New Artist Live/Work Homes Coming to Covington’s Lee-Holman Historic District

The Center for Great Neighborhoods (CGN) will celebrate the completion of Covington’s first of five affordable artist live/work spaces later this month. The artist residence project Shot Gun Row is named for the project’s five shotgun-style houses being rehabbed and developed by the Covington-based nonprofit organization.

Shot Gun Row is made up of five row houses on Orchard Street in Covington’s Lee-Holman Historic District. The houses were originally part of seven homes built in the late 1800s. After World War II, shotgun homes were seen as functionally obsolete and abandoned in favor of the modern ranch home, but Kentucky historic guidelines prohibit Orchard Street’s five remaining houses from being torn down.

The Center for Great Neighborhoods, which has completed over 25 historic renovations in the city nestled along the Ohio and Licking Rivers, said they looked at the houses as a unique opportunity to re-purpose the existing houses and help revitalize Covington’s west side.

In 2012 CGN was awarded a $168,000 grant for the project from the Kresge Foundation. Construction on the first house began last summer; the other four homes will be completed by summer 2014. The total project cost is around $600,000 for all five houses. According to Sarah Allan with CGN, most of the live/work spaces available to artists are only available for rent.

“We wanted to provide something [artists] could build equity in that was either the same as or cheaper than their rent,” Allan said. “Part of it is we want to lower people’s overall overhead. If they can live and work in the same space for cheaper, then it might help them to further their art.”

Shot Gun Row’s artist selection policy broadly defines an artist as “an individual who has seriously committed themselves to professional production of their respective art form (i.e. exhibitions, performances, screenings, grants, publications, reviews, commissions, peer recognition),” and earn at least 20% of their income from art.

This flexible definition allows applicants to include tattoo artists, graphic and interior designers, chefs, musicians and set designers in addition to traditional fine artists like sculptors, painters and photographers. It also helps that Shot Gun Row’s developers are able to customize the home’s layout depending on the artist’s needs.

“We recognize that artists want to have some creative say in their living space so we want to provide that flexibility,” Allan explained.

Shot Gun Row’s model home at 323 Orchard Street is laid out so that the studio is located in the front of the house so that it is accessible to the street for art openings and meetings, and also receives northern light which is attractive to many artists. In other homes, an artist could work with the contractor to develop the floor plan as an open studio or place the kitchen in the front of the house, depending on the homeowner’s needs.

While the development will offer affordable, flexible housing for artists, CGN also wants the project to encourage artists to get involved with their community. As part of Shot Gun Row’s artist selection policy, artists are required to contribute something back to the community within a year of purchasing the home, and will work with CGN staff to determine a specific project, whether it be a public sculpture, theater camp, or something else. A sculptor, for instance, might create a piece for Shot Gun Row’s public sculpture garden.

In addition, artists are expected to participate in SpringBoard, ArtWorks’ business development program for creative entrepreneurs, unless they have run a profitable arts-related business for more than three years.

“We’re looking at this not just as a housing projection but an economic development project,” Allan told UrbanCincy.

The market price for a home on Shot Gun Row is $90,000, though Allan said that some homeowners may receive a subsidy depending on income. The City of Covington also offers down payment assistance for anyone purchasing a home in Covington.

In addition to the Kresge Foundation grant, the project received funding through a combination of  U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development HOME Investment Partnerships Program and Community Development Block Grants, and private contributions.

All photographs by Chris Kromer for UrbanCincy.

Elaborate ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ Production Entertains at ETC

Quite possibly the most elaborate and entertaining show to hit Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati (ETC) this year, Around the World in 80 Days takes the audience on an exotic journey with a story told through song.

Set in London in 1899, the precisely punctual and clever Phileas Fogg wagered his life savings on a bet that the world was able to be circumnavigated in 80 days. Between boarding trains and steamships, Fogg and his witty French butler, Passepartout, dodge bandits, stampedes, and the thick of the jungle all while being pursued by the British police.

Will the race against the clock defeat them from a timely journey to win their bet?

The production marks the largest cast to take the stage at ETC in recent years. Seventeen actors filled the intimate stage with the grace and grandeur of a national Broadway show. Familiar faces return from past shows, including powerhouse vocalist Torie Wiggins and her co-star Annie Fitzpatrick from Black Pearl Sings. In a vast contrast to the solemn production of The Whipping Man, lead actor Ken Early delighted the audience with his portrayal of Phileas Fogg, who was filled with optimistic perseverance.

The incredibly interchangeable set design transformed, in a matter of moments, and created vehicles from hot air balloons to trains, ships and elephants. In addition to the actors, puppeteers were incorporated as animals in a variety of scenes.

Of course, it would not be a musical without claiming a favorite song. Torie Wiggins, who played supporting character Aouda, a rescued Indian princess, performed a soulful and inspiring “Strong Wind, Strong Woman” as she intuitively guided a sailboat for a nearly defeated Phileas Fogg.

Around the World in 80 Days was one of Ensemble Theatre’s first commissioned musicals, with its last performance taking place 13 years ago.

There are 13 more scheduled performances, including a show at 7pm today. The final performance is scheduled to take place at 2pm on Sunday, January 5, 2014. Only a very limited number of tickets remain for performances scheduled this week, but there are a number of good tickets remaining for performances the first week of January.

All images provided.

Record Fair to Gather Area Music Lovers in Northside This Weekend

Northside Presbyterian ChurchHundreds of vinyl collectors and music lovers will gather in Northside this weekend for the second annual Northside Record Fair.

The event, according to its website, seeks to “bring together record collector dorks from all over the Midwest to buy, sell, trade and generally nerd out” over thousands of records, CDs, cassettes, 8-tracks, reel-to-reels, posters, concert DVDs, zines and other music memorabilia.

More than 40 vendors from across the Midwest – a mix of independent record stores, small limited-edition labels, dealers and private collectors – will sell at the event, including event sponsor Shake-It Records, Black Plastic in Northside and Louisville record store Astro Black.

The Northside Record Fair extends beyond the boundaries of a typical record swap however.

“I’m more of the mindset of wanting the record fair more out there than just Elvis records and Beatles records,” explained event organizer Jon Lorenz. “My interests are in more obscure punk records or indie records or experimental stuff.”

Lorenz had always wanted to organize a large-scale record fair, taking inspiration from New York’s WFMU Record Fair. When a friend first suggested organizing a record swap in 2012, Lorenz said, “Why not go all out and make it as big as we can?”

Last year’s inaugural Northside Record Fair at Hoffner Lodge attracted over 400 people from Cincinnati and as far as Lexington, Louisville, Indianapolis and Columbus. This year Lorenz anticipates an even bigger crowd.

The event is produced by Lorenz under the moniker Dome Presents, a music promoter specializing in underground, DIY and experimental music. Lorenz says that he started Dome Presents to try to engage bigger bands that have a more underground or cult following that would normally skip Cincinnati.

The Northside Record Fair will take place on Saturday, November 23 at the Northside Presbyterian Church on Hamilton Avenue from 11am to 4pm. Early bird admission will cost $10 and start an hour earlier at 10am. Regular admission will cost just $5.

The event is easily accessible by several Metro bus routes, and Northside offers an abundance of free bicycle parking.

Cincinnati Maker Faire to Showcase Work of 90+ Inventors at Washington Park

Cincinnati Maker FaireA family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity and resourcefulness will take place this weekend at Washington Park in historic Over-the-Rhine.

Cincinnati Maker Faire, inspired by the national Maker Faire by MAKE Magazine, will exhibit over 90 inventors and their trades. Scientists, engineers, artists, performers and crafters are among those showcased in the event.

Event organizers tout that the event will include a drum set that shoots fireballs, one-man concert played entirely on Nintendo Gameboys, power tool drag race, working robots and R2D2s, and a hands-on workshop with an international team of plush artists.

Organizers also say that there will be an exhibit on the Cincinnati Streetcar, which recently had its first steel tracks laid on the adjacent block of Elm Street.

Part science fair, part county fair, Cincinnati Maker Faire is anticipated to be the greatest show (and tell) on Earth. The free event will take place this Saturday, October 19 and will run from 12pm to 10pm.

Metro Art Shelters Project to Transform Eyesores into Literary Canvasses

In January 2013, Cincinnati City Council voted to ban advertising on public right-of-way. The idea was to rid the city of all those bus bench billboards and other seemingly unsightly ads, but what the ordinance also did was force the removal of advertisements at all bus shelters throughout the city.

In a classic case of unintended consequences, City Council actually may have made the public right-of-way less attractive by making bus shelters to appear as abandoned and leaving scared sidewalk spaces where bus benches once sat.

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The situation surrounding the bus shelters was so bad, in fact, that Downtown Cincinnati Inc. (DCI) found, through their annual safety perception survey, that individuals had a negative perception of safety around bus shelters.

While some viewed it as a misstep, ArtWorks and the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) saw it as an opportunity to do something different.

Later this month, Cincinnatians will see the former ad space at 24 of these bus shelters, throughout Downtown and Over-the-Rhine, re-purposed as a canvass for local artists. The specific end product will include varied artistic styles all portraying some work of literature.

“Through this collaborative partnership between ArtWorks, SORTA, the Main Library, and DCI, these twelve bus shelters will receive a playful face-lift and add to the public art vibrancy in our central business district,” explained Cait Barnett, Marketing Manager at ArtWorks.

Barnett went on to say that SORTA will clean and paint the shelters and that the lead artist for ArtWorks, Ryan Little, and youth Apprentices between the ages of 14 and 21 will design graphic prints for the empty spaces.

The literary designs, ArtWorks officials say, were determined by the community through a public survey conducted by the Public Library of Cincinnati through June 30. Those literary inspirations came from the following pieces of work:
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

  1. Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley
  2. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
  3. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  4. Six Dinner Sid by Inga Moore
  5. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
  6. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  7. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  8. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  9. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  10. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  11. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  12. Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown
  13. The Odyssey by Homer
  14. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  15. The Man in the Iron Mask by Paul Mantell
  16. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  17. The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne
  18. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  19. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  20. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  21. Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
  22. The Tortoise and the Hare by Aesop
  23. Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
  24. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Metro Art Shelters project has also been championed by the Downtown Residents Council (DRC), who is hoping to raise $5,000 for public art throughout Downtown. Those interested in giving to the project can do so through the DRC’s power2give webpage.

According to ArtWorks, all donations will be matched dollar-for-dollar by The Johnson Foundation.

Learn more about power2give in our recent podcast with Greg Lutz from ArtWorks and Laura Belcher from power2give, who was kind enough to call in to the show from Washington D.C.