Arts & Entertainment Business News

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

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

Arts & Entertainment Business News

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.

Arts & Entertainment Business News

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.