PHOTOS: Custom-Designed Banners Installed Throughout Central Business District

The holiday season was another record-setting year for Downtown with tourists, shoppers, and general holiday revelers packing the center city. At the same time Downtown Cincinnati Inc. partnered with Resource/Ammirati to design and install custom street pole banners.

DCI leaders say that the concept is modeled off of the iconic I “heart” New York marketing campaign that has since been copied countless times around the world. In this rendition, Resource/Ammirati developed 10 original designs that play off local traditions and things that people enjoy doing downtown.

In addition to the 10 total designs, the spelling of Cincinnati is done with typography that is drawn from logos from some of the city’s most famous brands including the Reds, Christian Moerlein, Skyline Chili, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Bengals, Findlay Market, Know Theatre, and the Taft Museum of Art.

In total, DCI installed 42 of these street banners throughout the Central Business District. They will remain in place throughout 2015. There is no word as to what will happen with the campaign at that point, or if the campaign will be expanded to other mediums.

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EDITORIAL NOTE: All nine photographs in this gallery were taken by Eric Anspach for UrbanCincy in January 2015.

An Indie Guide to Cincinnati During the Holidays

With Thanksgiving behind us, the holidays are officially in full swing in Cincinnati. If you’re looking to get in the holiday spirit, there are dozens of options in the city center. While Downtown Cincinnati keeps the traditional holiday festivities on lock down with the Fountain Square ice rink and Holiday Junction at the Cincinnati Museum Center, Over-the-Rhine has embraced a more eclectic mix of urban craft markets, revisited German traditions, historic tours, and local shopping. If you’re looking for more than wassailing and Breakfast with Santa this season, check out UrbanCincy’s round up of things to see and do in Cincinnati’s city center.

Beginning this weekend, the Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce kicks off the holiday shopping season on Black Friday with its sixth annual “Holidays in the Bag” special. Purchase a bag and receive discounts from over 25 participating businesses in OTR. Bags cost $5 and this year’s proceeds from bag sales benefit Future Leaders OTR. Score deals from new OTR businesses like Homage, Brezel, Macaron Bar, and Cincy Shirts, and more. Check out the full list of discounts here.

In addition to Black Friday specials, OTR will also continue its regular Final Friday gallery hop with a variety of events and shop specials. November’s Final Friday art walk will include Walk This Way, a pop-up art gallery inside OTR’s alleys. Located between Clay Street and 13th Street, the event transforms Drum Alley and Coral Alley into an artist market featuring over 13 local artists, a majority of whom are students from Art Academy of Cincinnati. Walk This Way is a collaboration between Spring in Our Steps, the Art Academy and Urban Sites. Afterward head back to 13th street for another pop-up shop at Exposure/13, the Art Academy of Cincinnati’s student-run gallery.

Other Thanksgiving weekend highlights in OTR include the kickoff of the OTR-a-Glow window display competition, Small Business Saturday, and Main Street Stroll and Shop and Caroling.

Several indie pop-up markets in the city center will highlight fine art and handmade goods by regional artists. Visit the fifth annual Crafty Supermarket at Music Hall November 29 to browse 90 crafters, artists, and makers from the eastern U.S. On Sunday, November 30, City Flea Small Mall brings together local brick and mortar businesses like Parlour, Leftcoast Modern, indigenous, Fern Studio, Casablanca Vintage, Rock Paper Scissors, and more. This year the second annual event will expand into Contemporary Arts Center in addition to its original location at 21c Museum Hotel.

Looking for more opportunities to shop local? Findlay Market will host “Christmas at the Market” December 6, 7, 13 and 14 where visitors can find gifts, holiday entertainment, warm drinks and the Caracole Christmas tree sale. Other craft markets include Art Academy of Cincinnati’s Snowflake Sale on December 6, featuring fine art, crafts, “poetry while you wait,” on-site screen printing and a clothing swap, Art on Vine’s holiday market at Rhingeist on December 14 and City Flea’s special nighttime Unwrapped Market at Washington Park on December 15.

Washington Park will host several holiday events this season. In addition to regular weekend programming like caroling at the bandstand and visits to Santa’s Workshop on Saturday afternoons, Washington Park hosts its fourth annual Light Up OTR party. On December 12 the community is invited to assemble and distribute over 1,000 luminaries. Afterward Washington Park will light its Christmas Tree.

The holidays are also an excellent opportunity to catch special holiday arts events and concerts. For those looking to tap into their German roots, American Legacy Tour hosts Christmas Saengerfest December 5 and 6. More than a dozen regional choirs will perform at venues including Memorial Hall, Christian Moerlein Brewery, and St. Francis Seraph.

Meanwhile, The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the Cincinnati Pops have a full concert schedule through December 21 and theater nerds can delight in Know Theatre’s Bureau of Missing Persons and Ensemble Theater’s Sleeping Beauty.

If urban exploration is more your thing, consider the Main Street OTR Walking Tours. These new guided walking tours will explore the architecture and history of Over-the-Rhine’s Main Street. Tours will be available December 6 and December 11. For a more traditional trip downtown, free horse drawn carriage rides are available on weekends through December 14. More downtown holiday activities can be found at downtowncincinnati.com.

What are your new favorite holiday traditions in Cincinnati? Share your favorite off-the-beaten path traditions with us in the comment section.

As Over-the-Rhine Evolves, So Does MidPoint Music Festival

MidPoint Music Festival, known to music fans as MPMF, returns to Cincinnati’s city center this week. Starting on Thursday, September 25, the three-day festival will take over local venues and bars with 150 acts from seven countries and 57 cities, including a great lineup of Cincinnati bands.

Unlike music festivals that take place in empty fields, like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, MPMF lives and breathes within Cincinnati’s urban core. This year, the festival will host 14 stages among 12 venues in bars, restaurants, concert halls, and nightclubs throughout Over-the-Rhine and Downtown.

The 2014 festival footprint will look slightly different than in years’ past, featuring the addition of numerous new venues and the elimination of several familiar stages. Since the festival relies on small businesses to host its live performances, the increasing popularity of Over-the-Rhine has, ironically, proven bittersweet for MidPoint’s festival organizers.

Dan Bockrath, CityBeat publisher and de facto executive producer of MidPoint Music Festival, explained that as Over-the-Rhine evolves, the festival has to change with it.

“When [CityBeat] first took over MidPoint [in 2008], there were a lot of empty storefronts that we could put to work, and there were a lot of rooms that served other functions typically that we could repurpose for MidPoint weekend. Now it’s getting a little more challenging to do that because Over-the-Rhine’s filled out,” Bockrath told UrbanCincy.

Bockrath reflects back to a few years ago. “We took a venue like Grammer’s and people thought we were crazy having our main stage, pre-dating Washington Park, at the corner of Liberty and Walnut.”

Now with Grammer’s under construction, MPMF had to find a new outdoor venue to host their bigger acts. This year the festival inched north of Liberty Street to Moerlein Brewing Company where they’ll have two stages: a larger outdoor stage that can hold roughly 1,500 people, and a secondary indoor stage for more intimate shows.

Other long-time MPMF venues have opted out of the festival as to not alienate the loyal customer bases they’ve built over the years. This will be the first year, for example, that Below Zero Lounge is not participating as a venue since 2007. “Businesses don’t want to abandon their successful business models now that they’ve built a loyal following,” Bockrath explained.

But as some opportunities go away, others seem to be coming online almost equally. One example organizers give is the Cincinnati Streetcar, which will allow for all kinds of new possibilities once it opens in advance of Midpoint’s 2016 festival.

“There are a lot of possibilities for the future. As the streetcar comes online I can see ourselves going further up into Over-the-Rhine.”

While the streetcar has not significantly impacted the layout of this year’s festival, the same can’t be said for 2015. For instance, the MidPoint Midway on 12th Street between Vine and Walnut sits right on the streetcar line. The free programming area which, since 2011, has hosted the ArtWorks Box Truck Carnival, the Powerhouse Poster Expo, and this year’s ArtWorks programming around the theme “Ink Your Love,” may need to find a new home next year or, perhaps, this may be its last year. Either way, Bockrath remains optimistic.

The festival is open to reinventing itself, he said. “It’s not a Bonnaroo plopped in some big field somewhere. Those kinds of festivals can happen in any city. We really think what we have is uniquely Cincinnati.”

Tickets for MPMF are available online at mpmf.com/tickets, and a comprehensive review of each artist can be found on CityBeat’s website.

DID YOU KNOW THAT MPMF…

  • Was almost called Mid by Midwest? Founders Sean Rhiney and Bill Donabedian eventually landed on MidPoint Music Festival.
  • Launched with only 12 venues, but across three cities? In 2002, the inaugural festival hosted 12 venues in Newport, Covington and Cincinnati, including Newport’s Southgate House (not to be confused with Southgate House Revival) and York Street Cafe, Madison Theater in Covington, and now defunct OTR spots Kaldi’s, BarrelHouse, Crush, The Cavern (now Below Zero Lounge) and Jefferson Hall (on Main Street, before it moved across the river and back across again).
  • Used to coincide with a music industry conference? Much like South by Southwest, the industry conference featured panel discussions, artist and industry keynotes and a trade show. Past keynote speakers included Big Star drummer Jody Stephens (2003), Everclear frontman Art Alexakis (2004), Afghan Whigs and Twilight Singers frontman Greg Dulli (2005), CD Baby founder Derek Sivers (2006), Superdrag vocalist and songwriter, John Davis (2007) and Minor Threat guitarist, Lyle Preslar (2007).
  • Used to be four days long? The festival spanned across four days of live music and panels, but was condensed into three days when CityBeat acquired the festival in 2008.
  • Once hosted 25 stages, the most venues MPMF has ever had in one year? In 2010 MPMF expanded to empty storefronts and spaces like the Hanke Building and non-music venues like the Tax Place, ArtWorks, the Segway Room, and the Inner Peace Center.

HOW TO GET AROUND AT MPMF

Bike: BYOB (Bring Your Own Bike) – the festival has partnered with the City of Cincinnati to provide temporary bike racks adjacent to nearly every venue. You could also get around by using Cincy Red Bike for just $8/day for unlimited trips of 60 minutes or less. There are 19 Cincy Red Bike stations between OTR and Downtown, including at Washington Park, near the Midway at 12th & Vine, and by the Taft Theater at Broadway.
Car: Uber is offering first-time Uber users a discount during MPMF. Just use the promo code MPMF14 to receive a discount of up to $20 off.
Foot: The distance from MPMF’s northernmost venue (Moerlein Brewing Co.) to its southermost venue (Mainstay Rock Bar) is a little over a mile, so it’s totally doable to hoof it, though it’s bit of a trek if you’ve got a tight schedule.
Transit: Most of the venues for this year’s festival are located on Metro bus routes, but many are within a short walk of a number of bus lines. You can check out which routes and stops are most convenient for you by using Google Map’s transit feature or Metro’s Trip Planner.

On top of all the official MPMF activities, there are a number of complimentary events that will be taking place. On September 24, Christian Moerlein Brewing Co. will be hosting a preview party with a free show by THE PASS and Machines Are People Too. The event will run from 8pm to 11pm and also include a ceremonial keg tapping of Moerlein’s seasonal Helltown Rye.

On Friday and Saturday, FRCH Design Worldwide will host Framed at MidPoint at the Frameshop (1317 Main Street). The pop-up event will include a photo booth, postcard gallery, sculptures made of instruments and a missed-connections space titled You’ve Been Framed. Donations benefit Music Resource Center, a nonprofit that helps provide youth with musical resources. Open Thursday through Saturday from 7pm to 12am.

In addition to all of that, MPMF.FM will feature free daytime performances by MPMF bands at Findlay Market all weekend.

Performances Kick-Off This Evening for 11th Annual Cincinnati Fringe Festival

After an eclectic parade on Monday and a kick-off party last night, the 11th annual Cincinnati Fringe Festival officially gets started today with its first round of performances.

The 12-day event has become a national draw over the years, and organizers expect more than 8,000 people to attend this year’s festival. As expected, the 2014 rendition will boast an impressive collection of 38 unique productions and more than 160 performances at a dozen venues tightly clustered in Over-the-Rhine.

“This year’s festival is one of the biggest ever,” said Eric Vosmeier, Producing Artistic Director at the Know Theatre. “We had a record number of FringeNext applications, our high school artist version of the Fringe, and subsequently added an additional slot to FringeNext because the applications were so strong.”

 

Vosmeier also said that he is excited about the three international acts, two from the United Kingdom and one from Israel, at this year’s festival.

The growth and increasing popularity of the Fringe Festival has seemingly mirrored that of the neighborhood is has called home. That trend, however, is now also posing some problems as available, low-cost venue locations are harder to come by.

“We’re thrilled that the neighborhood has reached a critical mass of stable and thriving businesses, but the challenge this poses to our festival is real,” Vosmeier explained. “There was a time when empty storefronts were always available. There was a time when neighborhood landlords shared space at low or no cost – I remember a couple of years when my venue rental costs were $0.”

Vosmeier says that venue costs for this year’s festival were closer to $8,000, and says that organizers are looking to do everything in their power to keep the nearly two-week event in this area of Over-the-Rhine for the foreseeable future, but also realize the challenges they faced this year will probably not be going away.

Fortunately, he says, long-time supporters like Coffee Emporium, Art Academy of Cincinnati and Urban Sites continue to come through with a number of guaranteed venues each year.

The hard work put in by volunteers and Know Theatre employees is something that has helped make the festival a favorite for participating artists who are treated to the country’s smallest application fee, free housing, no participation fees and the opportunity to learn from other artists during the festival’s workshop and development series.

“We have tried to create the most artist-friendly festival possible,” said Vosmeier. “We have ample, but not the biggest box office payouts, but because we make it nearly free of costs for artists to play with us, they see the value in coming to Cincinnati’s Fringe.”

Such treatment has not only benefitted the artists, but also the festival itself. According to organizers, rolling out the welcome mat in such a way has helped foster an “extremely loyal” set of artists that are always looking to participate in Cincinnati’s annual Fringe event. Those loyal artists then, in turn, become ambassadors to other artists, of which 90% are referred by past artists.

Vosmeier also says that the return of these artists year after year better positions the city when those individuals consider relocation.

“I am currently talking with three individual artists who are seriously contemplating a move to Cincinnati, and it’s all due to their experiences stemming from the Cincinnati Fringe Festival,” Vosmeier emphasized. “Artists can be fickle and to have helped create a festival that makes an artist think ‘I might like to move to Cincinnati’ makes us feel like we’ve accomplished something pretty extraordinary.”

After organizing the festival for many years, however, Vosmeier has said that he will step down from his leadership role at the Know Theatre after the last performance concludes next Saturday.

“Working on this festival has truly been one of the privileges of my career. I love virtually everything about it,” Vosmeier told UrbanCincy. “We certainly have challenges each year. But in the end, this event fills us with so much joy and appreciation for our city, these amazing artists, and our audiences that it’s hard to focus on anything but the unique pop-up community that we create for twelve ridiculously invigorating days.”

Those who want to participate in one or more of the 12 invigorating days can do so by purchasing tickets online for just $12. The first performances get started this evening at 7pm. A full schedule for the 2014 Cincinnati Fringe Festival can be downloaded and viewed online.

2011 Cincinnati Fringe Festival serves as a vehicle for collaboration

For funky and cutting edge arts events and experiences in Cincinnati, the place to be is the Cincinnati Fringe Festival, May 31 through June 11. The first Fringe Festival originated in Edinburgh, Scotland 51 years ago. The Cincinnati Fringe Festival in its eighth season, and like its forefather, showcases theater, comedy, performance art, fine art, and film that explores the weird, outrageous, and the provocative.

With 12 days and 160 performances of 35 productions showcasing both local and out-of-town performers and artists, plenty of opportunities exist to whet the appetites of audiences. Starting this year the Cincinnati Fringe Festival offers Fringe Next, a program that features performances created, produced, and performed by local high school students.

Some of the highlights from this year’s line-up include: Fire & Light – fire-based performances by Incendium Arts; The Masculinity Index – the exploration of what it means to be a man through theater, spoken word, music, movement and much more; Darker – a love story involving light bulbs; Fringe Documented – a film documentary focusing on bringing the Fringe to Cincinnati; and The Body Speaks: Calligraphic Photography – a photography exhibit created by Sean Dunn, a local Cincinnati photographer, focusing on “unifying the mediums of calligraphy and photography.”

Work created by Dunn served as inspiration for three other fringe projects that include: The Body Speaks: Movement, The Body Speaks: Scripted, and The Body Speaks: Captured. Dunn will be viewing the finished projects for the first time during the Fringe.

“I want my work to speak for itself; I did not want to interfere or impose my thoughts or criticisms and diminish any of the collectives’ innate creativity,” Dunn said. “I eagerly look forward to seeing and hearing The Body Speaks Projects in their polished state over the course of the Cincinnati Fringe Festival.”

For Dunn, the Fringe is vital because of the collaborative opportunities it affords artists from multiple platforms. “The Cincinnati Fringe Festival is important because it presents artists of all walks of life the opportunity to work together and gives well deserved attention to the Cincinnati art scene,” Dunn said. “What’s more, Fringe Fest provides artists an exceptionally welcoming and comfortable environment in which unorthodox styles of creativity and presentation are encouraged.”

Ticket prices range from $12 per performance, $60 six-show pass, and an all-access pass for $200. For more information about performances and show times you can visit the Cincinnati Fringe Festival website.

Fringe Festival picture provided by Know Theatre.