Betts House exhibit reveals past visible through modern lens

What better way to experience the beauty and diversity of Cincinnati’s historic architecture than within the walls of its oldest brick house?  

Forward Into the Past, an art exhibit custom-tailored to its venue, will open at the historic Betts House on Jan. 12. 
Photographer Jens Rosenkrantz, Jr,. combines a variety of historic and contemporary materials to reveal long-ago places and scenes, which remind viewers “that in a city like Cincinnati, the past is ever present through the historic architecture and streetscapes we encounter daily,” says Julie Carpenter, executive director of Betts House.

Rosenkrantz, local artist, entrepreneur and partial owner of Clifton’s La Poste Eatery and Django Western Taco in Northside, uses a variety of techniques to recreate century-old views of the city.  

Finding old maps at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, he overlaid them with historic photographs for an aerial and street-view of 19th century Cincinnati. In other photographic landscapes, the artist removed reminders of modern life—telephone lines, stop lights—and reveals the unadulterated historic authenticity that many of the city’s streetscapes still process, viewed from behind the frames of old windows salvaged from Building Value

“We spend most of our time living in a house or working in a building, but we seldom think about the built environment,” says Carpenter. “A great way to think about that is from an artist’s perspective.”   

This show is the final exhibit in the Betts House’s 2012-2013 series, The Art of the Built Environment, supported by a Project Support Grant from ArtsWave.

The Betts House, built in 1804 and located in the Betts-Longworth Historic District near downtown, is the only local museum that explores the history of the built environment through architecture, building trades and materials, construction technologies and historic preservation.  

Do Good:

• Visit Forward Into the Past, which will run from Jan. 12-Feb. 28 at the Betts House, two blocks west of Music Hall at 416 Clark St.

Donate time or funds. Historic homes require regular maintenance and upkeep; consider a donation to the Betts House or help with its house tours or public programs. 

• Stop by Jens Rosenkrantz’s studio at The Pendleton Art Center to see his work, which ranges from history-inspired pieces to abstract and contemporary material.

By Becky Johnson
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