ArtWorks continues Walnut Hills investment with ArtPark, Gaines mural

ArtWorks has broken ground on ArtPark, an urban gathering space and visual arts showcase that will become a permanent part of its creative campus in Cincinnati’s Walnut Hills neighborhood.

The park will feature sculptures, greenspace and other creative elements focused on making the area a draw for residents. A focal point of the space, formerly a vacant and blighted lot, is a mural by celebrated American artist Charles Gaines. It’s Gaines’ first mural design.

Entitled “Numbers and Trees: Cincinnati Cottonwoods,” the wall-sized work is an extension of Gaines’ well-known tree series. The piece will depict several cottonwood trees, a species indigenous to the area. Artists will craft each tree using Gaines’ numbered grid technique.

Twenty-one ArtWorks apprentices, ages 14 to 21, are collaborating with a team of teaching artists – Mark Hanavan, Jeshua Schuster, Lily Fast and Fatemeh Shekarforoush – to create the mural. Work began in early June.

The Joseph Automotive Family donated a wall of its building at 2412 Gilbert Ave. to serve as the mural canvas.

Julia Orquera Bianco, a Cincinnati-based Argentinian artist, will serve as a contributor and mentor to the project team. She was Gaines’ studio assistant for three years and previously worked for ArtWorks. Orquera Bianco will soon serve as ArtWorks’ V² Gallery artist in residence.

Gaines is planning to visit the mural once during the summer and again at the dedication in the fall.

“Partnering with Charles Gaines to create a community-driven mural is a dream come true,” said Colleen Houston, CEO and artistic director of ArtWorks.

“The mural showcases Charles’ talent as well as his connection and reverence for our community,” she continued. “He is such an important artist and a generous teacher, committed to inspiring the next generation.”

Investing in a neighborhood, its residents

ArtWorks called the creation of ArtPark and its broader creative campus a “catalytic investment” in Walnut Hills. 

Located at the corner of Gilbert Avenue and Curtis Street, the park is at the center of the neighborhood’s growing arts district, which is home to the Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati Ballet, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Harriet Beecher Stowe House and Cincy Nice.

ArtWorks is working with Human Nature and TeamB, a pair design firms based in Walnut Hills, on the vision of ArtPark. Triversity Construction, another neighborhood resident, is managing the construction project.

The city of Cincinnati is installing a pair of decorative crosswalks to better connect the property to the growing Gilbert Avenue Dusiness District. There will also be decorative plantings surrounding the park space and in the median of the roadway.

This most recent project is the continuation of a yearslong effort to relocate the entirety of ArtWorks’ base of operations to Walnut Hills. The nonprofit’s V² Gallery is on East McMillan Street and its headquarters is across the street from the ArtPark site and one block south of historic Peebles Corner.

Once complete, the ArtWorks creative campus will feature creative studios, indoor and outdoor gallery areas, meeting rooms and enough space to host special events and house the entire ArtWorks team.

Houston noted that the effort is a major change from ArtWorks’ origins back in 1996 when its project operations took place under tents set up in nearby Eden Park.

“This is a pivotal moment in ArtWorks’ history,” she said, describing the organization’s formal return to Walnut Hills as a full-circle moment.

To complete the project, the organization seeks to raise just over $1 million through its “Painting the Future” capital campaign, Houston said. It has raised more than $10 million for this project since 2022, including $2.5 million to support community investments in equitable public arts for neighborhoods and expanding youth employment. ArtWorks is accepting donations through its website.

If all goes as planned, ArtWorks plans to celebrate and dedicate the new building and creative campus this fall.

“We are proud to create a space that not only honors the history and legacy of Walnut Hills but also serves as a beacon of creativity and inspiration for generations to come,” Houston said.

ArtWorks


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