New ArtsWave hire to lead creative placemaking efforts in NKY

A multidisciplinary artist and nonprofit program leader with a lifelong connection to the Bluegrass State will serve as the first director of Northern Kentucky creative placemaking for ArtsWave.

On Monday, ArtsWave and meetNKY – the Northern Kentucky visitors bureau – announced the appointment of Rachael Parker to the new position. In the role, Parker will focus on enhancing the region’s profile as a hub for public art and other creative projects by deepening ArtsWave’s impact in Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties. 

A key component of Parker’s job will be developing partnerships between arts and educational institutions, especially diverse and multicultural organizations. Parker will serve as the liaison between those groups and both ArtsWave and meetNKY.

Rachael Parker

Parker, who grew up in Maysville, will waste little time getting started. Her first project is working to finalize a design for a new mural at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington. 

“As an artist, arts advocate, and proud Kentuckian, it is a dream come true to begin my work in this new role at ArtsWave,” said Parker, a fiber artist who earned bachelor’s degrees in both English writing and art history from Berea College.

Planting roots on the other side of the Ohio

A recent report by the Cincinnati Regional Chamber determined that for every $1 invested by ArtsWave, cultural organizations return nearly $43 in economic value to the region. Over the last four years, arts and culture contributed $1.6 billion to the area’s economy.

However, until Parker, the arts-focused grantmaking organization had never had a full-time presence south of the Ohio River

With the new hire, ArtsWave will have the bandwidth for more face-to-face time with community partners in Northern Kentucky. It also provides more working knowledge of the needs and opportunities in Bellevue, Dayton, Florence, Fort Thomas, Newport and other cities spread across the three-county region.

Kentucky Symphony Orchestra at Devou Park in Covington. KSO is one of ArtsWave’s Sustaining Impact grantees.

Beyond growing up here, Parker is familiar with the local nonprofit scene. Prior to joining ArtsWave she was program manager with Learning Through Art, Inc. in Cincinnati. There, she designed, developed and implemented performing arts-integrated education, literacy, community development and engagement programs, including Books Alive! For Kids, for which the LTA team won an Emmy Award.

Prior to that role, Parker was the founding academic and program director of the Cincinnati Squash Academy and served as a teacher for AmeriCorps with the inaugural cohort for Teach For America in Southwest Ohio.

“This new (initiative) with meetNKY directly advances ArtsWave’s goals to enliven neighborhoods through the arts and increase economic and social vibrancy with ever-more arts activity,” said Alecia Kintner, president and CEO of ArtsWave.

Creating art, building community

Julie Kirkpatrick, meetNKY’s president and CEO, referred to Parker’s hiring as “an exciting opportunity for our Northern Kentucky communities.”

Creative placemaking is the use of art to physically shape a physical space while promoting economic development and/or strengthening a sense of community. Projects can range from converting an overgrown park into a community garden to turning an abandoned building into artist studios.

Kirkpatrick views meetNKY’s budding collaboration with ArtsWave as a way to not only boost the region’s appeal as a destination for meetings, conventions and tourists, but also instill pride in its residents.

Rendering of the proposed mural design.

For the convention center mural, Parker’s role will be that of a project manager. She’ll oversee the design created by Brooklyn-based artist Maya Hayuk and also engage residents and community groups to collect feedback.

Hayuk said the piece will incorporate elements of the region’s artistic traditions – rooted in the Cherokee and Shawnee nations – while also drawing attention to the modern architecture and development occurring around Covington’s riverfront.

Work on the mural will begin this summer with support from the creative team at BLDG, a design firm in Covington. The tentative project timeline is late July through August.

“I’m over the moon to have the opportunity to serve as a bridge to the incredible talent pool ArtsWave has access to and partners in our region dedicated to creative placemaking,” Parker said.


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