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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.
 


Deschutes Brewery brings its street pub concept to town for a one-day fundraiser


Breweries are abuzz in Greater Cincinnati. As independent labels, entrepreneurs and growing companies make their mark on Cincinnati with one-of-a-kind beers, one one out-of-town brewery is ready to make its mark.

Oregon-based Deschutes Brewery is bringing its Street Pub to Cincinnati this weekend. For one day only, beer lovers can come to this one-stop shop to try more than 50 beers on tap with food creations that pair perfectly.

While a large selection of Deschutes craft beers — such as Black Butte Anniversary Series, Mirror Pond Pale Ale and Fresh Squeezed IPA — will be on tap, as well as local favorites from Moerlein Lager House and Blake’s Hard Cider.

Deschutes’ Corporate Executive Chef, Jeff Usinowicz, is teaming up with Cincinnati’s own Chef Joe Lanni, co-founder of the Thunderdome Group, and Chef Jared Bennett of Metropole, to provide tasty cuisine for the event.

Over the past two years, the 400-foot-long bar tour across the United States has raised more than $835,000; that money has been spread among charities specific to the areas visited. While in Cincinnati, Deschutes will be raising funds for the Starfire Council, which focuses on connecting the community to people with disabilities, as well as The Schubert-Martin IBD Center at Cincinnati Children’s, which cares for patients with Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis.

The brewery partners with organizations that share its philanthropic goals and culture within the communities the Street Pub visits.

Other cities on this year’s tour include Roanoke, Milwaukee, Portland and Sacremento. According to the marketing team at Deschutes, more than 140,000 people were in attendance among the seven events held on last year’s tour.

"All of the communities where we have taken Street Pub have responded with overwhelming support," says Joey Pleich, Deschutes' brewery field marketing manager.

Local bands will also be featured at the event, including The Buzzard Kings, HEBDO, CLUBHOUSE and Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas. The event is family-friendly, and activities like the Hydro Flask’s Skee Ball Challenge and Hydration Station (made by Black Dog Salvage of DIY Network’s "Salvage Dawgs"); Humm Kombucha’s Creation Station for collaborative art projects and activities; and KEEN Footwear’s activism center and lounge, photo booth, games and free shoe raffles will be scattered around the Street Pub. Karen Eland Art will also be on-site with a live art demonstration painted with beer.

While admission is free for all ages, $5 tokens will be available for purchase for those who wish to try the beers, which will be 14-oz. pours.

The event is from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. on June 24 at The Banks (Second and Vine). A “soft-opening” will be held at 11 a.m. for pride parade viewing and a preview of some of the beers.

For presale tokens, VIP tickets and more information, visit the event page or the Deschutes Brewery Street Pub Facebook page. If you are interested in volunteering at the event, you can sign up here.
 


New Montessori school will invest in more than just education


Caroline Caldwell imagined a school for her daughter where the focus was kindness rather than performance. “I just felt like I wanted something very specific for her,” she says.

Caldwell, along with Anna Ferguson, Brett Hornberger, Nayana Shah and Mark Stroud, founded Heärt Montessori, a school that will prioritize empathy and compassion, intertwined with core academics.

“It’s not that other schools don’t teach empathy and compassion but we wanted it to be the focus,” Caldwell says.

Heärt will educate children in a typical Montessori style, with an emphasis on developing higher self-esteem and high self-acceptance through yoga, meditation, mindfulness, art and music. Caldwell says it’s important for children to learn tools to be kinder human beings.

“The main impetus is for students to manifest the most exquisite version of themselves,” says Caldwell. “Now more than ever with kids being bullied and kids having low self-esteem, integrating practices like yoga, mindfulness and meditation helps kids deal with stress and pressure in a healthy way rather than taking it out on others.”

Heärt plans to start its inaugural pre-school/kindergarten learning group in Jan. 2018. Meanwhile, the school building, located at 268 Ludlow Ave., is undergoing renovations that reflect its philosophy of living in harmony with the earth.

“Sustainability is important,” Caldwell says. The renovations use sustainable, green materials whenever possible, like painting the interior walls with clay-based paint.

Green living and sustainability will permeate many aspects of the school’s programs and curriculum. After spending the first two hours of the morning on typical Montessori work, children will have extended “outside time.” Students can expect to learn using natural materials, exploring Burnet Woods and learning to tend the school’s garden.

“I get so excited for that opportunity for my daughter,” Caldwell says.

Heärt will provide healthy, organic, plant-based lunches and snacks for its students using the produce from the school's garden. Mark Stroud, one of the founders, is an acclaimed vegan chef who will prepare the nutritious meals.

“Optimally, we’ll be cooking food that we grow in season,” says Caldwell. “We’ll have healthy, plant-based meals that are organic and amazing.”

In the afternoons, students might take a nap, have one-on-one time with their teacher or take time for yoga, art, music or meditation.

Heärt is a private school and parents can enroll their children online via its website. Caldwell encouraged interested parents to attend an open house to learn more.
 


Walnut Hills selected as finalist for national placemaking grant


As part of its ongoing efforts to transform the future of Walnut Hills, the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation will compete for a highly competitive national placemaking grant.

The National Creative Placemaking Fund is made possible by ArtPlace America, a 10-year collaboration between 16 partner foundations, eight federal agencies and six financial institutions. This year, judges reviewed 987 applications from communities across the country that are investing money in arts and culture to help drive community development.

“The National Grants Program is actively building a portfolio that reflects the full breadth of our country’s arts and cultural sector, as well as the community planning and development field,” says ArtPlace’s Director of National Grantmaking F. Javier Torres. “Knowing that these projects, and the hundreds of others who applied, are using arts and culture strategies to make the communities across this country healthier and stronger is inspirational.”

Last week, Walnut Hills was announced as one of just 70 finalists for the award, based on the WHRF’s presentation of a plan that would use creative placemaking to tackle the issues surrounding Kroger’s departure from the community last year — a move that now classifies Walnut Hills as a food desert.

"Walnut Hills is an extremely resilient community and this proves that," said WHRF executive director Kevin Wright. "We're excited about this opportunity, it's the first of many steps were taking to ensure our residents have sustainable access to healthy food and groceries."

WHRF’s proposed project, CoMotion, will attempt to lessen the hardship of Walnut Hills residents post-Kroger through the use of creative placemaking measures that include providing a “welcoming, inclusive place within our $20 million Paramount Square project where people can get healthy, locally-grown produce, grab a nutritious drink with friends and hold community meetings, as well as participate in meaningful creative and social activities."

“This creative placemaking grant would allow us at the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation to build an inclusive grocery store and meeting place as part of the $20 million Paramount Square project,” says WHRF's healthy outreach coordinator Gary Dangel. “It will be designed by artists and be part of our strategy to address being a food desert.”

ArtPlace America director Javier Torres will be traveling for the next 12 weeks, visiting each of the 70 finalists and getting to know their projects prior to further narrowing the field of candidates.

“The National Grants Program is actively building a portfolio that reflects the full breadth of our country’s arts and cultural sector, as well as the community planning and development field,” says Torres. “Knowing that these projects, and the hundreds of others who applied, are using arts and culture strategies to make the communities across this country healthier and stronger is inspirational.”

Find a complete list of the 2017 applicants here.


The Mockbee is the place to be for local artists and musicians


In this dynamic time for Cincinnati, new bars, restaurants, parks and venues are popping up like weeds. But the venue at 2260 Central Parkway is a little different.

The first floor of the Mockbee Building, which is level with the Parkway, consists of two tunnel-like, white-washed rooms. Entering gives the sense that you're part of some hip secret. The walls trippily echo music unlike any other space in the city, and the white brick provides a stellar canvas for light shows.

While this isn’t the place to go for fancy cocktails, the bar features the best in local beers and weekly specials. The Mockbee hosts a variety of events, including music, comedy, art shows and community discussions — the intention is to provide a place for the local alternative.

The Mockbee has served Cincinnati in multiple ways before becoming the hub for local artists that is it today. What began as a brewery that sent its beer along the Miami-Erie Canal and hosted wine in its cool dark caverns, it then became C.M. Mockbee Steel.

Now in its next life, The Mockbee has morphed into a fluid underground artists’ space and is finally gaining stability and street cred. The unique and complex building on the hill is a one-of-a-kind venue. Its premise: locals only. While that rule isn’t law, it is the idea.

When Jon Stevens and Cory Magnas purchased the building in Nov. 2015, they wanted to contribute to the expanding culture of Cincinnati and focus on Cincinnati artists. “Weird art, weird parties, a local place,” Stevens says. “We’re not going to be a Bogart's. We’re not going to be a Woodward.”

Local musician Ben Pitz, who has been playing shows since before the reign of The Mockbee's new owners, says it’s continually his first choice. “By far my favorite venue in Cincinnati. The tough part is the draw.”

It’s not too well known — yet.

The Mockbee strives to be all inclusive. Stevens says that there is diversity from night to night and even within nights. Genres include but are not limited to electronic, EDM, hip-hop, ambient, some punk and rock. The cool thing, he says, is that some people are crossing over. People going to the hip-hop shows are going to the electronic shows and so on.

As the project expands, they are trying to get the word out. “Most people don’t even know we have a sound system. We have a sound system,” Stevens assures.

They are currently working to expand the venue to the second floor, which is larger with arched windows that overlook the West End. Stevens explains that all their energy is on that floor right now. Eventually, apartments will be available. They also have held some wedding receptions and private parties.

Those involved want The Mockbee to be the essence and the true heart of Cincinnati. Pitz thoughtfully comments: “This could be the start of the first truly dedicated artist space in Cincinnati.”

Upcoming events include:

  • Off Tha Block Mondays: A weekly open mic freestyle cypher
  • Speak: A monthly event held every third Thursday
  • Queen City Soul Club: All vinyl dance party held monthly
  • June 9: Prince’s Birthday Dance Party

And many, many more. Check out The Mockbee's Facebook page for a full list of events.
 


Old KY Makers Market returns to Bellevue for summer series starting June 17


A popular series of outdoor events will return to Bellevue this summer, celebrating community with locally made food, music, drinks, handmade goods for sale and more.

The Old Kentucky Makers Market was created by Kevin Wright and Joe Nickol, a pair of Bellevue residents who last year authored The Neighborhood Playbook, a field guide for activating spaces and spurring neighborhood growth. Nickol serves as senior associate for MKSK design firm and Wright is executive director of the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation.

"Development shouldn’t happen to a place, but with a place, and with the residents, and we're using The Neighborhood Playbook to make that happen in the town we love," says OKMM organizer Karla Baker. "What better way to showcase everything great going on in Bellevue than with a series of summer parties?"

Last year’s Makers Market events featured food from local favorites Eli’s BBQ, craft brews from Braxton Brewing Company, unique crafts and jewelry from local artisans and a chance for residents to gather and get acquainted in one of Greater Cincinnati’s most charming community settings.

"The goal is to create an event that brings together our Bellevue neighbors and friends, and also brings folks from all over the region to check out the awesomeness that Bellevue has to offer," says OKMM organizer Anna Hogan. “We've got great shops, restaurants, Darkness Brewing and new businesses opening all the time. We want people to know that all this exists, just five minutes from downtown."

This year’s series kicks off at 5 p.m. on June 17 and will feature the Comet Bluegrass All Stars and Kentucky-brewed beer from West 6th Brewing Company. The event will take place in Johnson Alley, behind the old Transitions Building in the 700 block of Fairfield Avenue.

Additional food and artisan vendors will be announced in the coming weeks, so stay tuned to the Old KY Makers Market Facebook page for details.

Interested vendors should apply here for OKMM events in June, August and October.
 


Upcoming Westwood Second Saturdays to showcase local flavor


Westwood is ready to party in the streets, thanks to the upcoming Second Saturdays festival series. Brought to Cincinnati’s largest neighborhood by the event organizers at Westwood Works, Second Saturdays aims to showcase local flavors and talent to the community and beyond.

The series, as the name implies, will be held on the second Saturday of every month on Harrison Avenue in front of Westwood Town Hall. Each month will feature a different theme, with this month’s theme of “Taste” promising to highlight a bevy of delicious treats and creations from local Westwood businesses.

Food will be provided by Avocados Mexican Restaurant and Bar, Diane's Cake Candy & Cookie Supplies, Dojo Gelato, Emma's All In One Occasions (Real Soul Food), Fireside Pizza Walnut Hills and U-Lucky DAWG food truck; beer will be provided by Blank Slate Brewing Company.

This year's events will feature a fun installment —  a 200-foot long table designed to encourage festival goers to forge new friendships. Guests who choose to participate have the option of assigned seating at the table, so as to sit next to new faces — all part of the community enrichment behind Westwood Works' mission.

Musical entertainment is courtesy of Young Heirlooms, Aprina Johnson and Skirt and Boots with Music MAN DJ Flyin' Brian Hellmann.

Second Saturdays comes at a time of revitalization for Westwood, with the neighborhood's central business district seeing a spate of new and exciting shops. Westwood Works, in conjunction with community stakeholders and donors, helps to connect locals with pertinent business strategies with an overall goal of further improving Westwood.

This party isn’t just for Westwood residents; admission is free to all. Second Saturdays aims to be a family-friendly event while serving the neighborhood and beyond.

This month's event is from 5 to 10 p.m. on June 10. The next Second Saturdays are July 8 ("Play"), Aug. 12 ("Splash") and Sept. 9 ("Create").

For more information on the Second Saturday series and future Westwood events, follow the group's Facebook page.
 


National Geographic Photo Ark on display at Cincinnati Zoo


Some of the most compelling photos of animals from zoos and aquariums around the globe are currently being featured at the Cincinnati Zoo.

National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore believes keeping the public engaged in the natural world through education, funding and other measures will help keep our most at-risk species alive. The photos Sartore took for the current exhibit — which will be on display now through Aug. 20 — were taken at Cincinnati Zoo, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and the Dallas Zoo.

Cincinnati is fortunate to have been selected for the debut tour of the Photo Ark. Sartore spoke at the zoo on May 31 about traveling the globe to photograph the unique animals that make up the exhibit.

“Joel’s work is phenomenal — he has an open invitation to photograph animals here,” says Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard. “His photos send the message that it is not too late to save some of the world’s most endangered species. This project has the power to inspire people to care.”

One unique aspect of this showcase is that it highlights conservation efforts that Cincinnati has maintained for several years. Six panels in the Cincinnati Zoo exhibition highlight conservation projects that the zoo funds or supports in other ways. These include:

- Sumatran Rhinos: The first Sumatran rhino to be bred and born in a zoo in over a century became part of the Cincinnati Zoo in 2001
- African Lion: The zoo runs Rebuilding the Pride, a community-based conservation program
- Western Lowland Gorilla: Through a partnership with the Republic of Congo, the zoo has helped to protect gorillas through research, education and more
- Cheetahs: The zoo is a leader in cheetah conservation efforts

Sartore estimates the completed National Geographic Photo Ark will include portraits of more than 12,000 species representing several animal classes, including birds, fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. It will be the largest single archive of biodiversity photographs to date. More than 50 of these photos will be featured at the zoo.

While the Ark focuses mainly on conservation efforts in zoos around the world, it is built upon the idea that the public can continue to be educated about the species and how they can get involved. Free educational materials and activities are available to enhance the viewing experience during the exhibition, and photo books are available for purchase in the gift shop as well.

Entry into the exhibit is free with general admission into the zoo.
 

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