For the residents of Walnut Hills, the African-American culture is vital to the redevelopment of the neighborhood. One way to keep the culture prominent is through art.
The Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation, the Walnut Hills Historical Society and MORTAR are working to put together the Lincoln Art Project. The project aims to bring back some of the lost history of the African-American community through research, murals and events.
The three-part project is still in the infant stages, but the first portion — the research of African-American businesses in Walnut Hills — is already finished.
Next, local artist Janet Creekmore will paint murals based on submitted stories of the neighborhood's African-American community. The murals will be painted on storefronts on the corner of Lincoln and Gilbert avenues.
Lincoln was once a prominent area for African-American shops but has been abandoned due to the expansion of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
“If you look at development all around Cincinnati, all around the world, there's always a historical preservation committee or something and often times, African-American communities are left out of the equation,” says Aprina Johnson, community outreach coordinator for the WHRF.
By helping to preserve the African-American culture, the Lincoln Art Project will help add African-Americans back into the equation.
“There's value there; there's worth there — I want people to see that,” Johnson says.
The third part of the project is to continuously have art-related events in the area that demonstrate African-American culture.
“Most of the children that go to school in Walnut Hills are African-American, so to have that place where they can go and see and interact with art rather than a plaque or book is really exciting,” says Johnson. “They don't have to think about things, they see it and say ‘Oh I'm here, it's real so I can actually follow in these people's footsteps. I can actually do this.’”
The WHRF, the City of Cincinnati and the Greater Cincinnati Redevelopment Authority, with the help of the Cincinnati Development Fund and the Haile Foundation, purchased the properties that the murals will be painted on.
Many of the people in the community, as well as outside of the community, are in favor of the project.
The project will revamp the cosmetic look of the Lincoln and Gilbert intersection and bring people of all races from all over Cincinnati to the neighborhood.
“Sometimes it's like people don't want to shop in a black community,” says Johnson. “They'd rather shop in another community and once this all blossoms, this will be a business district where people of all races and nations and belief systems will come and find it valuable.”