Artworks Lets The Secret Out

Have you seen the painted pigs around town - like the sculpture in front of the Cincinnati Ballet's Central Parkway offices - or the giant murals located in about half of Cincinnati's neighborhoods and across the river in Covington? 

You can't spend more than a day in Cincinnati without encountering some public display of art produced by ArtWorks. Best known for the Big Pig Gig, a project launched in 2000, involving local artists and a horde of painted fiberglass pigs on display in the streets of downtown Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, ArtWorks completes projects utilizing the creativity and skill of local emerging artists. ArtWorks-sponsored art is on display all over the city. So, with such an extroverted style of public art, why is ArtWorks keeping secrets?

The mysterious Secret ArtWorks is expected to draw a crowd of over a thousand to the Westin Ballroom Friday, November 19. The annual fundraiser, in its fifth year, showcases over 1,000 pieces by more than 500 local and international artists. Each piece in the show is 5 inches by 7 inches- and totally anonymous, thus the "secret." The secret art is available for preview before the event, but the artist is undisclosed until it is bought. The secret is pulled off the wall, handed to the patron, and turned over to reveal the artist.  Regardless of who you are, you approach the art on an equal playing field. And it's a competitive playing field at that. The doors open for the event at 6 p.m. and patrons rush in to snag the secret of their choice. Stopping by the Westin lobby during the preview week November 14 - 18 gives patrons a better idea of where to find their favorite secret the night of the event in the ballroom.

Now, most collectors place utmost import on the artist, the producer of the art they collect. They can judge by the artist whether the art will retain or appreciate in value. But as patron John Arthur suggests, "Art is simply personal. Either you like it or you don't." By leaving the artist anonymous, it places the importance on pure aesthetics. Whether it's a Steve Powers or a Jarrett Jamison (the former is an internationally recognized artist, the latter is a local emerging artist), the art is judged for what it is rather than who made it.  ArtWorks has carved out a niche helping emerging artists and bringing art to the community at large, so it's only fitting they dedicate the night to celebrating art for art's sake.

Arthur and his partner Jim Obergefell have attended the event for the past few years and collected 15 secrets. "Art is personal, and it depends on what mood you're in. You go there and you're in such a good mood, so you buy a bunch of art," he says.

Once the purchase is made and the artist is revealed, patrons may be surprised by their purchase. By basing a purchase on aesthetics, first-time buyers may find a jumping off point for their art collection and long-time collectors may find that their tastes have changed. 

"There are about seven to eight hundred patrons at the event with all different tastes. There is no way to predict what will and won't sell," says Alex Eichler, Communications and Development Coordinator with ArtWorks. She says because the artists' names are kept secret, often times pieces by famous artists will remain unsold at the end of the night, whereas local, emerging artists are highly sought after.

One such emerging artist, Jarrett Jamison, has been involved with ArtWorks since he was 17. He started off as an apprentice during the first year of the MuralWorks program. He said the experience has aided him during his career.

"Being, able to dialogue with other artists, not only in class but in real life, helped me evolve as an artist," he says.

As such, Jamison contributes his own art for the event as well as volunteers to work during the event. And when he sees his piece sold, he knows he's helping both ArtWorks and himself. The projects he does with ArtWorks give him experience that he can then use to further his career as an artist. 

Ultimately, ArtWorks seeks to help artists and inspire the community to become more involved and interested in the arts. Secret is Artworks' biggest fundraiser of the year and the proceeds benefit different programs geared to employing students and local artists and connecting artists with opportunities.

Along with the Secrets, there will be a silent auction of 15 pieces of art from notable artists as well as "artful experiences" donated by local companies. The experiences range from a week at a South Carolina beach house to a membership to the Mercantile Library to jewelry. Patrons who buy one of eighty five Secrets with a golden ticket on the back, will have the opportunity to win a prize.

Secret ArtWorks is meant to provide a good time for everyone. Patrons can rush to get a Secret, or just enjoy the night with others who love the art and love the city. "It's a big celebration and positive vibes for ArtWorks being in existence for 15 years," says Jamison.

Photography by Scott Beseler.
Secret Artworks preview in the Westin lobby
Randa Kachef browses the Secrets at the 2009 show
Art is only half the story
Babies bust-a-move
What will you say, taken at 2009 Secret show

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