Cincinnati named top street art city in U.S.

With events like BLINK and a citywide museum of outdoor murals, Cincinnati has long been known to residents and visitors as a great public art city. But after its best showing yet in a national contest, the rest of the world now knows that’s the case as well.

The Queen City came in first in the 2024 USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards for Best City for Street Art.

This marks Cincinnati’s fourth consecutive appearance in the top 10 of the fan-voted contest. However, this is the first time it finished atop the list. The city was the runner up in both 2021 and 2022, followed by an eighth-place finish last year.

Cincinnati was one of 20 nominated cities selected by a panel of experts, including USA TODAY editors, editor and influential contributors. The public then spent four weeks voting for their favorite city.

With the win, Cincinnati beat out major art powerhouses such as New York City, Philadelphia, Nashville, Miami and Washington, D.C. Also in the top 10 were Detroit, Oklahoma City and Portland, Ore.

Richmond, Va. finished in second place.

“Being the No. 1 city for street art is a testament to ArtWorks’ longstanding commitment to prioritizing community-based partnerships, listening to community voices, hiring local artists, celebrating heritage and elevating civic pride,” said Colleen Houston, the CEO of ArtWorks, a local nonprofit dedicated to promoting art throughout the region.

Decades of investment in public art

Since its inception in 1996, ArtWorks is responsible for more than 14,000 public and private art projects that have shaped Cincinnati’s cityscape. That includes more than 300 permanent murals spread across downtown, Over-the-Rhine, Walnut Hills and dozens of other Cincinnati neighborhoods. 

The 10Best editors listed “Mr. Tarbell Tips His Hat,” “The Golden Muse,” “Mr. Dynamite” and “Ice Cream Daydream” murals as their favorites.

With a dedicated mural program since 2007, ArtWorks provides jobs for artists and youth apprentices. But the program is also investing in and beautifying neighborhoods by converting boring building walls – some in a state of severe disrepair – into colorful, one-of-a-kind works of art.

ArtWorks offers mural tours.

Those murals truly come to life every other year during BLINK through the use of projection mapping and light-based installations. BLINK returns Oct. 17–20. However, fans can enjoy their beauty throughout the year. ArtWorks even offers self-guided or guided tours. 

Houston said that’s the essence of public art – making world-class creations accessible to everyone, all the time. She described Cincinnati as working to create a “living, breathing gallery,” capable of captivating locals and visitors alike. 

“Our process is just as important as these gorgeous works of art, which have forever changed our city,” said Houston, who’s also ArtWorks’ artistic director. “This award celebrates all who have been involved, from youth artists, professional artists, building owners, community councils, nonprofit partners and the city of Cincinnati.”

What to create next?

In September, Houston attended the first National Street Art Summit in Detroit on behalf of ArtWorks and the city of Cincinnati. The event brought together arts leaders from the 2023 10Best Top Ten Cities in America to discuss the rising mural movement, city initiatives to encourage mural art, mutual learning opportunities, and ideas for supporting artists.

Plans are underway for a second Street Art Summit for the 2024 10Best Top Cities.

Before that, though, ArtWorks will be hard at work creating more works of public art across Greater Cincinnati. There are dozens of projects planned for this spring and summer.

“Together with you, we celebrate the vibrant cultural landscape that defines our city and look forward to continuing to co-create a brighter future,” Houston said.

Best City for Street Art

  1. Cincinnati
  2. Richmond, Va.
  3. Philadelphia
  4. Oklahoma City
  5. Detroit
  6. Portland, Ore.
  7. Miami
  8. Nashville, Tenn.
  9. Washington, D.C.
  10. New York

10Best: Best Street Art Cities

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