BLINK celebrates ‘local spirit’ with initial artist lineup

BLINK has named the initial list of nearly three dozen Greater Cincinnati artists and creative teams – some familiar, some new to the scene – who will help turn downtown Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky into a nighttime public art gallery this October.

This year’s light and art festival – held Thursday, Oct. 17 through Sunday, Oct. 20 – will feature 80 artists overall. Local and regional artists will join dozens of peers from around the world to create 15 one-of-a-kind murals and more than 70 stunning light-based installations, animated projections and an array of interactive art pieces.

To further that growth, BLINK organizers have increased artist representation this year to make for what executive director Justin Brookhart called “a global immersive experience,” all while maintaining the festival’s “local spirit and celebration of Cincinnati’s arts and culture.”

Projection mapping on Memorial Hall during BLINK 2017
Projection mapping on Memorial Hall during BLINK 2017

Artists will also have more space to create this year as BLINK is expanding further across the river into Newport and other parts of Kentucky.

Brookhart and his team plan to announce more artists in the weeks leading up to the event.

“BLINK is thrilled to showcase a dynamic blend of global artistry alongside our remarkable local talent,” said Brookhart, who’s in his second cycle atop the festival’s leadership team. “This balance not only enriches the BLINK experience but also underscores our commitment to celebrating the unique artistic spirit of the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky region,” he continued. “We believe this integration of local and global creativity is essential to creating a truly immersive and inclusive event.”

Highlighting Greater Cincinnati’s ‘magic’

Returning to BLINK this fall is an expanded interpretation of Dan Shields’ “String Theory” installation, alongside other crowd favorites such as the Toy Heritage mural experience, Asianati Night Market and a choreographed drone show. The show will also include the illumination of Cincinnati Music Hall, something that’s never happened before during BLINK. The gesture is a not-so-subtle homage to the beloved LumenoCity concerts Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra hosted at Washington Park in the mid-2010s.

One of the artists involved in LumenoCity was Jason Snell, who worked with the firm Brave Berlin to project animated Charley Harper images onto the historic concert venue. Snell’s involvement with BLINK dates back to its inaugural year in 2017.

Drawing inspiration from his recent work with legendary rap group Run DMC, Snell plans to create a digital mapping experience that will bring that hip-hop experience that touched the world through the eyes of King Records, and the highly sampled 1970s song “Funky Drummer” by James Brown, to one of the region’s murals.

A rendering of the animation of the ‘I Am Ezz’ display for BLINK 2022. (Photo courtesy of Jason Snell)

“To be involved in BLINK is something I don’t take for granted,” said Snell, who’s been creating work in Cincinnati for the past two decades. He described the festival as a biennial showcase for creatives to develop more of a prominent voice. But he also views it as an opportunity to celebrate the city and many of the talented people who live here.

Two years ago, Snell and his wife Sara stayed in downtown Cincinnati all four nights of BLINK with their young daughters.

“We wanted to show our kids our beautiful city all lit up in magic and now, every other day my girls are asking me when BLINK is happening again and when they get to see daddy’s work shining for the city to experience,” Snell said. “It really is a beautiful weekend.”

Next steps

Over the next four months, Snell and all the other BLINK artists will work to create their installations as community organizations collaborate to support the event and hopeful parade participants prepare for their one-of-a-kind floats for the opening ceremony celebrations.

Most projects don’t yet have an assigned location just yet some artists like Snell are “waiting for a wall” to finalize their plans. But others, such as the art team at Keep Cincinnati Beautiful, already have their general concepts in place.

The “Heritage Toy” mural was among the most popular displays during BLINK 2022. This is the mural during one of its transition phases. (Casey Weldon)

“Uncanny Alley” will feature hundreds of paint cans housing programmable LEDs. The piece reflects the day-to-day work of KCB, which performs beautification projects in neighborhoods across Greater Cincinnati.

The paint cans used in “Uncanny Alley” will come from KCB job sites, such as those for its Future Blooms program, which creates trompe l’oeil representations of windows and doors on wooden barricades covering dilapidated homes and buildings.

Illuminating what we do best

A nonprofit focused on community cleanups might be the type of participant you’d expect in an internationally revered art festival. But KCB has a dedicated three-person art team that works on projects such as community murals.

Claire Bryson, KCB’s longtime director of arts programming, said BLINK offers a chance to promote her organization’s mission – community transformation, collaboration and volunteer mobilization – on a “larger, more visible scale while being part of an amazing event that celebrates our city and brings awareness to our organization.”

In 2019, KCB led a crowd-sourced mural called “Make Your Mark” and also created “Party Cans,” a series of four interactive recycling cans that emitted a light and sound show when something tossed in a plastic bottle or other recyclable materials.

The organization’s 2022 entry, “Neon Wave,” was a permanent light installation in collaboration with the Davis and Cynthia Stanard in OTR’s Goetz Alley.

A BLINK piece in Goetz Alley

“All of the work we do is centered around the idea that through collaboration art is a catalyst for community transformation,” Bryson said. “The transformation of our beautiful historic city with art, how could we not be involved?”

Bryson said KCB is open to any site for “Uncanny Alley,” but she feels the ideal spot would be a “space that needs a little TLC.” Beyond the art, KCB plans to host a cleanup event ahead of BLINK to fully transform the site and the surrounding area. The organization plans to invite residents to assist in fabrication of the sculpture as well.

“BLINK puts Cincinnati on the map and illuminates our city and what we do best,” she added. 

2024 Local BLINK Artists

Muralists

  • Chroma Projects
  • Gee Horton
  • Javarri Lewis
  • William Rankins Jr.

Projection artists

  • Asa Featherstone IV
  • Black Art Speaks
  • Brandon Kraemer
  • Chaske Haverkos
  • Jason Snell
  • Kyle Eli Ebersole
  • Lightborne
  • Moonbuggy
  • Mural Remix
  • Scott Budd
  • Spotted Yeti Media

Lighted artists

  • AfroChine
  • Asianati Night Market
  • Asha Ama
  • Bill Thomas
  • Britni Bicknaver with Brianna Kelly
  • Caitlin McCall
  • Christine Langford
  • Daniel Shields
  • Drive Media House/JONBOB
  • Evan Verrilli
  • Jessica Wolf
  • Kyle Eli Ebersole + Ian Molitors (Resonate Wave)
  • Keep Cincinnati Beautiful
  • Kemper Sauce Studios
  • Kevin Kunz (The Adventurer)
  • Tom Tsuchiya
  • Warmth Culture

Discover more from Movers & Makers

Subscribe to get the latest posts sent to your email.