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News: Walking on Sunshine

Markets on Main events promote Over-the-Rhine as a walkable community

By Chris Charlson · May 25th, 2005 · News
Photographer/artist Kristin Kolaczkowski hopes people skip the mall on Sundays and visit Over-the-Rhine's new sidewalk markets.
David Sorcher

Photographer/artist Kristin Kolaczkowski hopes people skip the mall on Sundays and visit Over-the-Rhine's new sidewalk markets.

As of mid-week last week, artist Noell Weddig was still torn on how to display her artwork to potential buyers. Organizers of Markets on Main told the emerging artist to throw convention to the wind and arrange her work however she pleased.

As a fabric artist, Weddig says her sculptures, kimonos and scarves presented no problems in an open-air setting, but displaying her wall hangings was going to be a challenge. The artist found out about the weekly market through a grassroot email campaign initiated by the Over the Rhine (OTR) Foundation.

"It's nice to promote my work, and hopefully people will come downtown to see it," she says. "I'm really curious about the market because the e-mail said it's open to artists and musicians and I'd like to see the arts combined a little bit more to see that all the arts are represented. I don't know if that will happen, but that's something I'm looking for when I go."

Weddig is one of dozens scheduled to participate in this summer's Sundays-only Markets on Main along the Main Street sidewalks between 13th and Woodward.

The weekly event boasts a diverse assortment of street vendors, musicians, artists and ethnic cuisine in a non-traditional setting, selling wares from blankets on the ground and tables laden with piles and stacks as opposed to a sterile grid of booths. The European-style market is designed not only to promote emerging artists but also to invigorate existing businesses in the area, including Findlay Market with its newly extended Sunday hours.

Marge Hammelrath, director of the OTR Foundation, hopes area residents will eschew Sundays at the mall to partake in a slice of the eclectic.

Following negative press following the 2001 riots, she says the foundation has been working relentlessly to reestablish the neighborhood as an attractive area to both live and work.

"It seems people really love outdoor events in Cincinnati," she says, "and this is a great way to draw people to the neighborhood and dispel some of the negative publicity that we've gotten about coming to Over-the-Rhine. We know it's a great place to live and, as we bring more people here with these events, we use it as a way to show people that they perhaps could think about living here or even have a business here."

Markets on Main is only one component in the ongoing effort to invigorate the struggling neighborhood that still contains some of the city's most elegant and enduring architecture. Hammelrath says when the Germans settled in Over-the-Rhine more than a century ago they constructed the buildings as they did in Europe, to last for generations. While a great number of buildings have been rehabbed, a plethora of gems-in-the-rough remain waiting to be restored to their original grandeur, she says.

"So these buildings just need a reason for existing now, because trends have changed," she says. "It's a very slow process, as you may know. These old buildings are fabulous once they're rehabbed, but it's like building from the ground up. Sometimes it takes a little bit longer."

Through the markets and other activities during the summer, OTR Foundation Board President Stan Eichelbaum hopes the neighborhood's obvious charms will entice vendors and patrons alike to pick up roots and relocate to the district. He says the goal of the foundation isn't a 20-year vision for Over-the-Rhine but a plan of how to revitalize the area this summer for current businesses.

The idea for Markets on Main came after the foundation conducted research into other markets throughout the world that turned around areas with similar demographics. Eichelbaum says the foundation realized it first needed to preserve the streetscape of Over-the-Rhine to make it a viable community that could recruit businesses.

"The other realization was that for an area to turn around and operate in American economics -- and it's true of Carson Street in Pittsburgh as well as Melrose in L.A., SoHo in New York and others -- you can't operate on a six-day week," he says. "The key to this is the brunch community on Sundays and the walk-around community, and Over-the-Rhine is so well situated and Main Street is so right for that."

While the first event May 22 brought only sporadic waves of visitors, Markets on Main producer Janet Hill hopes upcoming events like the annual Over-the-Rhine Tour of Living June 5 will help enlighten those outside the neighborhood. She says the reason residents moved to the area was because of its diversity and energy, a component the markets will help revive.

"Residents say, 'We like the idea of being able to walk down the street and say hi to people that are different than us on a day-to-day basis,' " Hill says. "They want to have a more urban atmosphere where they can walk the dog and get a cup of coffee and enjoy these kinds of outdoor activities, so we're trying to create an atmosphere that lends itself to that."

Photographer/artist Kristin Kolaczkowski has already committed to the first three Sundays but says she'll continue to participate throughout the summer if the market takes off. She will be selling her handmade 4-by-6 blank photo cards and 16-by-20 prints.

As a firm believer in the arts, Kolaczkowski says she'll do anything she can to help the city try to bring vitality back into city life and give people a reason to get out and about.

"Why spend the day inside a mall, especially when there's a beautiful sky?" she says. "Why not go for a walk downtown and see inside the city? There are so many wonderful things about it. I think it could be a real regular crowd that comes out, and that's what I think Cincinnati needs."

MARKETS ON MAIN take place every Sunday (weather permitting) from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For information on the market or how to become a vendor, call 513-721-1317, email marketsonmain@fuse.net or apply online at www.irhine.com.


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