts Fund announced this evening that the Cincinnati community gave $11 million for the arts in during their annual campaign – matching their aggressive goal set last year. Julie Janson, Chair of the 2010 Annual Community Campaign for the Fine Arts Fund, said that the amount matched 2009’s contributions and was more than any other such campaign in the nation.

The news comes as nonprofits and arts organizations around the country have struggled to raise money during a difficult economy, with many organizations scaling back their expectations. Fine Arts Fund leadership noted that donations came from people all over the region, with most people making less than $150 contributions.

“We decided that we had to set an ambitious goal in order to ensure that people continue to share the benefits of the arts that make our community such a vibrant and appealing place,” Janson described in a press release. “And this year, setting a goal equal to last year’s donations was very ambitious.”

The Fine Arts Fund benefits nearly 100 arts organizations throughout the Cincinnati region including museums, theatre companies, dance companies and instructional organizations. Cincinnati’s arts community received another major boost during this difficult economy when Louise Nippert donated $85 million in December to create a musical arts fund supporting the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the Cincinnati Opera.

“This is an extraordinary sign of community support for the arts and the benefits they bring to the entire area” Lee Carter, Chair of the Fine Arts Fund Board of Trustees, said. “People recognize that our dance, theatre, museums, music, art centers, and so forth make communities more vital and bring people together throughout the region.”

On top of the $11 million raised in the Annual Community Campaign, several foundations contributed special initiative funding that totaled $12.3 million.

“We’ve heard from all corners of the region: the arts make our community a great place to live and visit,” Janson concluded.

CORRECTION: The Fine Arts Fund provides funding to nearly 100 organizations throughout the Cincinnati region, and provides additional services to dozens more. View a full list of grantees here.

Know Theatre to host 2nd Annual Derby Day Party – 5/1

The Know Theatre will host their second annual Derby Day Party at Sycamore Place in downtown Cincinnati this Saturday, May 1 from 4pm to 7pm. The party will also celebrate the Know Theatre’s 12th Season, and will help raise money for the non-profit theatre in historic Over-the-Rhine.

According to event organizers, the Derby Day Party has a $15 suggested donation and will include a live viewing of the race, bourbon tasting and mint juleps. There will also be prizes awarded for the three best hats and for those picking the horses that place in the 136th Annual Kentucky Derby. Raffle tickets purchased for the horse placing competition will have all proceeds go to benefit the Know Theatre.

The event will be held in the lobby of Sycamore Place at St. Xavier Park (map) in downtown Cincinnati. The location is served by on- and off-street automobile parking, nearby bicycle parking and Metro bus service (plan your trip).

Historic structures threatened by wrecking ball in OTR

Early yesterday morning several buildings in the 1400 block of Vine Street were badly damaged by fire. The collection of buildings included the long-standing Smitty’s clothing store and several apartments above where the residents lost just about everything.

The risk now is losing additional historic structures in one of the most at-risk and important historic districts in the nation. One building was already demolished yesterday following the fire clean up, and others are scheduled to be demolished today – including the building that houses Smitty’s.

The Over-the-Rhine Foundation is asking residents to call Amit Ghosh (513-352-3433) from the City of Cincinnati immediately and ask that these buildings not be torn down, and instead be examined to see if they could be saved.

Danny Klinger, known for helping save the historic Meiner Flats building down the street recently, states that the City is required by ordinance to first attempt to preserve these buildings rather than demolishing them.

In historic districts, the administration will encourage the use of demolition funds to repair buildings rather than demolish them. At the very least, repair of a building will be funded for the same amount that it would cost to demolish the building.

“The City is ignoring its own laws by going straight for the demolition option rather than at least considering using the demo money to preserve these structures,” Klinger implored. “Mr. Ghosh and his department must understand that those of us who care about preservation and about OTR are not ok with this. We expect that preservation be given full consideration.”

UPDATE: Danny Klingler has just confirmed that the City has backed off of demolishing the remaining two structures for now, but he encourages everyone to continue to call to inform the City on their stance on preserving Over-the-Rhine’s historic building stock, and to thank them for saving these structures for now.