Arts & Entertainment News

Metro Art Shelters Project to Transform Eyesores into Literary Canvasses

City Council’s vote to ban advertising in public right-of-way was suppose to rid the city of eyesores, but it also damaged the appearance of Metro bus shelters. In an effort to make good of a bad situation, Metro has partnered with ArtWorks to transform the shelters into public art.

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.

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.

By Randy A. Simes

Randy is an award-winning urban planner who founded UrbanCincy in May 2007. He grew up on Cincinnati’s west side in Covedale, and graduated from the University of Cincinnati’s nationally acclaimed School of Planning in June 2009. In addition to maintaining ownership and serving as the managing editor for UrbanCincy, Randy has worked professionally as a planning consultant throughout the United States, Korea and the Middle East. After brief stints in Atlanta and Chicago, he currently lives in the Daechi neighborhood of Seoul’s Gangnam district.