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ArtWorks Brings ‘Touching Strangers,’ Hot Dogs, Murals and More to Town

By Steven Rosen · June 18th, 2014 · The Big Picture
richard renaldiTouching Strangers - Richard Renaldi

From now through June 27, you may be approached on the street — or anywhere public — by a photographer and asked to physically interact with a nearby stranger as if you two were closely acquainted. 

The photographer’s name is Richard Renaldi, and ArtWorks — the nonprofit organization that commissions public art, usually employing youth apprentices to work on the projects — is bringing him here from New York to do a Cincinnati version of his Touching Strangers project. Renaldi has traveled across the country since 2007 doing Touching Strangers, but the recent publication of his photography book by the same name has brought him widespread attention. 

Renaldi will work with four youth apprentices and an art educator on the Cincinnati Touching Strangers photography project, which is ArtWorks’ contribution to this fall’s FotoFocus Biennial. Images will be displayed on 88 Cincinnati Metro bus shelters and one bus wrap. 

At an interview at ArtWorks’ Over-the-Rhine office, vice president of development and external affairs Teresa Hoelle and communications manager Christine Carli went over some of the organization’s 2014 plans and later updated me through emailed documents. Things changed as these projects moved forward, and may still change after this is written.

But there already are too many projects to cover in just this one column. I’m just going to mention some highlights, which are pretty fascinating:


This community-wide art project, set to unfold in phases into 2015, is slated to begin during September’s MidPoint Music Festival.

It’s still being developed and thus details are fluid and in some cases vague, but it’s modeled after a similar campaign in Lexington, Ky. ArtWorks will in some way select a love poem to Cincinnati and have 200 or so residents — chosen from volunteers — get inked (my understanding is permanently tattooed) with short phrases from said poem. An early proposal suggested a single poet be selected to write a new paean to the Queen City, but that part has been changed. More details are coming in July.

“Life/Theater” hot dogs public-art project

Working with the Contemporary Arts Center and ArtWorks-hired students, North Carolina-based experiential artist Lee Walton will create a storefront grill where hot dogs and veggie dogs will be prepared and given to bystanders. Meanwhile, actors will perform naturalistic skits cued by wording on the wrappers. It will premiere in Washington Park’s LumenoCity Village on Aug. 1, during the opening day of the LumenoCity event, and then “pop up” at two parks around town on Aug. 2 and 3. CAC’s current exhibition, Buildering: Misbehaving the City, supports this project.

“Love Blooms” mural in Reading

Swiftly nearing completion, this appealingly stylized black-and-white mural by Elizabeth Hatchett at 11 W. Benson St., features the word “LOVE” spelled out against a lacy backdrop. It will mark the entrance to the city’s “bridal district” of wedding-oriented shops along Benson. 

Over-the-Rhine/1215 Vine site-specific mural

This project with the OTR Chamber and 3CDC has Jason Snell of We Have Become Vikings, the edgy Over-the-Rhine design firm, creating a contemporary-themed mural for this building. Work will occur during the summer — possibly to have it ready by MidPoint Music Festival.

Tom Wesselmann mural

As part of its Cincinnati Masters mural series, ArtWorks is commissioning a mural of Wesselmann’s “Still Life #60,” which depicts (in a boldly graphic way) sunglasses, lipstick, a blue-stoned ring, nail polish and other objects. He was a native Cincinnatian who became a key Pop Artist in the 1960s. The original oil painting, monumental in size, was done in 1974. Artist Joe Hedges is handling the project. Wesselmann, who died in 2004, will be the subject of a Cincinnati Art Museum retrospective, Beyond Pop Art, that opens Oct. 31 and “Still Life #60” will be in the show.

Anthony Luensman project at Cincinnati Art Museum

The popular Cincinnati artist, who works in several mediums and has had a solo show at the Cincinnati Art Museum, has been commissioned to work with youth apprentices to create a neon installation on the west-facing façade of the museum’s 1930s-era French Wing. The hope is that it will be visible from as far away as Interstate 71. The museum wants to work with ArtWorks on an ongoing series of contemporary art installations at this locale, with each one lasting two to four years.

As for everything else happening, watch for a full list to be posted online. But these should make for an exciting start.

CONTACT Steven Rosen: srosen@citybeat.com



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