Soapdish: A bridge over sculpted waters
Not to get all mushy and metaphorical on you (and casting aside any aspersions of avoiding the predictable flourishes of hyperbole), but the 1872-era Purple People Bridge (switching now to basso profundo voice), with its majestic (albeit lavender), Pennsylvania Pratt trusses spanning the muddy banks and turbulent currents of the Mighty Ohio, stretching all the way from the pastoral meadows of Sawyer Point to the thriving Levee of Newport, represents nothing less than a physical and spiritual manifestation of the link between these two great states of Kentucky and Ohio, between the bustling burg of Newport and the big city northern lights of Cincinnati. This veritable iron-enforced, half mile pedestrian walkway of inter-state unity has proven to be a popular attraction since its opening in 2003 (other than that ill-conceived “bridge climb” business). Notwithstanding the accolades, many local wags continue to seize upon and draw corollaries among the symbolism inherent in what lies at the bridge’s two termini; i.e. on Cincinnati’s bank, the failed condo project One River Plaza; whereas on Newport’s end, the thriving Levee.
Naturally, it is not so black and white, notwithstanding the fact that critics like to carp and point at the Levee as an example of “Cincinnati screwing up as always,” proclaiming (to no one in particular) “why can’t we do something like that in Cincinnati?” Aside from the fact that there is a prime piece of cleared land on Cincinnati’s side awaiting a future project, I actually like both sides of the river. I enjoy the park, the serpentine wall, Sawyer Point and the trails. The Newport side offers its own unique twist of a different variety. Sure it can be a bit crass, over-commercialized and over-festivalized at times (Inland Seafood anyone? What does that even mean?), but then again, who doesn’t like a little crass commercialization and spoon fed entertainment? Each side has its own purpose, and I think there’s a nice asymmetrical distinction between the two. Besides, once the Banks project is up and running in a few years, people will cease casting a crooked digit across the river and, well, all will be forgiven (as long as there’s some patented crass commercialization and on our side as well).
In the meantime, however, many will trundle onto the bridge as we make our way south to Newport for movies, eatertainment and assorted other diversionary activities, while others will head north for Reds games, swimming, parks and recreational escapades.
That is, however, except for this weekend.
Beginning this Friday, and continuing through Sunday, the main thoroughfare of the Purple People Bridge will be taken over by the Riverspan Sculpture Exhibition and Sale
, a merry and very talented band of national and international sculptors, each displaying their diverse works in a variety of media, all with the backdrop of the bridge, the skylines and the Ohio River for added aesthetic enhancement. It really is a unique venue, fully tented for both the artists’ as well as the patrons’ enjoyment and protected from the elements, albeit in an open-air setting above the water. There’s only one similar event out there in the art world, and that’s in Loveland, Colorado
. Accordingly, a successful Riverspan could be the type of name-brand, hang-your-hat on style of event that is identified solely with this region. Moreover, it’s something both Cincinnati and Newport can share equally. Methinks that’s a pretty good thing.
This is only the second year for the Riverspan event, the brainchild of local fine art broker and consultant, Bruce Olson. Last year’s inaugural event was five years in the making for Olson, and he’s hoping to build on the momentum of the first year and establish this as a destination event in the region for years to come. Although, as a new event attempting to elbow its way into the crowded jumble of mid-June Cincinnati calendars, Riverspan failed to hit its (perhaps over-optimistic) attendance targets for last year, the event was more than successful enough to warrant a return engagement, and the hope is, with more familiarity and better advance publicity (ahem), the 2009 event will prove to be even more successful.
This year, 80 sculptors were juried into the exhibition, representing four continents, six nations and 27 American states, with approximately 800 original works of fine art sculpture on display for your viewing and purchasing pleasure. [note of full disclosure here in order to avoid any accusations of bias or favoritism in a column which always runs full throttle with naked bias and unabashed favoritism: my eldest brother displayed at Riverspan last year and will do so again this year]. The regular admission price for adults is $15, and free for children under 15 with an adult. The event also features a $75 per person charity preview on Friday night, dubbed the “Patrons Walk,” with the usual food, entertainment and high-end refreshments provided for those patrons so inclined. That said, however, just for being a super-special Soapbox reader, be sure and read to the end of this column for an ultra-wunderbar deal of the century.
This is no art fair with garden sticks. The artists are serious and highly acclaimed, and the works run the gamut from bronze busts of stoic American Indian figures to monumental pieces of pure abstract expressionism, ranging in price from $225 to $90,000. Moreover it’s for a good cause. Funds raised go to support the maintenance and operation of the bridge, which is maintained by the non-profit Newport Southbank Bridge Company.
Holding the show on the bridge, the country’s longest, all-pedestrian bridge that links two states (for those of you that keep track of such things) is truly one of those unique events that can make a lasting mark here. Although the region’s beer and knockwurst festivals are highly successful, they generally tend to draw from the immediate region. (And don’t get me wrong, folks…I’m not looking to knock the bocks and knocks…I love the bocks and knocks….hey even some of my best friends are bocks and knock…yet I digress.) Riverspan has the potential to draw from the entire Midwest and Eastern Seaboard as it grows into its own, just as the event in Colorado has done, now in its 26th year. Here’s hoping this year’s event continues the streak and establishes roots for years to come. With assorted politicians, celebrities and glitterati in town for the Civil Rights Game on Saturday night, this is truly the region’s moment to shine. Having a world class event such as Riverspan in the epicenter of the festivities can only burnish that shine.
But wait. That’s not all!
The “Soapbox Riverspan Deal of the Century™” is as follows:
Photography provided by Farrer Coston, contributing sculptorand by River Span Sculpture GroupDavid Petlowaney
- Although it costs $75.00 at the gate the night of the Patrons Walk, if you, dear Soapdish readers, enter and apply the patented Soapbox discount code of RS-2709 (exclusively assigned to Soapbox!), you will receive an amazing discount of 20%, which is equally applicable toward the general admission for Saturday/Sunday as well.
- The Patrons Walk card serves as a weekend pass card, which is transferable.
- The Patrons Walk cards also provide a 10% discount on sculpture purchases, the cards’ face value is $100.00 so holders can save $100.00 on a $1000.00 purchase or save $25.00 on four, $250.00 purchases. Again the card is transferable.
- Those purchasing any artwork for $90,000 or more (individually or collectively) receive a free set of high end steak knives.
- That last bullet point was a joke. See you at Riverspan.