ArtWorks has been gradually transforming Greater Cincinnati into an outdoor art gallery since 1996 with its creative murals and other works. Currently, there are 180 murals in 44 of the 52 neighborhoods in the region, and ArtWorks continues to add more.
At our first stop, we got to see the early stages of a new mural installation. The wall had been painted white and young apprentices were sketching the design onto the wall. Deborah Stevens, Artwork’s Development Coordinator, explained that what makes ArtWorks different than many other cities’ mural programs is the participation of paid youth apprentices working alongside professional artists.
Each mural is sponsored by at least one community partner. Fresh Harvest is a popular mural that was sponsored by the Kroger Company and designed by Cincinnati artist Jonathan Queen. A guided tour is an ideal way to learn more about the background of the artists and the history of each project. This painting of a crate of fresh produce tipped on its side looks incredibly realistic.
Guides also point out details you might not notice on your own. The trompe l’oeil technique is used in Homage to Cincinnatus to trick your eye into thinking that some of the details are three-dimensional. Look closely and you’ll see that the windows and architectural details on the left side are real, while those on the right were painted.
The murals aren’t merely decorations; they are celebrations of Cincinnati’s heritage. Cincinnati Toy Heritage honors the iconic toys developed by the Kenner Products Company, which was founded in Cincinnati and is now owned by Hasbro Inc. I think it would hard to find someone who hasn’t played with at least one of these toys.
Fiona and Bibi at the Cincinnati Zoo commemorates Cincinnati’s celebrity hippopotamus. This paint-by-number-style mural involved the public from start to finish. The Cincinnati Enquirer conducted a poll to select the design. ArtWorks sold tickets to interested people for time slots to help paint the mural.
A Cincinnati Masters Series honors some of the famous artists who studied in Cincinnati, including John A. Ruthven and Charley Harper. I learned that both of them studied at the same time at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, yet developed completely different styles of painting birds.
Learning about these murals made me want to learn more about the other murals. Fortunately, there are guided tours as well as self-guided options.
Guided Tours are held Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 AM and 11:30 AM. Tours last approximately 90 minutes, cover about one mile, and cost $20 per person.