Art Academy of Cincinnati celebrates OTR relocation

Anyone who reads the comments on our local paper’s stories on urban redevelopment stories or downtown and Over-the-Rhine crime stories knows that plenty of city and suburban residents are perfectly comfortable with our city core maintaining its status quo. In contrast, those dreaming bigger dreams for Cincinnati know that changes are necessary to build and maintain a positive presence of young, motivated visionaries.

The Art Academy of Cincinnati demonstrated its dedication to change on June 1, 2004, when it began a 13-month construction project culiminating in the Academy’s relocation from Eden Park to Over the Rhine in July of 2005.

Originally called the McMicken School of Design, the Art Academy of Cincinnati’s home was in Eden Park, in conjunction with the Cincinnati Art Museum, from 1884 until 2005. The relocation adventure has, unsurprisingly, united the city’s artistic vision and inured to the benefit of the city the Academy and its students.

“I think it was a pretty bold move for [the Academy] to come down to Over the Rhine,” says 2011 graduate Avril Thurman, a print-making major. “They had been in Eden Park for so many years. I think a lot of people were really hesitant about [the move.] But there is a lot more electricity and life. Kids come to the Art Academy, and it’s the first big city they’ve lived in. I think that’s a good experience for them. I think there’s a lot of opportunity to make good connections.”

Large cities define themselves by their access to culture and arts; they judge us by our access to the same. Moving the Academy into Over the Rhine plopped aspiring artists into the most inspiring artistic community our city has to offer.

Zach Stubenwoll, who graduated in the Spring of 2011 from the Academy’s Visual Communication Design program, lives in Main Street in Over the Rhine and does freelance web design and art projects out of his apartment. As a member of the Cincinnati chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), he attends meetings in Over-the-Rhine; he loves Second Sunday on Main; he is religious about attending Final Friday. One of his professors co-owns Higher Level Art, an organization that collaborated with ArtsWave to bring us Paint the Street, spanning 6 blocks of 12th Street in September of 2010.

“There really is a strong connection to the community, not only with the students but also with the faculty, who are working professionals and creating their own art in the community while teaching,” Stubenwoll summarizes. “I see students, alumni, and teachers out at galleries and local bars.”

Now that these students have graduated, they are investing themselves back into the artistic revitalization of OTR and the surrounding neighborhoods. Thurman and Stubenvoll both glow when they discuss the Art Academy, their May graduations, and their most recent projects.

Thurman grew up in a log cabin in Brown County, Indiana and moved to the city as a young child with her mother, now a Forest Park resident. After a brief stint as a University of Cincinnati student, she moved downtown to join the intimate and inspiring program at the Academy. At the Academy, Thurman had opportunities to study in Brooklyn for six months; since graduation, she spent a month working on a project in Louisville before returning home.

Back in the city, Thurman has dedicated her efforts to a local project she discovered through a fellow Academy graduate. She describes her current exhibition project as being, “about the blurring or bleeding of visual arts and poetry. There will be poetry readings. The Cincinnati Gallery in Over the Rhine is working on the publication. We have mostly Cincinnati artists.”

Stubenvoll has likewise invested his talents and skills in the local art scene since graduation. A Hamilton native, he also transitioned from UC to the Academy, inspired by the school’s intimacy and opportunities. Since graduation, he has remained invested in the community, doing largely freelance graphic design and web design.

As the community has inspired and continues to inspire Academy students who invest their talents back into the city upon graduation, the Academy’s presence in Over-the-Rhine has contributed to a significant increased enrollment in the school. New enrollment this Fall is up more than 20% over last year, when the Academy boasted 4 graduates with Masters of Arts in Arts Education and 36 degrees to undergraduate students. “ACC’s class of 2011 is a dynamic, engaged group of young artists, designers, and art educators, reports Diane K. Smith, Art Academy of Cincinnati’s Academic Dean. “[It is] our largest graduating class since ACC’s move to its new campus in Over-the-Rhine.”

A greater downtown student body means more downtown residents building lasting ties to our city. “Not only do we have a growth in fall enrollment numbers but likewise a growth in student diversity,” reports Joe Fisher, Associate Director of Enrollment Management, “additionally, the Art Academy Residence Hall at Vine and 12th has been filled to capacity and we have overflow student living arrangements at Jackson Lofts and adjacent buildings-bringing new residents to the vitality of OTR.”

The Art Academy of Cincinnati is located at 1212 Jackson Street in Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati.

Art Academy Paint the Street picture by 5chw4r7z.

Taste of Belgium expands with Gateway Quarter bistro

In 2007, Jean-Francois Flechet was making his dense, sugary waffles in Jean Robert de Cavel’s kitchen. Four years later he is preparing to take over one of the largest retail spaces in the Gateway Quarter of Over-the-Rhine, with a flagship store that marks the first Belgian bistro in the Cincinnati area for quite some time.

The Taste of Belgium Bistro will, fingers crossed, be open for business by then end of this month. Located at the corner of 12th and Vine Streets in the former Gateway Quarter leasing office, Flechet has been very busy preparing the space, leased for 5 years, for his customers.

Initially, the bistro will be open Monday through Friday, 7am to 4pm, serving up breakfast and lunch. The brand is already well known for their pastries, macarons, buckwheat crepes, and of course their waffles. All of these and more will be available for purchase.

The goal is to be open seven days a week into the evenings, and serve up authentic Belgian fare and beer for a laid back, comfortable, dinner and drinking experience. “Belgian food is similar to French food,” explains Jean-Francois. “except we cook with beer instead of wine – appropriate for Cincinnati!” General manager and chef Mark Gould has been running operations at Findlay Market for over two years, and was the natural choice for head chef at the new bistro.

Expect traditional Belgian treats like mussels and a variety of frites – both vegan and regular- for the new dinner menu, as well as special dishes like carbonnades flamandes – a version of beef burgundy, made with Belgian ale instead of French wine. There will also be appetizer, entree and dessert variations on the famous waffle – Chicken and waffles? A la mode? We’ll have to wait and find out. There will be several varieties of Belgian brews to try, with an array of glasses complementing each one.

Flechet and his staff have taken the shell of the 2600 square foot space and utilized it to its full potential. There will be seating for around 60, inside and out, and the kitchen and prep space is spacious for their needs. A ten foot by fifteen foot baker’s table with an exquisite antique chandelier commands the majority of the kitchen area, and will be the chef’s table for special dining events later on. Walnut and brushed aluminum make up the counter tops, and the original flooring and tin ceiling in the space have been preserved.

Most of all, Jean-Francois hopes to establish his commissary at the new location. Space adjacent to the new bistro has been rented as the official Taste of Belgium headquarters and office, and a majority of baking and prep for catering and the Findlay Market location will occur in the new space.

“We’re excited to be opening in such a noticeable location,” says Flechet. “With our Findlay Market roots, we wanted to stay in Over-the-Rhine. The neighborhood is growing, and it has more personality than other places.”

Check out the exclusive pictures of the new Taste of Belgium Bistro!

Pictures by Jenny Kessler for UrbanCincy

PIPPIN Kicks off Carnegie’s Diverse Theater Season

The Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center kicks off its 2011-2012 season with the provocative tale of young Pippin’s relentless journey through politics, war, sex, and marriage seeking his “corner of the sky.” PIPPIN’s tale of self-discovery is itself edgy and glossy; the score is bright and clever; and the Carnegie production promises all the glam its audience can handle: “young, spry, sexy dancers and performers is what this show needs,” reports Joshua Steele, The Carnegie’s Managing Director, “and we’ve got them.”

More than half of the production’s cast is comprised of the region’s top young talent from the award-winning musical theatre programs at Northern Kentucky University, The University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music, and Wright State University.

Adventurous, insatiable young Pippin is played by Chris Stewart, a gifted Nebraska native who is active with the the Children’s Theater of Cincinnati, the Showboat Majestic, the Cincinnati Opera, and the Commonwealth Theatre Company.

The fresh pizzaz of the young talent is matched by the professionalism and experience of Greater Cincinnati theatre favorites including Deb Girdler, Brooke Rucidlo, and Jim Stump. Girdler, whose resume boasts 40 years of stellar performances including a record-breaking 46 parts on the Showboat Majestic and 25 critically-acclaimed turns at the Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, takes on the comedic role of Pippin’s grandmother, Berthe. A show-stopping number in the first act filled with verve and energy lets Girdler truly shine. Rucidlo, regarded as one of the area’s top rising young talents, plays PIPPIN’s non-traditional ingénue, Catherine. Stump, the Artistic Director of Cincinnati’s New Edgecliff Theatre was last seen as Mr. Bumble in Carnegie’s production of Oliver! Here, he appears in the role of Pippin’s father, Charles.

PIPPIN challenges as it inspires. “It is a very self-aware show,” Steele says, “When you walk in, you are completely aware that you are watching a show. It satirizes the traditional theatrical process and all the things we expect from it.”

The show is delivered by a complex, talented production team. PIPPIN marks the second time the Carnegie has partnered with Commonwealth Theater Company, the professional production arm of Northern Kentucky University’s Department of Theater and Dance. Commonwealth contributes the peerless vision of multiple Acclaim Award Winners, Ken Jones (director) and Jamey Strawn (music director). In 2008, the pair brought the critically acclaimed Carnegie / Commonwealth collaboration of Jesus Christ Superstar, which set and still holds Carnegie theatre attendance records.

The Carnegie starts its season with the wile and sheen of PIPPIN and ups the ante with its second production. From November 4-20, 2011, Carnegie joins with CCM Drama to bring the regional premiere of In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play, about a doctor at the dawn of electricity who invents the vibrator to treat hysteria in women. “The content of it probably pushes the envelope for us at The Carnegie,” reports Steele.

The second half of the Carnegie season is much more traditional. Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I will be presented in concert with musicians from the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra from January 20-29, 2012. The season closes with Pump Boys & Dinettes running April 13-29, 2012. “We have some nice variety this season,” concludes Steele, “and PIPPIN will kick us off!”

PIPPIN will feature eight performances, all during weekends between August 19, 2011 and September 3, 2011. Tickets may be purchased through The Carnegie Box Office at 859.957.1940 (open Tuesday through Friday, noon to 5:00 pm) or
online .

PIPPIN picture provided.

Park+Vine adds new vegan lunch offerings

Starting today, earth-friendly corner store Park+Vine will begin offering a variety of lunch time fare during the week as an expansion to their grocery selection and coffee bar. Melissa Cox-Howard, a former chef at Melt, helms the new menu and makes every dish from scratch.

Cox-Howard, or Missy, has a fascinating culinary history that has paved the way to her newest adventure. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Missy became a vegetarian in 1978. A year later, she started cooking.

Vegetarian-friendly fare was something of an anomaly in the restaurant world at the time, so Missy did most of her cooking at home. She made her way down the Mississippi and worked aboard the Mississippi Queen, cooking and serving in restaurants in the South for 5 years.

By 2001 she was cooking and feeding rock bands that came into town to play Southgate House “yummy, energizing food. The kind that gives you energy and hutzpah to get you through the day.” Her band mate Chris Schadler, now of MOTR Pub, loved what she created and encouraged her to share her skills with others.

After working at Melt and meeting Dan Korman, proprietor of Park+Vine, expanding into Over-the-Rhine seemed a natural choice. “I’ll be doing a number of things in one little lunch hour,” explains Missy. “It’s about flavor, supporting local, practicing what you preach, and a good time. The food should do all of those things for you when you eat. Of course it will be vegan (it IS Park+Vine), but it will be so delicious you’ll want to order it again.”

The initial lunch offerings will be available Monday through Friday, 11am to 2pm. The menu for today focuses on the season and weather – light, cold, raw. Barbeque tofu sliders, smoky potato salad, sesame noodles, and cold cucumber salad will be some of the offerings on the new lunch menu. Sampler platters will be available for eight dollars.

“I want to make food like my Grandma Mertie did,” says Missy. “She made it the old-fashioned way, and it tasted delicious. I do that too, but with a vegan, healthier, not so full of fat twist. Good for you does not have to mean tasting terrible!”

Photo by Jenny Kessler for UrbanCincy

Residents Take Stand Against Proposed Highway Through Cincinnati’s Eastern Neighborhoods

In December 2010, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) published its 2011-2015 Major New Construction Project List. The list included funding to resume study of the highway component of the controversial Eastern Corridor Project. Dormant since 2006, the sudden reappearance of the highway project alarmed area residents, more than 100 of whom gathered at the Madisonville Recreation Center on August 3 for a meeting of Cincinnati City Council’s Livable Communities Committee.

On display were ODOT’s two circa 2006 Tier 1 alternatives, one of which called for the complete replacement of Red Bank Road with a fully grade separated interstate-style highway. This drawing, seen for the first time by most in attendance, emboldened suspicions that the Eastern Corridor Project is in fact a veiled attempt to extend Interstate 74 across Hamilton County.


“We urge ODOT to unbundle the Eastern Corridor projects and concentrate on providing transportation alternatives in this community, not another highway,” exclaimed one resident at the recent City Council committee meeting. “Reallocating resources to utilize the Wasson Line will produce more cost-effective transportation alternatives for thousands including Madisonville citizens.”

Citizen feedback generally welcomed improvements to Red Bank Road, especially a boulevard or parkway that might compare favorably to the more attractive roads in the area. Many also suggested development of better public transportation, especially implementation of light rail transit on the abandoned Wasson Road railroad.

Read UrbanCincy‘s exclusive in-depth analysis of the Wasson Line and Oasis Line.

Opposition to construction of an expressway in place of Red Bank Road was unanimous at the meeting, and citizen comments were followed by stern questioning of ODOT officials by City Council members Roxanne Qualls, Laure Quinlivan and Chris Bortz.

ODOT assured the committee that the Tier 1 alternatives on display would be reworked and that it will work closely with Madisonville Community Council and other neighborhood groups to ensure a favorable outcome. ODOT officials also remarked that the City of Cincinnati and other jurisdictions through which the Eastern Corridor Project will pass will have to approve ordinances to allow its eventual construction.