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Living, Breathable Art Downtown

By Steven Rosen · April 8th, 2009 · The Big Picture
It isn’t yet as big as Opening Day, but the Fountain Square Floral Carpet is becoming a local Rite of Spring.

The carpet — consisting of some 24,000 potted pansies, with lettuce plants providing verdancy — was installed April 7. But that doesn’t mean it won’t change over the course of the next several weeks. (It’s on display through April 25.)

For a while this is indeed a piece of public sculpture. It’s also an organic, growing thing — a fitting symbol for this new age of “green” environmentalism.

“It grows and changes daily,” says Bill Donabedian, Fountain Square’s managing director. “And about two weeks into it, the pansies become fully fragrant and the smell is just wonderful.”

And in what’s become a tradition for the Fountain Square floral carpet, the pansies are given away beginning 8 a.m. April 26 on a first-come, first-served basis.

“It takes two days and 20 people to put it together, and it’s gone within an hour,” Donabedian says.

This is the third year for the floral carpet, which was begun as an activity promoting the newly redesigned Fountain Square after a Procter & Gamble employee saw the famous Flowercarpet at Grand-Place in Brussels.

With P&G support and flowers from Cincinnati Park Board, Fountain Square started a more modest-sized one here, using hardy pansies for early spring. This year’s will occupy 7,000 square feet of space and use eight colors: white, violet, yellow, red, rose, orange, blue and pink. Donabedian says the event costs more than $50,000 to produce.

It will also be different from last year’s in some key ways that show the always-changing, evolving thinking that goes into the making of any kind of public art. The first year’s design was based on a Cincinnati Art Museum tapestry.

Last year Donabedian asked for idea submissions from the public at large. Each of the submissions proposed representational designs, and the selected one was of a butterfly. But problems emerged. In order for people to see it clearly, they had to leave Fountain Square to gain a (high) perspective from one of the surrounding buildings.

So this year the carpet design (pictured above) will be more abstract — a symbolic interpretation of spring using interacting circles of varying colors. Thus, the hope is that it can be fully appreciated on site. And a professional Cincinnati graphic designer, Joel Kneuven, was hired to do it.

To more fully engage visitors with the carpet, there will be three large, separated sections on the square.

“Now it will be more like a garden than a carpet,” Donabedian says. “We’re trying to break down the square box that the carpet was in. Last year, you could walk through it on a mulch path if you wanted to. This year, you walk through it regardless.”

There already are new plans being considered for next year, including evening lighting and viewing towers. And maybe, following the latest movie trend, a 3-D floral carpet.

“We want to experiment and not just have it flat,” Donabedian says. “We could have small rises and have certain colors higher than others for a 3-D effect. We want to keep it interesting.”

In other art news, the Cincinnati Art Museum announced the inaugural winner of its 4th Floor Award for local and regional contemporary artists: Don Lambert of Maineville, whose art emphasizes sculpture and new genres. He’ll receive $1,000 and a solo exhibition at the museum from Sept. 5 through Nov. 29. One piece from that show will be acquired by the museum. Four finalists will receive $500 each.

CONTACT STEVEN ROSEN: srosen@citybeat.com



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