A walk through Cincinnati’s rich history of Black musicians

Meet the super-charged project participants that got it built. Cincinnati's Black Music Walk of Fame; the latest gem to grace the riverfront.
Cincinnati’s rich history is well documented through its iconic museums. However, static artwork doesn’t always captivate the viewer, especially those Gen Z and younger. And the prism of history often doesn’t present an inclusive viewpoint for many populations.

Celebrating a too-often-unsung facet of history requires intention. The many players that co-created the Cincinnati Black Music Walk of Fame masterfully delivered a celebration of the city’s rich history of African-American musicians that have contributed to American pop, funk, R&B, hip-hop, and more genres.

It began as the brainchild of Hamilton County Commissioner Alicia Reece, with funding approved in April 2021 and construction beginning the subsequent October. The $8.5 million project, which wedges neatly between the Andrew J. Brady Music Center and Paycor Stadium, provides an inviting stroll through Queen City Music history.

The Black Music Walk of Fame’s many facets create an engaging kinetic space that brings history to life. Three classes of inductees have been enshrined in the Walk, including Bootsy Collins, The Isley Brothers, Otis Williams and the Charms, and Dr. Charles Fold in 2021, Penny Ford, Wilbert Longmire, Midnight Star, and Hi-Tek in 2022, and James Brown, The Deele, Louise Shropshire and Philippé Wynne in 2023. Four more artists will be inducted this coming July – and every year thereafter – and receive their own terrazzo star, in conjunction with the Cincinnati Music Festival, a Cincinnati summer fixture since the 1960s.

Phil Beck, who served as the county’s project executive, said learning more about the city’s musical history has been an enjoyable education. He said the project’s scope remained fairly consistent through its progression, noting that the most notable change was the increased use of interactive elements.

“Technologies such as AR have improved rapidly, and it seemed like a great opportunity to provide more engagement and excitement,” he said.

Murray Monroe, the lead project architect for THP Limited, which serves as the project’s architect of record, said frequent and detailed communication was essential for the project’s success.

“In the early days of the project, we were still deep in COVID-19,” he said. “It required careful documentation and talking more frequently to make sure that so many project participants were on the same page.”

There’s space on the Walk for 200 honorees, so we can look forward to decades of performers who have enriched Queen City culture. Enjoy this gallery that captures the Cincinnati Black Music Walk of Fame’s dynamic elements.
Josh Beeman Photography
Downtown-based THP Limited served as the Cincinnati Black Music Walk of Fame’s architect of record and structural engineer. Construction began in October 2021 and the Walk opened in July 2023 with much fanfare. Nightfall delivers a brilliant light show, when the “takeover” occurs, and a dance party begins.

Josh Beeman Photography
The Walk features four kiosks that use motion sensors and vibrant video content to engage visitors. As the project unfolded, incorporating interactive elements became a high project priority.

Josh Beeman Photography
The Walk’s interactive showstopper is an interactive screen that allows viewers to become part of the show by taking their marks to convey their image onto the big screen while they jam along to a Parliament Funkadelic song.

Murray Monroe, THP Limited
Cincinnati’s Jack Rouse Associates designed all of the Walk’s interactive elements, which included an interactive drum kiosk that invites visitors to keep time with the music it plays – with a light show as a reward if they’re successful.

Steve Aust
West Chester-based Kleingers Group executed the Walk’s landscape architecture and the engineering of the site’s storm-drainage system. The flora’s design emphasizes resilient plants with staggered blooming seasons to maintain brilliant hues. Purple spherical alliums were the stars on this mid-May day.

Murray Monroe, THP Limited
Granite hardscapes and terrazzo-tile Walk of Fame stars provide a handsome, durable face that will last for as long as there are stars to fill and provide a contrast that lets the landscaping and the colorful interpretive panels take the lead.

Josh Beeman Photography
A daytime panoramic view of the Walk of Fame. The project has earned accolades such as an Excellence in Construction Award from the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) and, last November, an Honor Award in the category of Landscape Architecture & Community Planning  Implementation at the 27th Annual Cincinnati Design Awards.

Project Participants
  • THP: Executive architect/architect of record and structural engineer. Managed design team and coordinated architectural work with other consultants (Landscape, structural, mechanical/electrical/plumbing, interactive elements, signage, etc.)
  • MMA: Design architect (overall design direction of architectural elements)
  • Jack Rouse Associates: Interactive elements designers (including Walk of Fame video and augmented reality screens, dance floor monitors, ramp kiosks, site signage, site lighting towers, interactive drum, etc), as well as coordinating with Trivium and ESI to ensure all hardware and software worked together.
  • Kleingers Group: Landscape architect and site civil engineer (site storm drainage design).
  • DNK: Building code review and project management of schematic phase of interactive element design
  • Heapy: Mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection engineering.
  • B&N: Civil engineering (underground sewer design).
  • Bright Technologies: Security system design
  • Kolar Design: Garage signage design
  • MSP: Surveyor
  • Trivium: Interactive elements software designer/producer.
  • ESI: AV engineering design of interactive elements and site audio/speakers
  • Abernathy: Site lighting design
  • VPT: Logo design
  • Starboard: Public relations
  • Messer: Construction management
  • MBJ: Site safety
  • Universal: General contractor (park and interactive elements, including all stonework)
  • Siemering: Terrazzo star fabrication/installation
  • Monarch: Above-grade concrete contractor (support structures for the stone elements)
  • Baker: Garage concrete contractor
  • Prus: Site civil contractor (sidewalk and streetscapes)
  • Beatty: Pile contractor (pile foundations)
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Read more articles by Steve Aust.

Steve is a freelance writer and editor, father, and husband who enjoys cooking, exercise, travel, and reading. A native of Fort Thomas who spent his collegiate and early-adulthood years in Georgia, marriage brought him across the river, where he now resides in Oakley.