To mark 10 years, Red Door Project becomes ArtWorks program

For nearly a decade, the Red Door Project has existed as a private art-driven initiative focused on transforming vacant retail spaces into opportunities for Greater Cincinnati creatives to showcase their talent.

Now as the endeavor prepares to celebrate its 10th birthday, ArtWorks is taking over creative leadership with the hopes of bringing the effort to the next level.

Founded in 2014 by Barbara Hauser, the Red Door Project started as a pop-up gallery in Over-the-Rhine. She envisioned it as a way to help people see the potential of underused spaces in OTR as well as other parts of the then-up-and-coming neighborhood. It was also a way to provide financial support to artists by giving them a traditional gallery space to present and hopefully sell their work.

Under Hauser’s guidance, the initiative has grown over the past decade, transforming empty street-facing retail spaces in downtown Cincinnati, Clifton, Walnut Hills, Newport and Covington into art destinations. Red Door events have also taken place in more prominent venues such as Alcove by MadTree Brewing, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Cincinnati Observatory and Cincinnati Art Museum’s Art Climb.

Barbara Hauser, founder of The Red Door Project, and Joe Girandola, president of the Art Academy of Cincinnati, posing with pieces of Red Door art.

Ahead of Red Door Project’s 10th anniversary, Hauser – an external community veteran with Procter & Gamble – decided to let ArtWorks handle operations moving forward because of its history of large-scale programming.

Hauser voiced excitement about the future of her passion project. She’ll be one of those in attendance at the formal “handover” celebration at the Art Academy of Cincinnati on Friday, April 26.

“The Red Door Project is all about making art accessible, to buy and sell,” Hauser said. “Our community is filled with a wide range of creatives, and we want to give them a platform to exhibit and sell their work and make connections with the art community.”

Taking the relationship to the next level

Hauser said she’s been searching for the right nonprofit to house the Red Door Project for a while to enhance its long-term impact. She approached CEO Colleen Houston and the rest of the ArtWorks leadership team last year. 

Hauser has been a member of the ArtWorks board since March 2021.

In announcing the move, Hauser stressed an appreciation for ArtWorks’ experience of running a range of community endeavors, namely calls to artists and learning experiences for young artists. In 2021, ArtWorks opened the V2 Gallery in Walnut Hills in a vacant storefront for emerging creatives and artists-in-residents.

ArtWorks’ relationship with the Red Door Project isn’t new, either. In 2015, for instance, they collaborated as part of ArtWorks’ Ink Your Love campaign. Ink your Love celebrated the Queen City through the Cincinnati Tattoo Project. Red Door artists created works based on the theme of “Love &,” and presented them during that year’s ArtWorks gala.

Together, ArtWorks and Red Door Project have shared more than 50 easels at numerous exhibitions over the past 10 years.

Colleen Houston

Houston – who’s also ArtWorks’ artistic director – said her nonprofit is proud to be increasing the number of opportunities for artists. She described Red Door as a platform to engage a broader range of artists across the region. “It is open to all to participate.”

As the Red Door Project embarks on this new chapter, Houston stressed ArtWorks will continue its longstanding mission to invest in local communities and the artists who live there.

“This is a great fit since ArtWorks co-creates art throughout the Cincy region and is all about creating economic opportunities for artists of all ages and backgrounds,” she added.

Paint the town ‘Red’ and support local artists

The handover event taking place at the Art Academy is fitting in many ways. Since late 2020, AAC has been the driving force behind the Red Door Project. The OTR-based college played a key role in supporting it during a “uniquely trying time for creatives during the pandemic,” Hauser said.

Beyond the formal ceremony, the celebration at ACC’s SITE1212 exhibit hall will double as the next Red Door Project. The theme is rEvolution. This round is open to artists of all ages. The Red Door Project team will accept work presented in any artistic medium.

Those interested in participating should submit their work samples through an online submission form. Artists must drop off their pieces at AAC between Monday, April 22 and Thursday, April 25.

“As Cincinnati’s original creative cultural center for our community since 1869, the AAC enjoyed the opportunity to meet the moment and enable showcases of work at a time when creatives needed outlets to celebrate together,” said Joe Girandola, AAC’s president.

Red Door Project at Cincinnati Observatory

Admission to the show on April 26 is free and open to the public. Houston promised attendees at the upcoming Red Door show can expect light bites, a cash bar and a wide selection of art pieces available for auction.

Upon sale, 75% of the top bid price will go to the artist. The reminder of the money will support ArtWorks’ mission.

ArtWorks plans to host two additional events in summer and fall 2024.

“We are excited to continue the tradition of a pop-up gallery visiting neighborhoods on both sides of the river,” Houston said.

Red Door Project


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