ArtWorks has become well-known for its mural program. Over the past eight years, the program has created 90 murals that have added to the vibrancy of 36 city neighborhoods.
This year, however, ArtWorks started to branch out a bit more. In addition to 10 mural projects, they also installed more than 50 public art pieces throughout the city. Some were poetic, while others charming. Regardless of the project, they have always worked to actively engage young people in the city with the artist community.
The program’s impact on the visual appearance of the city cannot be overlooked. Public spaces have been dressed up and walls have been decorated in truly Cincinnati fashion. When considering one of Cincinnati’s most defining features – its hillsides – another opportunity seems to be sitting in waiting for future ArtWorks programs.
Over the years The Hillside Trust has worked to promote and preserve the city’s hillsides and the view sheds that they offer. At the same time, many of the city’s public staircases, which long served as a critical component of the sidewalk network, have fallen into disrepair. In many cases, due to either lack of maintenance or neighborhood distrust, public staircases have been closed off altogether.
This should not be the case.
One potential way to address this would be to focus an ArtWorks program on the city’s public staircases. Artists could be engaged to come up with creative mural designs for the stairs themselves, or perhaps suggest other installations. These could then be complimented by lighting installations that would not on
ly add an artistic touch after dusk, but also make the corridors safer for their users and the neighborhoods around them.
Set on the side of a steep hill leading to Seoul’s historic fortification wall, the neighborhood has seen many of its staircases painted, along with surrounding building walls, to create a truly unique environment. A variety of art installations were also undertaken in order to create an even more dynamic experience.
Today visitors flock to the area to view the murals and experience the other installations some 60 artists created in 2006 as part of Naksan Project. Due to this influx of people, small cafes, galleries and restaurants are now prevalent throughout the neighborhood.
While Cincinnati’s hillsides and surrounding neighborhoods present a different challenge than what exists in Ihwa, there are equal, yet different, opportunities that also exist.
Right now Cincinnati’s hillsides and their public staircases are mostly viewed as barriers and have been constrained to afterthoughts in the city’s public psyche. ArtWorks has changed the way we viewed vacant walls and barren streetscapes. Here’s hoping they can work similar magic on the city’s long-forgotten staircases.
As part of the latest partnership of the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) and ArtWorks, 60 bus shelters throughout the city of Cincinnati now feature photographic portraits of local residents, part of a project by nationally renowned photographer Richard Renaldi.
Due to a 2013 decision by Cincinnati City Council to prohibit advertising in the city right-of-way, SORTA as been left with the question of how to fill sign panels in Metro bus shelters. Last year, the transit agency partnered with ArtWorks to present a series of graphic prints, inspired by works of literature, on 24 bus shelters.
This year the entities have again teamed up to present Touching Strangers: Cincinnati. This project is also part of the 2014 edition of Fotofocus, a biennial celebration of the art of photography.
Originally from Chicago, Renaldi now works out of New York, and his work has been exhibited in galleries and museums around the world.
Renaldi took the photos during a June visit to the city. Residents of Cincinnati area posed for the photos; most feature two people, but in several of the images three are included. The subjects were strangers to each other, having met only for the taking of the pictures, yet are positioned in poses in that suggest a level of intimacy.
Four ArtWorks youth apprentices and two local professional photographers worked with Renaldi and produced additional Touching Strangers portraits.
Renaldi and several of the apprentices dedicated the collection of photos at an event on October 16 at a shelter on Sycamore Street downtown. On hand was a Metro bus that has been wrapped with one of the images from the collection.
Many of the shelters featuring the portraits are centrally located downtown and in Over-the-Rhine, the West End, and Uptown, but others are scattered around the city in neighborhoods such as Westwood, Roselawn, and Oakley.
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.”
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.
On the 24th episode of The UrbanCincy Podcast, we’re joined by Greg Lutz, Development Coordinator for ArtWorks, and Laura Belcher, National Director for Power2Give. We discuss the role that ArtWorks plays in Cincinnati and some of the organization’s current projects. We explore the idea of using crowdfunding to fundraise for the fine arts. Finally, Randy explains the impact of public art on our local communities, and speculates on the public policy changes that could result from these efforts.
Right brain vs. left brain; canvas vs. spreadsheet; the dreamers vs. the driven. In a world that becomes more connected every day, who says art and business are mutually exclusive? This attitude drives local nonprofit ArtWorks’ newest creative enterprise program. SpringBoard Cincinnati is a business development program for artists and creative entrepreneurs.
SpringBoard is more than a classroom with a packet of information and a “good luck” at the end. It’s the most effective way for creative entrepreneurs to see their ideas turn into action, and action into results. The $250 fee includes an 8-week course convening three hours each week, personal consulting from experts in accountancy, finance, law and branding, and a comprehensive business plan. Graduates will also be connected to potential storefront spaces in Over-the-Rhine and downtown.
“The course is tailored so you aren’t sitting in a room with thirty people just listening to someone speak, only to walk out confused. Students gain applicable, real world information about running their own business,” said SpringBoard Coordinator Sarah Corlett.
“The first week may be an attorney who will instruct the class on the legal structure of starting a business. They will lecture for one hour and the remaining time is dedicated to the class asking questions specific to their future business,” said Corlett.
Nothing short of innovative, SpringBoard is just the next logical step for ArtWorks, an award winning non-profit based in Over-the-Rhine that has been connecting artists with apprenticeships, job opportunities and community partnerships since 1996. SpringBoard is licensing the curriculum from a program of the same name founded by the Chattanooga-based non-profit Create Here. The SpringBoard in the South has been in operation for three years and already boasts 325 graduates.
“Walking down Main Street in the south side of Chattanooga it seems like every storefront is a product of SpringBoard,” said Corlett. “In Cincinnati we are losing a lot of our young, creative population to other cities – Chicago, New York, and the West Coast. SpringBoard is helping to create an environment of locally, handcrafted ideas here in Cincinnati,” she added.
Funded by the Carol Ann & Ralph V. Haile Jr./ U.S. Bank Foundation, SpringBoard’s first course is set to begin June 7th. Interested creative entrepreneurs – from metal sculptors to musicians, and everything in between – can sign up on the website. space is limited but sessions will be ongoing. For more information regarding class registration or to volunteer your professional expertise contact Sarah Corlett at 513-333-0388 or Sarah@ArtWorksCincinnati.org.