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Newly renovated Memorial Hall now open to the public


The yearlong, $11 million renovation of Memorial Hall in Over-the-Rhine is now complete. Although finishing touches are still being added, Memorial Hall opened to the public on Nov. 25 for its first art exhibit, Brickmas. It will be on display through Dec. 30.
 
Memorial Hall sits between Music Hall — which will reopen next fall after a $135 million renovation — and the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s new, $17 million Otto M. Budig Theater, which will open in September 2017.

Built in 1908 by local architecture firm Samuel Hannaford & Sons, the 100-year-old Beaux Arts building was built to honor veterans of the Spanish-American War and the Civil War. The building is currently owned by Hamilton County.
 
It was once used by the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Chamber Players and the MusicNOW Festival, but the building had been underused in recent decades because it lacked updated amenities like air conditioning, adequate restrooms and backstage areas.
 
Besides restoring the outward appearance of Memorial Hall, many historical details of the building were preserved. The original wrought iron décor is still intact, and the historic hat racks underneath the seats were kept. The building's reception areas feature original stenciling that has also been fully restored.
 
Updates include:
  • Wider seats, which reduced the total number of seats in the theater from 610 to 506. Padding was also added to the wooden seats. Handicap accessible seating areas have been added.
  • New theatrical lighting, a new sound system, a new laser projector and a screen for showing films have been installed. New cushions were added for sound absorption, as well as adjustable, sound absorbing drapes in some doorways.
  • The stage was extended five feet.
  • New glass doors were added to insulate the hall from noise in the marble stairwells.
  • The passenger elevator on the building’s north side remains, and a new service elevator was added. For the first time, a grand piano will be able to be moved on and off the stage with little difficulty.
  • A new outdoor patio area was added, as well as new bars throughout the building, which will allow for light bites, desserts, beer and wine tastings from local restaurants, craft breweries and wine distributors.
The theater itself is being renamed the Annie W. and Elizabeth M. Anderson Theater in honor of the foundation that is underwriting the upcoming concert series.
 
In February, the foundation will launch the Longworth-Anderson Series, featuring concerts from contemporary artists. The winter-spring season will open on Feb. 10 with Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Rosanne Cash, with musical collaborator and husband John Leventhal. Other artists include Pink Martini featuring Chyna Forbes on March 9, Richard Thompson on April 7 and Sarah Jarosz on June 9.
 
The Memorial Hall Society will also program up to 10 events each year. There will also be other programs lined up by 3CDC, which oversaw the building’s renovation and manages Memorial Hall, as well as community programs and event rentals.
 
The public is invited to Memorial Hall’s official ribbon cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. on Dec. 2. The ribbon cutting will be followed by tours of the building.
 

People's Liberty project grantee, 1Degree of Separation


Kailah Ware was attending a free concert at Washington Park, where she saw a man experiencing homelessness and a man in a suit sitting together on a bench. Although they were in close proximity, they couldn’t have been further apart.
 
That observation got her thinking. She began to brainstorm how to break down those barriers and get people talking to each other.
 
“Everyone has a story or something interesting about them,” Ware said. “Everyone has something to share and something to say.”
 
Ware’s project, 1Degree of Separation, uses community-sourced stories to answer the question: “What do you love about Cincinnati?”
 
When Ware moved back home from college, she knew she wanted to start her own business. She met with 3CDC to pitch her idea for a photography studio and learned about local business accelerators: OCEAN, MORTAR and People’s Liberty. She opted for MORTAR to develop her idea for 1Degree and applied for a People’s Liberty grant, which she received.
 
“I liked the idea of People’s Liberty because so many places only fund nonprofit organizations,” she said.
 
Her interactive project features a touchscreen tablet which plays a story of the viewer's choice. Originally, Ware sought out different types of stories: the overcomer, the success story, the historian, the athlete, the artist, the community leader. She researched organizations comprised of people with similar stories who, in turn, each connected her with another source.
 
1Degree launched at Rhinegeist, and now Ware is in negotiations to display her project at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.
 
“Nothing is official yet, but I think it would be cool for people who are maybe moving back to Cincinnati or visiting the city to see why people love it here,” Ware said.
 
1Degree is evolving into something more organic. Ware is still collecting stories, but now there’s a video booth component where people can come and tell their stories. If you want to tell your story, you can email Ware at 1DegreeSep@gmail.com or call her at 513-748-0966.
 
Follow 1Degree on Facebook and on Instagram @1Degree__.

Twice per year, eight grantees are chosen per grant cycle to prototype solutions to civic challenges. Project grantees are supported with $10,000, a launch event and access to People’s Liberty’s workplace and mentorship. Stay tuned to Soapbox for profiles of this year's 15 other grantees.
 

New bar concept coming to renovated Mutual Building in downtown Covington


The team that brought us Over-the-Rhine’s Rhinehaus and Pendleton’s Nation Kitchen and Bar is at it again, but this time, they’re opening a place in Covington. The Hannaford at Pike & Madison, which is located at 619 Madison Ave., will open at 4 p.m. on Nov. 23.
 
“The idea for the name came from our initial exploration of the neighborhood,” said Andrew Salzbrun, who along with Aaron Kohlhepp and Jack Weston, are the Hickory Wald Group. “At the time, the intersection of Pike and Madison was one of the busiest intersections in Kentucky, and we wanted to identify that in our brand.”
 
They’re also paying homage to the life of famed architect Samuel Hannaford, who designed the Mutual Building. The 100-year-old, three-story building is currently undergoing renovations, and will soon be home to upscale apartments, commercial space and The Hannaford.
 
“We saw a lot of opportunity to pay homage to Hannaford and to share some of his original expressions in the space,” Salzbrun said.
 
Hickory Wald is preserving different aspects of the space, including the original mosaic tile flooring and the foundation’s concrete walls. They’re also reusing scrap lumber from the old Coppin’s building — now Hotel Covington — in the bar’s interior.
 
The Hannaford’s drink menu will be seasonal, and will be based on generous, well-composed, traditional cocktails.
 
“Our mission with our venues is to plant flags in neighborhoods by building ‘clubhouses’ for adults,” Salzbrun said. “Just as with our past ventures, we intentionally seek out neighborhoods that are gaining steam in their development, but have an opportunity for a place that fosters conversation and relationship growth.”
 
Keep tabs on The Hannaford’s Facebook page for details regarding its opening.
 

Recently vacant Broadway Building could see apartments in 2017


In January, the Hamilton County Board of Elections is moving to a larger space in Norwood. The former home of the Board of Elections — also known as the Broadway Building because of its location at 824 Broadway — will soon be redeveloped.
 
Rookwood Properties has owned the site for 30 years, and wants to build on the redevelopment successes in Over-the-Rhine and downtown.
 
The Broadway Building could house 50-60 apartments, with additional units constructed in the rear of the building. Rookwood is also working to redevelop a parking lot at the corner of East Court and Walnut streets. The project, which would involve a grocer store, parking garage and apartment tower, could involve Kroger and 3CDC.
 
The proposed $7 million Broadway Building project will go before the city in January, and Rookwood will have a better idea then if and when the project will be moving forward.
 
 
 

People's Liberty project grantee, Your Productions


Robert Wilson, a 2016 People's Liberty project grantee, is also the owner of Sabercomm Productions, a company that handles video and media projects for local public access television, businesses and nonprofit organizations. He saw few  outlets for teen voices and decided to put his production expertise into creating youth media to affect social change.
 
As part of his People's Liberty project, Wilson developed a two-week summer camp called Your Productions to provide at-risk youth with the tools to share their voice through video production and audio public service announcements.

During the summer of 2016, a group of 11 teens from Avondale, ages 12-18, worked together to shoot, produce and edit four short public service announcements about topics that they felt were relevant to their communities.

"It was important to allow young people to talk about what affects them," Wilson said.

Ultimately, the teens selected four issues to focus on: immigration, health, litter and Black Lives Matter and the experiences of young African American women.
 
"They had a deep grasp of what they were facing in their community," Wilson said. "I was blown away by the amount of maturity that they held. So often we think that young people don't have that grasp, we don't even ask their opinions."
 
Wilson and fellow videographer and activist Lamonte Young facilitated the camp and provided technical instruction, but Wilson said that it was always intended to be a student-led effort.

"They vetted these things and worked through problems on their own," he explained. Wilson said that unlike other video camps, Your Productions did not provide a prompt or limitations on the topics they could explore. "A lot of people don't want to get into the hard subjects, so they give them something to do. It's not the freedom to create on their own."
 
Wilson has plans to offer another two-week camp in the coming year.

"We’re going to continue this program whether there is funding for it or not," he said. Ultimately, Wilson wants to use the success of Your Productions to develop it into a model for others who want to run similar programs. "We want to help other people empower young people. Our goal is to create a template with a syllabus so that other people can come to us from other cities, and we can hand it off."  
 
The PSAs from the Your Productions 2016 camp will be screened on local public access channels and can be viewed on Facebook and on the Your Productions website.
 
Twice per year, eight grantees are chosen per grant cycle to prototype solutions to civic challenges. Project grantees are supported with $10,000, a launch event and access to People’s Liberty’s workplace and mentorship. Stay tuned to Soapbox for profiles of this year's 15 other grantees.
 

Newberry Building reopening as lofts in December


In the next few weeks, Ashley Commercial Group will wrap up the rehabilitation of the historic Newberry Building, which is located at the corner of Sixth and Race streets downtown, near Fountain Square and right next to the Cincinnatian Hotel. Construction began on Newberry Lofts in 2014, and is slated to be finished in early December.
 
The 12-story building, which was built in 1912, is attached to a CVS, and has first-floor retail space. It will feature 14 different one-bedroom, one-bathroom floor plans, three of which include bonus lofts. The apartments range from 700-1,400 square feet, with rent starting at $995 per month.
 
All of the units will include luxury finishes like granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances and washers and dryers in each unit. The building will be pet-friendly, and will include a fitness center, bicycle storage and community space. Residents will also have access to maid services, dry cleaning, laundry services and nearby parking.
 
Once completed, Newberry Lofts will earn its designation as a Certified Green Building.
 
Tours are currently underway of the $9 million project, and the deposits are now being accepted for December move-in. About one-third of the 62 apartments are currently reserved.
 

People's Liberty project grantee, Neighborhood Playbook


Kevin Wright and Joe Nickol have years of development experience under their belts from their years with the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation and MKSK, respectively. They decided to take that knowledge and create the Neighborhood Playbook, a development tool for neighborhoods and cities, with funding help from People’s Liberty.

“We saw through our work a common theme that is working in neighborhoods,” Wright said. “We saw a connection that others weren’t seeing or being highlighted — using neighborhood activation efforts to spur economic development.”
 
According to Wright, a lot of work has been done around tactical urbanism, which is more about planning and not about developing. The pair saw two problems: that neighborhood residents tended to create a plan, get together and put dots on a map, but then the planning stopped. On the other hand, developers want to develop, but don’t know how or where to enter a market.
 
The Neighborhood Playbook is a way to solve both of those problems.
 
“It’s a way for developers to take a more proactive approach to entering markets, and a way for neighborhoods to take a more proactive approach to spur development,” Wright said.
 
Wright and Nickol wrote a PDF called “Five Ways to Activate Your Neighborhood This Weekend,” which got lots of downloads and attention. From there, they decided to apply for a $10,000 People’s Liberty grant.
 
With the grant, the pair created the two-sided Playbook — one side for neighborhoods and the other for developers. The project officially launched on Sept. 21, where 50 Playbooks were given away for free. They’re now available online for $20.
 
“It’s interesting to see who is buying them and where they’re from,” Wright said. “It was really exciting when we got our first buyer we didn’t know.”
 
Community development corporations, consulting firms, developers and individuals from all over the country have purchased Playbooks.
 
The city of Bellevue is currently beta testing the Playbook for its Old Kentucky Makers Market. Residents are activating an alley and parking lot next to a vacant building, and are trying to develop the area into something positive.
 
“We want to find ways for developers and community members to grow neighborhoods,” Wright said. “
Development shouldn’t happen to a place but with a place, and this is a tool to make that happen.”
 
Wright and Nickol are currently working on the digital side of the Playbook. When a Playbook is purchased, that person gets a password for the Resources portion of the website, which provides them access to other organizations, vendor forms, etc.
 
They are also planning to create a national map of people and organizations who are utilizing the Playbook, and possibly creating a second project out of that.

Twice per year, eight grantees are chosen per grant cycle to prototype solutions to civic challenges. Project grantees are supported with $10,000, a launch event and access to People’s Liberty’s workplace and mentorship. Stay tuned to Soapbox for profiles of this year's 15 other grantees.
 

Duke Energy awards $240,000 to 10 Greater Cincinnati development projects


The Duke Energy Urban Revitalization Program recently awarded about $240,000 to 10 area development projects. The funds will be used for predevelopment work like site analysis and architectural renderings. This year, the majority of the grant money went to projects in Northern Kentucky.
 
Bellevue:
Kent Hardman, who is redeveloping the historic Marianne Theater, received $40,000 through the Catalytic Fund to help with an energy assessment for the Energy Project Assessment District. Through the program, developers receive funds from the city that are then used to help improve energy efficiency. The 7,500-square-foot commercial space will become a special events theater and restaurant that focuses on craft beer and wine.
 
College Hill:
A $14,000 grant was awarded to the College Hill Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation for renovations to the National City Bank in the neighborhood’s central business district. Plans for the building, which is across the street from a new apartment complex, include a restaurant or high-end retail store.
 
Covington:
A former Frisch’s at 801 Madison Ave. received $20,000 through the Catalytic Fund, which hopes to move a business into the high-traffic space. The grant will assist with architectural planning and conceptual design.
 
The Center for Great Neighborhoods was awarded $30,000 for its “homes for makers” projects near the Hellmann Creative Center. Three properties along Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard will be restored and sold to small businesses whose owners would live/work on-site. The Center plans to renovate 12 homes like this in Covington.
 
Ludlow:
Through the Catalytic Fund, Second Sight Spirits received $20,000 to expand its offerings into next-door’s Wynners Cup Café. The café will become more of an event center and creative meeting space, with food and adult beverages from Second Sight. Owners Rick Couch and Carus Waggoner hope that the expansion will help them become part of the Kentucky Craft Bourbon Trail.
 
Madisonville:
The Madisonville Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation received $5,500 for the renovation of the historic Metz building. Once completed, the building will house the neighborhood’s police substation and the MCURC. Both organizations need new spaces because of additional redevelopment nearby, and they hope to help spur additional development with the move.
 
Middletown:
Downtown Middletown, Inc., was awarded $20,000 for the renovation of a former JCPenney’s. The 38,000-square-foot building will become Torchlight Pass, a destination for dining, retail and family entertainment.
 
Newport:
A $25,000 grant was awarded to the rehabilitation of the Holzhauser Drug Store, through the Catalytic Fund. The building has been vacant at 10th and Madison streets for years, and is now owned by Millennium Housing Corporation. Plans include creating a historically accurate façade, and adding retail or offices.
 
Silverton:
The Hamilton County Business Center will use its $20,000 grant for small business coaching. This is the fourth consecutive year that the business center has received a Duke Energy grant. The money will go to providing one-on-one mentoring and coaching to small businesses, as well as efforts to attract, retain and expand small businesses in Silverton.
 
Westwood:
The Westwood Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation received a $45,000 grant for the revitalization and redevelopment of a building in Westwood’s business district. The building is slated for the future home of the West Side Brewery.
 
Since its inception in 2011, the Urban Revitalization program has awarded a total of about $1.6 million in grant money to 48 area projects.
 

People's Liberty funds Space Walk backyard solar system


Josiah Wolf is an unlikely astronomer. A musician who has spent most of his adult life touring, Wolf began to develop an obsession with learning about the solar system.

“I just had the urge to see the scale of the sun and Earth myself,” Wolf explained. A few years ago, he decided to fashion a scale diorama of the solar system from old fence posts and blacklight paint in his backyard. He taught himself interesting facts about space and began offering nighttime tours to friends and family.

Wolf’s friend, Ben Sloan, a People’s Liberty grantee, suggested he apply for a $10,000 grant from the organization to make his backyard model into a permanent installation. With the help of his wife Liz and their project partner, Matt Kotlarcyzk, Wolf applied for a grant and his backyard project became SPACEWALK.

After receiving funding, the trio began the 10-month design process to make SPACEWALK a reality. The design went through many stages but ultimately had to conform to certain restrictions. Wolf knew that he wanted the models to light up at night, which meant they needed to utilize solar panels so that the models could be freestanding and sustainable.

Solar panels must be placed at least 12 feet in the air in order to gather sufficient power, so the design had to incorporate poles to which the panels could be mounted.

After months of trial and error, Wolf settled on a shadowbox design for the models. The small plastic planets sit inside of a case with a hidden, recessed blacklight. The planets were painted by artist Steve Casino, who is known for his miniature paintings on peanuts. The models are a 3.5-billion-to-1 in scale.

Once the design process was completed, the team needed to determine where SPACEWALK would be installed.

“It was hard to find the perfect location,” Wolf said. Because the project is meant to be viewed at night, it was important to find a location with low lighting. It also needed to be a public place with foot traffic to ensure SPACEWALK would be enjoyed by as many passing science-lovers as possible.

After considering a variety of options, Wolf selected Salway Park, which runs along Mill Creek across from Spring Grove Cemetery. The installation spans three-quarters of a mile along the path.

The project has been up for two months and will continue to be freely available for viewing for the indefinite future. Wolf also offers private tours for those interested. To arrange a tour, e-mail SPACEWALK; to stay up-to-date on all things SPACEWALK, visit its website, Twitter or Instagram.

SPACEWALK is currently accepting donations to support the ongoing maintenance of the installation.

Twice per year, eight grantees are chosen per grant cycle to prototype solutions to civic challenges. Project grantees are supported with $10,000, a launch event and access to People’s Liberty’s workplace and mentorship. Stay tuned to Soapbox for profiles of this year's 15 other grantees.
 

Cohousing coming to Over-the-Rhine with Kunsthous


Next summer, a new kind of apartment community will make its debut in Over-the-Rhine called Kunsthous. Cofounders John Blatchford, Michael Fischer, Alyssa McClanahan and Barrett McClish are currently renovating two historic buildings in the neighborhood, and are creating co-living spaces within them.
 
“I’ve been renting for 10 years, and all of the places I’ve lived have had really strong communities,” Blatchford, CEO of Kunsthous, said. “People are moving back to cities and renting more than ever, but many apartments are too big and we’re living in buildings where we don’t know our neighbors. Kunsthous is trying to get away from that suburban seclusion.” Cohousing is popular on the West Coast and other urban areas. Typical cohousing has a smaller footprint, shared common space for building community.
 
The first building the team is renovating is 205 W. McMicken St., which they purchased through OTR Adopt. When finished, it will have six studio and one-bedroom apartments with a shared kitchen on the first floor and a co-working space.
 
Kunsthous units are smaller than typical apartments, and a bit cheaper when compared to other OTR apartments — the average rent for the first six units is $650 per month.
 
“We’re really trying to focus on the idea of co-living in Cincinnati,” Blatchford said.
 
In order to build intentional community, Kunsthous kitchens will have beer and kombucha on tap, and there will be public and private events throughout the year for tenants and the larger community.
 
“There is so much growth going on in Cincinnati, and a lot of that growth is focused in OTR,” Blatchford said. “You can look at larger coastal cities and see where OTR is going — rent is going to get more expensive, and more and more people will be moving in. We need to find a way to provide more affordable apartments, and ways for people moving in to meet others and build a network.”
 
Kunsthous will continue to grow, with seven more apartments planned for the building located at 509 E. 12th St. Blatchford said he and his team are planning to expand their idea within Cincinnati, and are looking at Walnut Hills and Northern Kentucky.
 
By the end of next year, there will be about 20 Kunsthous apartments, and although the buildings aren’t right next to each other and maybe not in the same neighborhood, that sense of community will be there.
 
“A lot of the best things in our lives are the result of the people that we meet,” Blatchford said. “Lots of people are moving back or just moving here, and we need to create more opportunities for people to meet other like themselves, or not like themselves. That’s what makes a city stronger and makes people happier.”
 
There is already interest from potential renters, and if you’re interested in living in Kunsthous, visit its website to sign up.
 

People's Liberty, Let's Dance Academy


Kathye Lewis and Gregory Norman have a shared passion for ballroom dancing, which led them to cofound Let’s Dance Academy in November 2015. They received a $10,000 grant from People’s Liberty to make their dreams a reality.
 
When the pair started Let’s Dance, they focused on teaching fifth and sixth graders at South Avondale Elementary School how to ballroom dance.
 
“We wanted to bring culture to the kids at South Avondale, and show them a different way to dance,” Norman said. “We also wanted to help them understand the history around the dance and where it came from.”
 
Norman has been ballroom dancing for the past 10 years, and was taught by instructors in both Detroit and Los Angeles. He has also studied ballroom dancing on his own to learn the history, various styles and importance to the African American community on a national and international level.
 
Lewis doesn’t have an official background in ballroom dancing, but has been a dancer for her entire life. She’s taken classes and workshops, and has come to know a national community of ballroom dancers.
 
Over the past 10 years, Dancing with the Stars has brought more exposure to ballroom dancing. According to Norman, the ‘70s and ‘80s saw partner dances like the hustle, but the ‘90s and early ‘00s didn’t have a lot of partner dances. Now there is a renewed interested in ballroom dancing.
 
“The dominant driving force for us is to get young people into ballroom dancing so that culture doesn’t die again,” he said.
 
Lewis and Norman did an initial two sessions with the students, providing meals and dance costumes for them through the People’s Liberty grant. They also held a graduation ceremony, where they handed out trophies and invited the students’ family members and the community.
 
At the moment, Let’s Dance is focusing on teaching adults how to ballroom dance.
 
“We’re trying to grow classes and are expanding our reach within the adult community,” Lewis said.
 
Ultimately, they want to expand classes and offer them at different locations throughout the city. Classes are $5, and are currently held at the College Hill Recreation Center.
 

PAR Projects opens new space to art installations


Since its inception in 2010, PAR Projects has had many different homes in Northside, but never one that the organization has owned outright, until now. PAR’s new space, which is located in an old lumberyard at 1662 Hoffner St., will undergo a complete transformation within the next year.

The organization's goal is to create a space for exhibits, arts education and an outdoor movie theater, all made entirely from shipping containers.

Lisa Walcott’s “Swarms” is the first installation in PAR’s 1,100-square-foot gallery, called The Nook. Her whole exhibit, Making Space, is on display at PAR through Nov. 27.
 
PAR purchased the two-story, 6,000-square-foot building and surrounding lot in 2014. They originally planned to demolish the building and start from scratch, but after discovering that the roof wasn’t as bad as originally thought, they decided to keep the building and renovate it.
 
A few years ago, PAR started a traveling art gallery — Makers Mobile — in a shipping container. The container is currently sitting at the Hoffner site, and houses another part of Walcott’s exhibit. It will become the first piece of a new building that will be built entirely from shipping containers.
 
Another two shipping containers will be stacked to create the outdoor theater screen, by next spring, PAR hopes to start showing movies. The group wants to add two more containers to create classrooms for the media arts.  
 

People's Liberty grantees create mammoth bean bag art installation


Amy Scarpello and Abby Cornelius share a unique love: bean bags.

“We’ve both been bean bag enthusiasts for the bulk of our lives,” Scarpello said. The two artists met while studying sculpture at the Art Academy of Cincinnati.

The pair were brainstorming project ideas one night when the idea to create a giant 20-foot bean bag as a pop-up public art installation was born. Though it was initially an off-hand idea, the concept persisted.

“We had both made small soft sculptures, but nothing to that scale, so we knew it would be a new endeavor," Scarpello said.

The idea continued to develop, but the duo also realized that the materials to create their giant bean bag would not be cheap.

On a whim, Scarpello and Cornelius decided to apply to People’s Liberty for a $10,000 grant to fund their project, which they called Plop! To their delight, they were awarded funding.

“We’re probably the least likely people that received it,” Scarpello joked.

Instead of a single giant bag, the idea evolved into a family of three oversized bean bags, affectionately named Hex, Pal and Wedge after the bags' various shapes. The bags were so large that creating them “was kind of a ridiculous process,” Scarpello said.

Designing the bags and determining the volume of filling for them required a thorough comprehension of geometry. “My high school math teacher would be proud."

After completing the design process, the pair ordered filler beads and marine-grade vinyl that is weather-resistant and anti-microbial. Rosie Kovacks, owner of the soon-to-open Over-the-Rhine furniture shop Brush Factory, helped them fabricate the shells using a specialized sewing machine that could stand up to the weight of the fabric.

Once the bags were created, the pair carted them around to public spaces where they were placed for up to five consecutive days. Plop! popped up at locations throughout the area, including Art off Pike in Covington, the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, Fountain Square and The Mockbee.


“It was really exciting to watch how different groups of people would interact with it throughout the day," Scarpello said. "We would have business people having lunch on it like a picnic, later kids would play on it and later in the evening people on dates would be eating ice cream on it. It’s so satisfying to see people actually use them and be excited by it.”

Plop! is now retired for the winter, but Scarpello hopes to continue the project during the spring and summer of 2017. To stay up-to-date on 2017 appearances of Plop!, visit its website or follow Plop! on Facebook or Instagram.

Twice per year, eight grantees are chosen per grant cycle to prototype solutions to civic challenges. Project grantees are supported with $10,000, a launch event and access to People’s Liberty’s workplace and mentorship. Stay tuned to Soapbox for profiles of this year's 15 other grantees.

 

Local filmmaker screens films in OTR on sprawl, spatial segregation


On Nov. 2, local documentary filmmaker Andrea Torrice will showcase three of her films at the Mini Microcinema. Divided We Spra
wl,” The New Metropolis: A Crack in the Pavement and Trees in Trouble all have to do with issues that impact cities and suburbs in the United States.
 
Divided We Sprawl” focuses on spatial segregation in Gary, Ind., where much of the industry has left and moved to the suburbs. Torrice chose Gary because it’s a reflection of many cities in the Northeast and Midwest like it. In the film, she looks at how a city like Gary rebuilds, as well as the economic upheaval and abandonment by people, policy and government.
 
“I’m really interested in the meaning of a city or place, and how the meaning is changing,” Torrice said. “The intersection between place and income disparity impacts the community, and personal decisions and how decisions about transportation and economic growth dramatically impact our lives. We don’t always see that — I call it the invisible hand.”
 
The New Metropolis: A Crack in the Pavement” is about Cincinnati’s older suburbs, and the pattern of people moving to the suburbs, new suburbs cropping up and people moving out of the inner suburbs to the outer suburbs. Downtown is now going through a rebirth, and people are moving from the suburbs back to the urban core.
 
“I like to tell these stories because I like to put a human face on how public policies impact our lives,” Torrice said.
 
Cincinnati is also the case study for “Trees in Trouble” because like many Midwest cities, its streets are lined with ash trees, and the Emerald Ash Borer has invaded and is killing the ash trees in the United States.
 
Over the last 30 years, the city has planted about 12,000 ash trees, and they’re now all dead or dying. Torrice looks at how the city is responding to that, and the value of a tree in our community.
 
“Trees play important roles in cities for many reasons — they’re part of the infrastructure and quality of life,” she said.
 
Torrice is an award-winning documentary and public TV producer/writer whose work spans a range of contemporary issues, including spatial segregation and suburban flight.
 
“These films are important because it helps us understand more about our community and how we’re connected to other communities throughout the nation,” Torrice said. “We have some of the same problems, and these films will help spark dialogue on how to make all communities more vibrant and resilient places.”
 
Torrice made the film on Gary six years ago, but this will be the first time it will be shown in Cincinnati. The other two films have been broadcast on PBS, with “Trees in Trouble” most recently in April upon its release.
 
Doors open at 7 p.m., and the films will be shown one after the other beginning at 7:30.
 

People's Liberty grantee takes spirit of Carnival to the streets


Larry Malott is taking art and creativity to the streets with Amazing Urban Adventures. Earlier this year, he received a $10,000 People’s Liberty grant to help jumpstart his project, which had a soft launch at Northside’s Fourth of July parade.
 
Malott was inspired by Carnival and similar events that celebrate, parade and dance in the street while wearing a mask and costume.
 
“I sought funding from People’s Liberty because they fund individuals and projects that engage the public, and they’re willing to fund projects that are a bit out of the ordinary, so it just seemed like the perfect fit,” Malott said.
 
Amazing Urban Adventures features people dressed up in costumes made from reusable materials like trash bags, aluminum and cardboard boxes. It also encourages kids of all ages to get creative through mask-making workshops.
 
“This is the natural evolution of my public performance artwork, and builds upon my previous work by engaging more people and encourages them to join in the celebration and performance instead of just being a viewer,” Malott said.
 
The official launch was at Riverfest, where Amazing Urban Adventures performed on the P&G Pavilion stage and then paraded across the Purple People Bridge. Since then, Malott has taken his project to Art Off Pike and the most recently the Mini Maker Faire.
 
In the next few months, Malott will be doing parades and performances around downtown, especially around the holidays. There will also be a kids’ mask making workshop and parade on Dec. 28 at the Cincinnati Art Museum. Malott has a larger event in the works for the beginning of March.
 
Twice per year, eight grantees are chosen per grant cycle to prototype solutions to civic challenges. Project grantees are supported with $10,000, a launch event and access to People’s Liberty’s workplace and mentorship. Stay tuned to Soapbox for profiles of this year's 15 other grantees.
 
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