Three hundred birds will invade Northside this November, taking up residence in 14 local businesses, including Shake It, Happen Inc., Toy Lab, Taylor Jameson Hair Salon, Schaeper's Pharmacy, WordPlay, Tantrum and the library.
But rather than fear a Hitchcockian redux, neighbors and local businesses are welcoming the colorful new flock as symbols of the opening of Cincinnati Public Schools' Parker Woods Montessori in the neighborhood.
As students in preschool through grade 6 prepare to move from their location on Winton Road and leave behind their identity as Winton Montessori, faculty and staff are working to facilitate and support the transition. While classes will begin at the former Schwab Middle School in Northside Nov. 14, birds decorated by the Montessori students land in local shops Nov. 1.
The project is the brainchild of art teacher Suzanne Nall, a 12-year veteran at the school and former Northside resident. "I wanted the children to be participants in our move from one neighborhood to the next," she says.
On a summer trip to Cape Cod, Nall was inspired by public art displays that incorporated bird baths and birdhouses.
"It occurred to me that great public art didn't have to be a complicated endeavor to make a lasting impression," she says. She liked using the idea of birds as symbols of the move, with students setting them free and then having them find their way "home" to Northside.
She has been working with Northside businesses to determine where to hang the papier-mache birds, which will each dangle from 10-foot-long wire.
The bird project has been a two-month process, with students making each of their birds unique. "The birds themselves are as individual as the children," says Nall, 42, who is also the mother of twins second-graders Parker Woods. "Some are quite realistic, while others are elaborately decked out with patterns and gems."
Now that the students know which businesses will display birds, some are lobbying for placement. Nall appreciates their enthusiasm. "I hope many students experience the exhibition piece to the work, and get to see others reacting to the birds when they are hung in the shops."
Though she now lives in Mt. Washington, Nall still considers herself a Northsider at heart, and hopes that the bird project is the first in a series of collaborations with her school's new community.
"Northside is rich in character, art and eclecticism," Nall says. "Reaching out to the neighborhood from the art classroom seems like a very natural extension of our creative process."
• Visit Parker Woods Montessori parent organization website
to find out more about the move.
• Check out more about Cincinnati Public Schools facilities master plan
• Visit Northside
Nov. 1 to check out the birds once they have landed in their new neighborhood homes.
By Elissa Yancey
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DISCLOSURE: Elissa lives in Northside and is a co-founder of WordPlay, which will host some of the Parker Woods birds. In addition, one of her sons attends a Cincinnati Public School (not Parker Woods).