Contemporary Arts Center announces new Creativity Center

Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center has announced plans to redesign the sixth floor of its landmark Zaha Hadid-designed building and open a new Creativity Center.

The Creativity Center, an environmentally conscious hub for creative learning, is intended to amplify the CAC’s commitment to fostering innovation and curiosity in audiences of all ages. The Creativity Center project will transform the sixth floor of the Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art – an interactive gallery and education space formerly known as the UnMuseum – into an intergenerational learning space centered around creativity and exploration connected to the art and ideas of our time.

The CAC has partnered with Chicago-based architecture firm Mir Collective to realize this new paradigm for learning within the museum space, which will merge interactive galleries, ample making spaces, and community-centric gathering and gallery areas – with a focus on environmental sustainability. Initial construction work on the Creativity Center began this past October, and the project is slated for completion in late summer 2022.

Marcus Margerum, CAC interim director

“As a non-collecting institution, the core of our work at the CAC revolves around the creative process of artists, performers and makers around the globe and local artists from our region,” said Marcus Margerum, the CAC’s Interim Alice & Harris Weston Director. “The Creativity Center not only gives us more room to expand the work we’re currently doing with visual and performing arts programming, artist residencies, learning and community-based initiatives, and hands-on intergenerational engagement, but also to reinvent the notion of the contemporary arts institution as a robust resource for creativity. We are excited to partner with Mir Collective on this groundbreaking project, as their creative approach to community engagement, sustainability, and inclusivity aligns closely with our own mission and values as an institution.”

Mir Collective is an architectural practice that creates positive public impact through collaborative, inclusive, and innovative design. Mir works within and beyond the traditional scope of architectural projects, helping envision, communicate, and realize big ideas that address relevant and complex issues of our time. Mir’s work on spaces for education, performance, exhibit, gathering, work, and leisure have been recognized by the AIA, SEED network, and the National Endowment for the Arts.Mir principals Kara Boyd, Jeana Ripple, and Todd Zima bring a wealth of experience to their practice to advocate for positive design impact with our clients, colleagues, and community.

“Even throughout the pandemic-induced challenges of the past two years, the CAC has remained committed to championing creativity in our communities, offering virtual programs, distributing art-making kits for at-home use, and supporting local artists through grants and residencies,” said Gale Beckett, president of the CAC’s board of trustees. “Through the Creativity Center, the CAC hopes to instill in future generations the capacity to be hyper-creative and hyper-entrepreneurial, empathetic and curious, while remaining environmentally conscious.”

A rendering of the new CAC Creativity Center

The redesigned sixth floor will continue to host the UnMuseum, and will also expand to incorporate a large studio and a network of pavilions for exploration and gathering. Mir Collective’s design opens up the floor to Hadid’s “urban carpet,” intending to create a brighter, more inviting space that is integrated physically and programmatically with the city and its communities.

With 10,000 square feet of flexible space, the new Creativity Center will invite visitors to engage with art, connect with others, and use creative experimentation as a means to explore the increasingly complex issues of humanity, including environmental sustainability, global awareness, identity, health and wellbeing, and innovation.

At the core of the Creativity Center project is the CAC’s continued commitment to environmental sustainability, reflected in the addition of a zero-waste, upcycling art lab, and the use of sustainable and repurposed materials in the construction of the pavilions and other design elements. Art-making activities that take place in the Creativity Center will focus on the use of natural materials, many of which will be sourced through the CAC’s ongoing partnerships with the Cincinnati Parks and others. These elements, along with other ongoing programs, bolster the CAC’s commitment to recycling, composting, using non-toxic materials, and achieving a 50% reduction of energy use, water consumption and transportation emissions by the year 2030. The project will also support the CAC’s pursuit of LEED certification for Operations and Maintenance (O+M) for its entire building.

Key elements of the Creativity Center:

  • A zero-waste art lab where recycling, upcycling, and other forms of zero-waste and net-positive waste systems will be explored
  • A large studio hosting intergenerational creative programs that deploy a full suite of analog and digital tools for making and creative experimentation
  • The updated UnMuseum® interactive gallery, with projects by local and national artists that engage visitors in a hands-on exploration of the complexities of our world
  • An archipelago of pod-like pavilions, offering a series of work niches for welcoming creative exploration opportunities and small gathering or comfortable observation of the studio activities
  • An experimental “town square”-type space for art-inspired discourse with city skyline views through CAC- and community-curated programming
  • An ever-changing community gallery with increased visual connection to the urban carpet and galleries below, dedicated to celebrating the creativity of CAC visitors of all ages by inviting them to display their own work

Fundraising is underway for the $4.9 million project, which includes construction costs and ongoing support. Of the $4.6 million of private and public funding that has been raised to date, generous gifts have come from Rosemary and Mark Schlachter, Alice Weston, Marilyn Scripps, Lynne Meyers Gordon, the Kroger Company, the Jacob G. Schmidlapp Trusts, Fifth Third Foundation, the Kettering Foundation, the Thomas J. Emery Memorial Fund, and from the State of Ohio and the City of Cincinnati.  

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