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New fine art gallery adds to Oakley's diverse, growing scene


Located at 3078 Madison Rd. in the heart of Oakley Square, Caza Sikes offers art and fine craft featuring diverse media from regional artists. The gallery features monthly exhibitions, live music, a rentable event space and appraisals.

The gallery opened this fall after an 18-month renovation of the historic building that once housed a paint store.

Owner and licensed appraiser Evan Sikes says he wanted the space to change the concept of a gallery. It features both high-end and more affordable pieces from everything from paintings to jewelry.

Sikes describes his vision as an “approachable, affordable gallery with cool stuff.”

The gallery features a rotating group of artists that all use a diverse range of media. Along with a collection of different painters, Caza Sikes also features mixed media, jewelry, woodwork, ceramics, photography, fiber arts and glass.

During the month of November, the gallery is hosting a collection of paintings by Cole Carothers, which showcase a 40-year retrospective of his work while living in Cincinnati.

After its successful opening at the end of September, Caza Sikes plans to host more events and hopes to engage all members of the community, from younger visitors to those already very familiar with the gallery scene.

“We’re mixing it up a bit,” Sikes says. Along with displays, the gallery will host a series of events from jazz shows to bourbon tastings. These will start next month with a blues/jazz concert on Dec. 1.

What Sikes is really after is a representation of fine craft because there can be a lack of the diversity of media in traditional galleries. At Caza Sikes, a visitor can see and purchase jewelry, clothes made from recycled fabric, hand-made bowls, ceramic tiles and more.

“It’s been a long time coming, and a hard momentum coming up.”

Caza Sikes joins the art scene in Oakley, along with other venues like Brazee Street Studios, which offers a gallery, events and classes for all ages; Ombré Gallery, which specializes in contemporary art jewelry by art and metalsmiths all over the world; and Redtree Art Gallery & Coffee Shop, which showcases work from locat artsits and serves as a gathering space for the community.
 


Supercade bringing spot for the whole family to Westwood this spring


As Soapbox reported in August, Westwood is on an upswing. The planning efforts of the Westwood Coalition, a group of community members and civic organizations, have begun to pay off with increased city investment and an influx of new businesses like Lillywood Home Décor, Muse Café and West Side Brewing.

Leslie Rich, a long-time Westwood resident and board chair for community building nonprofit Westwood Works, has been instrumental in stewarding this positive change. Now she and her husband Bill are striking out with their own new venture, Supercade, to bring some added fun to the neighborhood.


“I spent the last nine years promoting the neighborhood, so it made sense for us to invest in it,” says Rich. "We saw a lack of spaces for people of all ages and backgrounds to gather in a fun way.”

To fill this gap, the couple will be opening a retro arcade with upright cabinet games, pinball machines and air hockey. Though Supercade will serve alcohol, “it’s not going to be a place where you have to drink to play,” Rich says.

The arcade will also offer local snacks, popcorn and cane sugar sodas, and is hoping to work with West Side Brewing to develop a signature root beer.

Supercade, which is slated to open by March, will charge $7 for one hour of free play or $12 for two hours of free play access, and will also be available to host parties and team-building sessions for local companies.

The Riches began collecting game consoles back in 2016, and turned their living room into a mini-arcade before securing the former Keidel Plumbing building at 3143 Harrison Ave. for their new venture.

“We’ve been driving all over the Midwest to build our collection,” Rich says. That collection includes a Donkey Kong cabinet signed by world record holder Billy Mitchell, whose high score is still on the machine.

The couple is excited about how the arcade will be more than just a business, but also a way of building community. “We think there is a physical community that can be built on top of the virtual community,” Rich says.

In an increasingly tech-driven world, Rich believes that people are looking for those places where they can have relationships, physical interactions and conversation.

Supercade has a Kickstarter campaign running through Dec. 11, with a goal of raising $20,000 in additional capital. “Up until this point we’ve bootstrapped and done it ourselves, but this will help us get up and running even faster,” Rich says.

Visit Supercade's Facebook and Instagram for more information and to stay up-to-date on the storefront's progress.
 


Developments at Newport on the Levee to provide a more integrated experience


Newport on the Levee is undergoing major changes to contemporize its attractions and everyday offerings. The Northern Kentucky destination is slowly moving away from the 21-and-over nightlife scene to more of a family experience.

Across the country, the entertainment game is changing: Shoppers are choosing online shopping over retail stores, and fewer movie buffs are filling the seats in theaters.

“In the past, it was about outdoor shopping and eateries,” explains Levee spokesperson Vanessa Rovekamp.

Longtime dining favorites Mitchell's Fish Market and Brio Tuscan Grille are being joined by newer, locally owned spots like Greek Burrito and The Dog House hotdog restaurant.

The Levee wants to become an entertainment destination. Current attractions like the Newport Aquarium, Axis Alley and an AMC movie theater will provide the backbone for that plan.

On top of that, the theater, which was built in 2001, is undergoing a major renovation that will be completed in late November. Updates include power reclining seats, an updated snack bar menu and new screens, sound systems, speakers, carpet and paint. The changes aim to broaden the theater's demographic. While young adults used to make up its largest group of visitors, the updates are intended to create family entertainment for all ages.

Most of the changes at the Levee are not public at this time, but they are expected to reveal themselves over the next two years.

Two developments recently opened at the Levee: a new 238-apartment complex, Aqua on the Levee, offers one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments and another 8,300 square feet of retail space and a 144-room Aloft Hotel. Apartments and a hotel are totally new concepts for the Levee area, and encourage a new "stay and play" atmosphere.

Over the past few years, the Levee has also experienced a revolving door of tenants. Despite empty properties, the Levee holds events to keep the entertainment going as renovations continue.

Recent events include the 11th annual Wine Walk (March), supported by Levee tenants and featuring local wines; LIVE at the Levee summer concert series showcasing local bands; Local Brews and Blues (June); Margarita Madness (August); fall events and country concerts to complement the winding down of Riverbend’s schedule; and Light Up the Levee, which will kick off the holiday season on Nov. 21 with festive activities for kids on the weekends.

Visit the Levee's events page for a full calendar of events, which includes tenant-related events and specials too.


Tether Cincinnati connects local creatives to job opportunities, other creatives


One local woman is using her $100,000 Haile Fellowship grant from People’s Liberty to start Tether Cincinnati, a way to connect local image makers (photographers, wardrobe stylists, makeup artists, hair stylists, models, creative directors and fashion designers) in the Cincinnati area.

Tether’s mission is to make it easier for local image makers to connect to each other, and to opportunities for work so they can thrive — and stay — in Cincinnati.

The idea ignited when fashion blogger and former Cincinnati Magazine stylist Tamia Stinson traveled to London. She did a co-op at a British magazine and was inspired by the international image maker directory book, Le Book.

“It was extremely valuable because that was how you found people to execute those types of jobs,” she says.

When she started working, Stinson received many requests from clients, especially from out of town, about the image making industry in Cincinnati.

“I was getting all these inquiries from people and they wanted to know who do I follow, who I get in touch with, what's the best resource for doing this or that,” says Stinson. “And I thought it would be really cool to have a one-stop shop for that information.”

Her passion for design mixed with the resources at People’s Liberty, which helped jumpstart her entrepreneurial career.

“I think it's important to be a part of that creative community and to make sure that I'm supporting people financially in much the same way that I'm trying to get people to do for this community,” Stinson says.

Since its launch in May, Tether has a growing community of about 91 members — and that's just online. Anyone can connect through the Tether Cincinnati website, the print sourcebook and through networking events.

“I think people really get a lot out of that face-to-face interaction, which is why we do events,” says Stinson. “Probably about once a month there's an opportunity for people to actually gather together.”

As much as face-to-face communication is important to her brand, social media is also a key ingredient. “This is a very visual community. So Instagram is where people would tend to hang out the most, but also Facebook and Twitter.”

Aside from social media and events, Stinson also helped organize a sourcebook — a combination fashion magazine and phonebook that features Cincinnati image makers. It will launch in December to agencies and brands nationwide. At the launch, Stinson is planning to "make the sourcebook come to life".

“The plan is to have guests walk in and get the experience of walking into a photoshoot; there will be some kind of interactive part on set to create some of the imagery for the book itself,” Stinson says.

Stinson has been working on this since the beginning of the summer and as of now, the date for the sourcebook launch is Dec. 13. The plan is to have the book come out annually.

The next Tether event is scheduled for Nov. 15 at Alias Imaging, where people from different communities will meet.

Keep tabs on all things Tether by signing up for its newsletter.
 


Writers join together for bi-monthly social engagement series


This July, Union Institute & University launched its Live Reading Series to offer a free event for the public where writers, journalists and poets can converge to read and speak about their works — all of which target important societal issues. The new series is also meant to help start a dialogue that furthers knowledge and initiates forward thinking.

The university, which has campuses in five states, specializes in adult education and offers a curriculum that takes flexibility into account with online, hybrid and face-to-face course options.

Ohio’s campus is located in Walnut Hills and seeks to not only deliver high-quality education to its students, but also play a prominent role within the community.

“We chose topics for our series that touch or impact everyone’s life,” says Donna Gruber, executive director of Cincinnati’s Academic Center. “The series is designed to open dialogue in a non-threatening way.”

The series occurs bimonthly. Last month’s topic was “Women’s Issues in Society,” and featured Bhumika Patel, a regional coalition specialist for the Salvation Army's Anti-Human Trafficking Program.

“Bhumika sees human trafficking as an issue that is often misunderstood and unrecognized in our community and seeks to address misconceptions and offer resources,” Gruber says.

Lo Kwa Mei-en, a poet and author, was another featured speaker at the Sept. 29 event. She addressed trauma and survival.

“The community doesn’t have to come up with solutions, but think and reflect on what they hear,” Gruber says. “Often change comes from within.”

Upcoming Live Reading Series events are Nov. 17, Mental Health Issues in Society, and Jan. 26,  Business, Industry and Leadership in Society. The next event will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. at Union's Cincinnati Center.
 


King Records' legacy lives on through new collaborative education program


Despite launching the career of James Brown and spawning major hits like “The Twist,” Cincinnati-based King Records fell into relative obscurity. The studio on Brewster Avenue was once a bustling hive for both country and R&B recording artists, but was closed in 1975 and all but forgotten in the years that followed.

A new educational initiative led by King Studios LLC — a collaboration between Xavier University and the neighborhood of Evanston — seeks to change that.

The King Studio’s Traveling Suitcases are a set of five different kits filled with replica historical objects and lesson plans in key subject areas. K-12 Cincinnati teachers can check out a suitcase for a week at a time from local nonprofit Crayons to Computers, which is handling pick-up and drop-off logistics.

The cases were fabricated by the Cincinnati Museum Center and contain curricula developed by a group of classroom teachers and Xavier professor Dr. Christine Anderson in one of five subject areas: Great Migration, Civil Rights, Science, Math and Music.

According to education committee co-chair Sean Rhiney, who also serves as director of the Eigel Center for Community-Engaged Learning at Xavier, the traveling suitcase project has been eight years in the making. Part of the reason for the long period of development is that the cases were collaboratively made, drawing on community and teacher feedback to ensure they would be relevant in today’s classroom.

“We started by asking teachers how they would share the King story," says Rhiney. "We heard back ‘Well, we’re limited in class time,' so they worked with us to develop the suitcases with tested subjects.”

The King Records story is a unique one. “King was innovative in that everything happened under one roof — recording, promotion, publicity and pressing," says Rhiney. "Very few major studios were doing that at the time and King was independent."

King was also special in that it blended genres, bringing together African-American and Appalachian artists during a time when strict segregation was the norm. These parts of King Records' history are woven throughout the lesson plans in the traveling suitcases, which Rhiney says are a fun, powerful way to tell stories while reinforcing core subjects.

Rhiney is excited about how the traveling suitcases will make Cincinnati history relevant to young people. “It’s our history and I think it’s important," he says.

The first cases were made possible in part by support from the Elsa Heisel Sule Foundation and the Charles H. Dater Foundation, but the goal is that the program will grow; there are plans to create five more suitcases, if funding is available.

For more information or to reserve a traveling case, visit the King Studios Education Website.
 


Northside-based station Radio Artifact is set to make a name for itself in independent music


The idea for a radio station in Northside that plays independent artists and brings prominent local people on air came about two years ago, long before WNKU went off the air.


The radio station, Radio Artifact, will be a 24/7 station based out of the Rectory, which is next door to Urban Artifact. It will broadcast all kinds of music — from independent artists on the local and national level to interviews with artists and prominent figures in the Cincinnati area. The brewery will also use this platform to market its beer.

 

Scott Hand, one of the founders of Urban Artifact, had an idea to start a small radio station that pays homage to the arts back in 2015 when the brewery opened.

 

“I think he just wanted a cool little pirate station to be able to feature all the good music that we have around town,” says Urban Artifact's booking coordinator, Jeremy Moore.


Urban Artifact is also a music venue. Moore has booked local acts like The Skulx and the Blue Wisp Big Band. Touring musicians include Emily Davis and John Nolan from Taking Back Sunday.

 

With many touring acts coming to Cincinnati, Moore wants to be able to get them on the radio “to better promote themselves,” he says.

 

Radio Artifact will not just play music, but will feature all sorts of content. “The main goal is to get as much music-like programming out there, but we also want to focus on all parts of the arts community and just the Cincinnati community in general,” Moore says.

 

The station will air in a 2.5-mile radius. For those who do not live within that radius, online streaming will be provided on its website.

 

Radio Artifact won't necessarily fill WKNU’s space, considering it will only broadcast throughout Northside, parts of Clifton, Westwood, Camp Washington, Mt. Airy and Norwood. WNKU had a much wider reach.

 

But Moore says, “We’re just really trying to do something very independently.”

 

Radio Artifact will eventually broaden its antennas to reach a wider audience, but it's heavily relying on reaching listeners through online streaming.

 

“That's kind of how people listen to stuff at work nowadays, anyway — it's usually on the computer,” Moore says.

 

The radio station has received many original music submissions, but it's been experiencing trouble with its servers. You can still submit original music, and the station plans to officially launch during the first week of October.

 


Newly founded The Welcome Project integrates refugees into local community through art


Over the last few years, bringing new life to Camp Washington has been a challenge as businesses (and residents) face a different economic climate and lack adequate resources. However, many of the redeveloped areas of the neighborhood are focusing more on community values to build their businesses, including The Welcome Project, which is run by Wave Pool Art Gallery.

Artist Cal Cullen teamed up with Sheryl Rajbhandari, executive director and founder of Heartfelt Tidbits, to tackle a current local, national and world issue. Through this humanitarian effort, The Welcome Project has become a natural fit to provide solutions to the gaps many immigrants and refugees face within the community.

“Camp Washington's business district has been neglected for a long time and is pretty vacant,” says Cullen. “This endeavor brings a retail location and restaurant, as well as a third space for education, community gathering and cross-cultural development to the neighborhood.”

Empowering immigrants and refugees both economically and socially, helping them integrate into our community and giving a sense of positive contribution can help break down barriers that may naturally occur when dealing with other languages, backgrounds, etc.

“While the city has more than 80 providers that do a tremendous job in assisting with welcoming refugees, we recognize the need to expand this,” Cullen says. “Art enables them to share their voice without a common language, build friendships and provide economic opportunity for them. We think we can do all of this while revitalizing two pivotal storefronts in Camp Washington's business district at the same time.”

The refugees participating in The Welcome Project yield from many areas of the world, including Bhutan, Eritrea, Somalia, the Congo, Syria, Guatemala, Mexico, Sudan and Iraq.

Refugee service organization Heartfelt Tidbits focuses on the “long welcome,” and supports refugees and immigrants through the transition of moving and adjusting to a new cultural environment. It helps with housing, language, employment, education and everything else that is needed that they may not receive during the first 45 days of support from the government.

“We're doing programming 3-4 times a week, which includes art and sewing classes, as well as a gathering space for refugees and immigrants to socialize and learn soft skills while making friends, learning English and picking up talents like crochet, needlework, beading, ceramic, and more,” Cullen says. “Right now, we only have the boutique half of the endeavor open, and only part way.”

The end goal is to have a full-service boutique that sells refugee-made goods and is able to employ and train them in both product development, manufacturing, store management and sales, as well as have a kitchen/cafe that does workplace training for restaurant and cooking/kitchen skills.

As for funding, The Welcome Project recently received a grant from the Haile Foundation to start a pilot for the retail half of the project. The program will bring much needed employment and workplace training to local refugee and immigrant women while paying them a live-able wage and offering childcare during their work hours. Mid-range art objects will be available for sale from contemporary artists in an effort to continue to support the refugees.

“The pilot is just starting — we're hoping to have fabrication begin this fall and have items for sale in the winter,” Cullen says.

For more information regarding The Welcome Project, as well as upcoming events and ways to get involved as a community member, click here or visit its Facebook page.
 


Jen Meeks has a unique relationship with one of the Zoo's biggest stars


At 5:30 on the morning of Jan. 24, Jen Meeks, dive safety officer at the Cincinnati Zoo, received an alarming text message: “There’s a hippo in your office.”

Meeks’s first thought, “Am I being punked?”

She was not.

In fact, this little surprise was merely the beginning of an extraordinary interaction between Meeks and the Zoo's famous Fiona.

When the premature baby hippo was born on a cold winter morning, the staff needed to find the warmest place — and fast. That just so happened to be a room adjacent to the dive office, located in the same building as the hippo enclosure.

“That’s really why I had anything to do with her in the beginning,” Meeks says. “At first, I just stayed out of the way. I didn’t get involved until it was time to dive.”

Before Fiona could be reunited wither her mother, she needed to learn to handle herself underwater.

In the wild, mother hippos guide their newborns through the water until they are capable of independence. But hippos don’t technically swim. They're negatively buoyant so they can settle on the bottom and feed on grass. When it’s time to come up for air, their bodies have just the right amount of buoyancy to help them jump to the surface.

Fiona's swim lessons started in baby pools and gradually moved up to the 5-foot indoor hippo pool.

For these deeper swims, the Zoo needed a safety diver in the water should Fiona need assistance.

Although Fiona knew Meeks before that first dive, she turned and took off the other way, into the arms of her favorite keeper when she saw Meeks in her underwater dive gear.

This left Meeks with a problem to solve. Before working at the Zoo, she dove for the Newport Aquarium, where her interactions with fish, sharks and rays meant wearing gloves and a mask that hide your eyes. She was used to simply ignoring the animals to prove she wasn't a threat.

But Meeks knew Fiona was different. “A lightbulb went on. She’s a toddler. She’s a baby mammal. I came back with a clear mask, took off my gloves and talked through my regulator. This was completely new. Here I am under water going, ‘Come on girl.’”

And it worked.

“It wasn’t long before she started ignoring the gear and we started playing chase games.”

For one hour five days a week, Meeks and Fiona played tag under water. Then it was time for the big pool, which is outside and with a depth of 10 feet.

They took it slow. The plan was to let Fiona swim into the deep end and give her two attempts to jump to the surface before helping her out.

The first few attempts at a big jump didn’t go smoothly and Fiona panicked. The divers reminded her of their support. And before they knew it, they were playing chase.

While she ended up standing on a diver’s head at one point, she quickly got the hang of it.

“I’m fairly certain I’m the first person to knowingly dive with a hippo,” Meeks says.

In Africa, hippos kill more people every year than any other animal. But not at the Zoo. “I knew it was going to be a one-time thing. Everyone did such an amazing job. That was just my little job. I learned something too.”
 


New Herzog Music in the CBD much more than record store

 

As soon as you walk into Herzog Music, it’s obvious that this place is more than a record store.

Andrew Aragon describes himself as the “day-to-day guy” at Herzog Music, which officially opened July 22. Aragon says Herzog was the brainchild of Elias Leisring, the owner of Eli’s BBQ.

“Even though he’s known for the barbecue, music is a huge part of his life — it’s a huge part of everyone’s life,” Aragon says.

Herzog Music resides in the former Herzog Studio, the last standing space where Hank Williams Sr. ever recorded. Leisring is a member of the Cincinnati Music Heritage Foundation, an organization that managed the studio space before Herzog opened.

“We’re here so we can bring awareness to that space, the history and its importance to the city,” says Aragon. “The ultimate end goal is to make sure that space is not only preserved, but transformed back into a working studio so we can keep the music heritage of Cincinnati flowing.”

The store prefers an “adopt, don’t shop” policy, stocking vintage records and antique musical instruments that range from rare guitars to well-loved saxophones and an Omnicord. Aragon says Herzog will acquire new things, but they are fortunate to have a diverse inventory. Their records span genres that represent a little of everything: Christmas albums, comedy, indie, R&B, classic rock and more.

“Overall, we want to facilitate not only people that play music; we want to be able to help out people that just love listening to it. We want to grow that community in the central part of downtown,” Aragon says.

In addition to its eclectic merchandise, Herzog endeavors to be more than a store.

It's also home to the Queen City Music Academy, where student musicians of all ages can take lessons. In the future, the space will host other educational opportunities for the community.

“We’re going to have everything from a kids’ folk puppet show to a clinic on how to spot vintage guitars and how to use microphones properly,” Aragon says.

Herzog hopes to draw residents and tourists to experience Cincinnati culture in a different part of downtown.

“It’s just like any culture, you experience the most of it through the food and the music,” Aragon explains. “We’re trying to put the best foot forward of our culture here through the things that we know the best.”
 

 


Family movie nights return to Avondale area with PL grant project


FamilyFlickn, a newly funded People’s Liberty project, is bringing back movie nights to the neighborhoods of Avondale, Bond Hill and Roselawn. The first event of a four-part free movie series will happen on Aug. 12.

PL project grantee and Bond Hill native Amber Kelly noticed the lack of opportunity for families in these neighborhoods to go to the movies. After almost 20 years in business, Showcase Cinemas in Bond Hill closed in 2009, and since then, the area hasn't had a movie theater.

Kelly describes the joy of taking her children to the movies, but says that the biggest hurdle is that it's expensive. She wanted to create the opportunity for families in her former neighborhood to experience that same family event without the steep costs.

Although Kelly now lives in Kennedy Heights with her family, she's involved in and invested in community building and saw this idea as an opportunity to bring together families and strengthen communities.

The movies will be shown at Mercy Health (1701 Mercy Health Place), at the same location as the former cinema. The first of four free movie nights will be shown on four party buses rented for the occasion, each showing a different movie. Fitting 25 people per bus, about 100 people will be able to enjoy a movie at a time. Movies include Boss Baby, Red Dog, Smurfs and Sing.

The event is first come, first serve, but Kelly didn't want to hinder those latecomers from attending; an overflow room at the Mercy Health complex will allow for those who didn't make it on the bus to catch a film.

"Because this was directly for the people, it was easier to obtain a grant,” Kelly says. FamilyFlickn fits within PL's vision to address challenges and enact change in communities.

Showtimes for the first FamilyFlickn are from 12 to 2 p.m. and 3 to 5 p.m. The next scheduled event is Oct. 22, which will feature two party buses and two showtimes (12 to 2 p.m. and 3 to 5 p.m.). The third one is Feb. 3 and will be held indoors (3 to 5 p.m.); a date for the fourth event hasn't been announced yet, but will be an outdoor screening.

More information and updates can be found at FamilyFlickn's website. All moviegoers will receive popcorn, candy and a drink.
 


Drink Local event to support businesses and engage the community


On July 29, Give Back Cincinnati will showcase an assortment of 25 locally made beverages at the Mockbee during its Drink Local event, which will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. The free event aims to introduce and promote local businesses, much like What's Feeding Cincinnati, which was held in 2015.

“We want to show the benefits of drinking local, and we’re trying to get people aware of how they can support local businesses,” says Brian McLaughlin of Give Back Cincinnati.

While Cincinnati's brewery scene is already a strong point of interest, drinking local doesn't just mean beer. It will bring together drinkeries from all over the city that specialize in a wide genre of beverages, including wine, coffee, tea, juice, kombucha, bubble tea and beer. More than 10 of these options will be non-alcoholic.

Attendees will be able to try wine from Skeleton Root, Skinny Piggy kombucha, Boba Cha bubble tea, Essencha teas, Smooth Nitro coffee and Rooted Juicery.

In terms of beer, the event will focus on smaller, lesser known breweries and some of their summer features. Woodburn Brewery will bring its Hans Solo, a coffee-infused blonde ale. Urban Artifact will have its Key Lime gose, and East Side breweries Streetside and Nine Giant will also be in attendance.

Give Back Cincinnati hopes to relay the benefits of drinking local and inform residents on how to do it. By drinking — and buying — local, residents and vistors alike are putting money back into the community and helping startups get a foot in the door.

Give Back Cincinnati is a volunteer nonprofit that strives to increase civic engagement between volunteers, local businesses and Cincinnatians. Its Civic Engagement Committee plans events that draw attention to timely issues in order to provide residents with a place to discuss and engage.

McLaughlin hopes that the Drink Local event will provide opportunities to forge new connections and fortify existing ones. A number of speakers will be on hand discussing their small business journeys and the importance of supporting local businesses.

You can register for the event and view a full list of participating local businesses here.
 


Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra to introduce new director during Summermusik festival


The Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra’s summer concert series, Summermusik, will help the group introduce and celebrate its new director, Eckart Preu. A variety of shows will be held in different locations around Cincinnati from Aug. 5-26.

LeAnne Anklan, general manager of the CCO says, "The CCO strives to make itself more assessable and relevant to different demographics."

While the CCO has maintained a loyal following over the years, it's gaining popularity. It's proud of the younger audiences that are now filling up the seats. Summermusik will include shows for both newcomers and seasoned audiences with opportunities to see shows in the evening and afternoon, as well as in and out of downtown.

Anklan describes the common misconception of chamber music to be very stuffy and boring. On the contrary, the CCO is hip and strives to produce creative and innovative music, offering a well-rounded experience for all. The musicians usually sit in a small venue or close to the edge of the stage to create an intimate experience for the audience.

Summermusik is unique in that it features three different types of concerts that are tailored to everyone's musical tastes.

For newcomers, Anklan says, the "Chamber Crawl" series is a good place to start. These events will be held at local bars like MadTree Brewing and The Cabaret at Below Zero. The short performances are about an hour long, and ticket prices include a drink and snack. After the performance, attendees get the chance to mingle with the musicians, including Preu.

This year's longer, more orchestral programs will be held at the SCPA and will include a prelude talk by Preu. These events coincide with themes and feature guest artists and speakers.

Lastly, the series "A Little Afternoon Music" is a softer option that will take place on Sunday afternoons away from downtown in neighborhoods like Mariemont and Covington.

The CCO's new director is also helping make the orchestra more accessible. “Eckart stood out in a number of ways, particularly for his creative approach to programming," says Anklan. "He is nice and down-to-earth, and the musicians play so well with him."

Check out the CCO's events page and purchase tickets ($25 for each show), as shows are quickly selling out.
 


New establishments are filling in holes in the Pleasant Ridge business district


While seasoned staples like Gas Light Café, Everybody’s Records, Pleasant Ridge Chili, the Loving Hut and Queen City Comics have kept the Pleasant Ridge business district afloat, the strip of Montgomery at Ridge Road with its vacant buildings has remained somewhat sleepy.

In the past few years though, new establishments including Nine Giant Brewing, Share: Cheesebar, Casa Figueroa, Molly Malone's, The Overlook Lodge and Red Balloon Café + Play have joined the community. Over-the-Rhine restaurant Revolution Rotisserie recently announced it will be opening in PR.

Emily Frank of Share: Cheesebar, which is set to open in August, has lived in Pleasant Ridge for the past four years. After moving back to Cincinnati to be with her family, she started a food truck (C'est Cheese), and her love for all things cheese lead her to open the Cheesebar in her neighborhood.

These plans were put on hold after a horrific accident that led to a trying recovery. Yet, she was encouraged by her Pleasant Ridge neighbors. She says the “community was insanely supportive” throughout her long recovery. 

Frank is a self-proclaimed “Ridger” through and through and couldn’t be happier about the developments.

Brandon Hughes, co-owner of Nine Giant, landed in Pleasant Ridge in what he calls a “Goldilocks” situation. The space and the neighborhood were just what he and his brother-in-law were looking for. Huges felt that at the time, the business district was underserved.

"We wanted to be part of a community and liked the idea of a revitalization,” he says. Nine Giant recently celebrated its one-year anniversary.

While newer businesses are filling in the gaps, the senior establishments have been standing strong for decades.

Matt Parmenper who’s been with Queen City Comic almost since it opened in 1987, is encouraging yet skeptical of all of the booming new businesses. “It’s great. It does seem trendy. Hopefully they do well.”

Longtime resident Dave Smith grew up in Pleasant Ridge, and he still lives there with his wife Debbie. “I’m excited about the city in general. It’s fun to see it coming back to life; fun to see people and businesses moving back here.”

Smith has watched the business district thin out. Although it’s never been totally empty, he describes the Pleasant Ridge he grew up in as a vibrant business district that declined with the opening of Kenwood Mall.

"Gaslight Café is a favorite watering spot of the locals, and Everybody’s Records has been there a long time too." 

There are still open spaces and local businesses are showing more interest. While parking is tough, there are plans for more strategic public parking in the making.

The neighborhood is hosting its Pleasant Ridge Day/Night from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday. Check out the event's Facebook page for more info.


New residential and commercial projects are making Madisonville a destination neighborhood


As part of a major overhaul that is drawing attention in the area, more than $355 million is being put toward the redevelopment of Madisonville, making the neighborhood a hotspot for new residents and visitors alike.

According to the Madisonville Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation, the transformation of Madisonville will be headlined with a $200 million project at the corner of Madison and Red Bank roads. The mixed-use space, all built on the 27-acre campus of the research company Medpace, will feature housing units and office and retail space.

“It’s really a gateway for a lot of people from Madisonville with tens of thousands of cars going through there every day,” says Matt Strauss with MCURC. “Maybe some of them that didn’t stop before will stop there now.”

Along with other city leaders, Strauss says that Madisonville isn’t trying to compete with other localities; they want to be recognized for being Madisonville, not Oakley, Hyde Park, etc.

The center of the new development will be the Dolce Hotel — renamed the Summit Hotel — a first for Cincinnati. The $80 million hotel is a high-end brand that will specialize in local conferences. It will feature 239 rooms with over 34,000 square feet of meeting space that will include 11,000 square feet of terrace and gardens. It is currently under construction on top of the former Medpace parking garage and the old NuTone factory.

Wyndham Hotel Management Group, which owns the Dolce Hotel brand, is already fielding calls from groups interested in using the hotel. The Summit is expected to be completed and will open in spring 2018.

Another large project in the transformation of Madisonville includes the redevelopment near Madison Road and Whetsel Avenue. The old Fifth Third Bank building, vacant for many years, is now home to restaurant space along with two second-story apartments. Lala’s Blissful Bites, a bakery and dessert shop, opened on the shared first-floor space in 2016.

For years, many of the properties along Madison and Whetsel were underused or vacant, acting as more of an eyesore to the area than a focal point. Since that time, Ackermann Group has worked on the redevelopment of three blocks within the area. This part of the project will include 185 residential units with 32 private residential garages, plus space for retail, amenities and leasable office space.

City Manager Harry Black and the City of Cincinnati city council outlined additions, including more public plaza areas, streetscape improvements and other public infrastructure improvements, in 2016.

Other areas of Madisonville are also seeing their own improvements, such as the addition of 20 homes within a subdivision off of Duck Creek Road, and the new Tap and Screw Brewery. It recenlty closed the doors on its Westwood location, but opened a microbrewery location on Red Bank Road last week.

Aside from major redevelopment projects that will provide jobs and a new spark to the neighborhood, Madisonville is also home to the Cincinnati Jazz and BBQ festival and the Madisonville 5K, both of which will be held at the intersection of Madison and Whetsel on Sept. 9.

Keep an eye out for more updates on construction and redevelopment in Madisonville, as well as local events and happenings, here.
 

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