You have more theater choices this weekend than time, I suspect, so choose carefully depending on the kind of show you most enjoy.
If it’s a classic, I suggest you check out Julius Caesar at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. This tale of one of history’s most memorable political assassinations is one of Shakespeare’s shorter plays, about two hours and 15 minutes. But it’s action-packed with a lot of intrigue, soul-searching and emotions that ebb and flow. Cincy Shakes relies on its acting ensemble to fill these iconic roles, and they bring them to life more vividly than I’ve seen in a long time. Josh Katawick is especially engaging as the leader, “lean and hungry” Cassius, whose motives are not far below his ambitious surface; Brent Vimtrup is Brutus, caught up in the plot for reasons of principle rather than envy, and his subtle performance of this conflicted man is compelling. Veteran Nick Rose is the blustery soldier Marc Antony, who’s actually a subtle manipulator of opinion. (We’ll see more of him next month when Cincy Shakes move on to Shakespeare’s other Roman play, Antony and Cleopatra). Through May 7. Tickets: 513-381-2273.
An engaging new play, Lauren Gunderson’s Silent Sky, is onstage at Know Theatre, the story of Henrietta Leavitt, a woman of science from a century ago when women were not expected to have meaningful insights. But drawn to the mysteries of astronomy, she tirelessly made advances despite many barriers. Maggie Lou Rader plays the feisty woman, and her moral support from two older women, played by Annie Fitzpatrick and Regina Pugh, has elements of humor. This is a well-acted, well-staged play (direction by Know’s Tamara Winters), worth seeing. I gave it a Critic’s Pick with my CityBeat review. Through May 14. Tickets: 513-300-5669.
The 2014 movie of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods featured Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt, James Corden and Johnny Depp. A production currently onstage at Northern Kentucky University doesn’t have that kind of star power, but the student cast does an admirable job with a show that places extraordinary vocal demands on singers. Director Jamey Strawn hit upon an imaginative framing device for the legendary fairy tale mash-up, setting it in a library where a young boy (played with a mischievously expressive demeanor by Charlie Klesa, a sixth-grader at Mercy Montessori), hides away for an overnight adventure of reading and fantasizing. As giants threaten the kingdom, books tumble from the library’s two-story-tall shelves. Into the Woods requires a big cast, and more than 20 NKU student actors plus a stylized wooden cow are clearly committed to giving their all to this production. Opening night on Thursday was an enthusiastic full house. Through May 1. Tickets: 859-572-5464.
Neil LaBute’s plays traffic in complex, often ironic,
manipulative situations, frequently brutal stories of abusive, selfish
behavior. The Shape of Things, presented by New
Edgecliff Theatre at Hoffner Lodge in Northside, is that kind of story —
about Evelyn, an ambitious young woman who makes an art project of
Adam, another student who thinks their relationship is a love affair.
Rebecca Whatley and Matthew Krieg handle these complicated roles
believably, but you’ll walk away wondering about their motives — she’s
cold, he’s clueless. It’s a compelling, disturbing story that makes for
an evening of edgy, psychological theater. Another Critic’s Pick with my
CityBeat review. Through April 30. Tickets here.
There’s a touring production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast onstage at the Aronoff Center through Sunday. It’s an entertaining, visually captivating production. There’s nothing new about it, to be sure, but the young cast carries off the sprightly songs and choreography with lots of energy. I wish there was a little more heart and a little less clowning, especially by Sam Hartley as the Beast, who’s meant to be a tragic hero. The chemistry between him and Brooke Quintana as Belle is in the script, but it only shows up intermittently onstage. Nevertheless, Wednesday night’s full house with lots of kids dressed for the evening clearly had a good time watching the story unfold. Through Sunday. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
Quick Notes: True Theater is back for another quarterly evening of storytelling on Monday evening at 7:30 p.m. Know Theatre. This time the theme is True Gay, so it will be enlightening to hear the personal reminiscences that get shared. … At UC’s College-Conservatory of Music this weekend, the drama program presents a staged reading of Grace Gardner’s new script, Very Dumb Kids, tonight 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. It’s the beginning of a new play commissioning initiative that will foster new works. … This is the final weekend for David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross at the Incline Theater in East Price Hill and for Jason Robert Brown’s musical, The Last Five Years, at The Carnegie in Covington.
When I lived in Los Angeles, one of the most unforgettable events I attended was a screening of films by the 20th-century Russian animator Ladislaw Starewicz, who used insects in his amazingly inventive animated films. (He also used puppets.)
He placed the insects into various settings and then shot the stop-motion films frame by frame. A Jazz/New Music group called Tin Hat Trio played a live score to accompany the visuals.
Lo and behold, the Mini Microcinema on Tuesday (April 19) is presenting Starewicz’s films in the auditorium of Covington’s Carnegie. And there will be a live score played by Little Bang Theory, a group led by Detroit composer Frank Pahl. They play children’s instruments and toys.
There will be a reception starting at 6 p.m. and the performance gets underway at 7 p.m. It is free. This is the last event for the Mini during its residency at The Carnegie. It should be a rewarding one. For more information, please visit www.mini-cinema.org.
There are so many good art events going on this coming weekend, I wish I could clone myself in order to attend everything without going mad or (maybe worse) hangry. And it’s noteworthy to mention that much of the work being shown Friday evening emphasizes the art-going experience over the exhibition of objects.
San Francisco-based Cincinnati-native conceptual artist Tom Marioni gave a lecture at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning and held a participatory performance called Art History, Philosophy and Dirty Jokes at The Littlefield this past Tuesday.
Marioni, who weaves conviviality into all of his work is perhaps best known for his ongoing social art, The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends is the Highest Form of Art, which he’s been enacting since 1970. West-coast conceptualists like Marioni have long investigated public actions as an alternative to the creation of an art object.
Tonigh, Marioni will be present for an opening of his more object-based art (in this case, dry fresco, drawings and bronze sculptures) at Carl Solway gallery, and his work seems like an interesting counterpoint to the very tangible, stitched work of up-and-coming artist Elsa Hansen (b. 1986). Hansen, originally from Louisville, Ky., cross stitches 8-bit portraits of famous subjects like R. Crumb and R. Kelly, or pop cultural events like when Olympic diver Greg Louganis hit his head on the springboard in 1988, and — like Marioni’s work — Hansen’s relies on wit and humor.
Both the Art Academy and UC will have exhibition openings of their students’ thesis work Friday evening. Caliber, the AAC’s senior thesis exhibition will feature the work of six students, while the Contemporary Arts Center hosts the work of 15 MFA students from DAAP.
I had the chance to speak with DAAP grad Mary Clare Rietz regarding her ongoing social practice project On The Map|Over-the-Rhine involving what she terms “aesthetic action”.
Rietz and fellow collaborators like social practice artist and AAC professor Anissa Lewis have been working on this project together for several years, engaging unlikely stakeholders from the neighborhood (long-time residents, new residents, developers and business owners) via creative mapping, guided walks, performances, and story sharing. Rietz’s project is informed by a key concept in social network theory, “the strength of weak ties”, i.e. the idea that a network is strongest when people connect across differences.
The artist calls OTR a “highly dense, close-quarters place where development is creating diversity but not always connection,” so the potential to connect across difference is ripe here; and Rietz’ decades of experience working in community organizing give her a unique set of skills to respond to these disconnects.
Through conversation and strategic engagement, On The Map|Over-the-Rhine asks the question: Are people who feel connected more likely to work together toward goals that meet the diverse needs and interests of all?
To that aim, the artist has had events happening all week in the lobby of the CAC, and Friday evening Rietz will put on yet another creative community building project, WHO DO YOU WANT TO MOVE?, which will invite viewers to witness and participate in creating connections between unlikely OTR stakeholders, forged though dance.
The participatory performance/procession will start at Buddy’s Place in the heart of OTR at 13th and Vine streets and move to the CAC, where more performances will be put on for museumgoers at 7:30 and 8:30 p.m.
Finally, contemporary avant-garde performance art by experimental sound artist Guillermo Galindo and interdisciplinary artist, DAAP professor Mark Harris, opens Friday night at Wave Pool in Camp Washington.
Inspired by John Cage’s words describing music as “a purposeless play,” Galindo and Harris will each perform during the opening night, and the objects left behind after each performance will act as the exhibition in the gallery space — reemphasizing the experience of the performance as the true art form.
“Our mission is to provide artists with professional, creative, and cultural opportunities,” says Hannah Leow, volunteer coordinator at V+V. The artists were creating before they come to V+V so they just keep doing their own thing. “They keep their vision and their style, we just support them,” Leow says.
Visionaries + Voices achieves its mission in three ways, the first being the studio program where artists can come and spend time working on their art. The exhibition program gives opportunities for them to show their work with five exhibits a year in the Northside gallery. The final piece is the Teaching Artist Program, which allows artists to go into the community and teach their style of creativity.
Volunteers are needed Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and occasionally on evenings and weekends. The biggest need is for people in the creative field who are interested in making art and want to work collaboratively with artists. “The biggest need I’ve seen is creative folks, or folks who aren't creative and are interested in learning about creativity, being in the studio working with the artists,” Leow says.
Service learning days at V+V are great for high school groups. They can come in and do organizational tasks for a little while, which is very helpful to the organization. Then they have the chance to work with the artists and combine their creative ideas.
Opportunities outside of creative work include organizational projects, cleaning and providing technical support.
There are volunteers at V+V who come frequently and have been there for a long time, but there are also volunteers who don't come so often. There really isn’t a requirement for the type of commitment you need to make.
Anyone interested in volunteering can reach out online. Before starting as a volunteer, expect a short introductory session with a tour of the studio and general information about the organization and its goals, a questionnaire and background check. “It’s a pretty quick process,” Leow says.
Some of the resources available to volunteers include articles about working with adults with disabilities. This isn’t really focused on during the brief training because Leow believes it’s something you learn as you go. “The biggest thing for me is that it’s an experience based training,” Leow says.
There is no real precursor to being a good fit at V+V. Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis “We feel it out with each person,” Leow says. It is about connecting and accepting the artist. They have a wide variety of volunteers from many different creative backgrounds.Donations:
Art supplies are in high demand at V+V. You can find a list online detailing what is needed. Some of the items include permanent markers, ink pads, buttons, sewing needles and glitter.
One unique program promotes giving the gift of stocks. Consider donating stocks that have already been acquired and increased in value. Financial advisors are able to transfer stocks from private parties to Visionaries + Voices. In return, the organization will issue an acknowledgement of the gift.
Surrounded by books, pamphlets and zine titles such as Noodle Doodle Coloring Book, never date dudes from the internet and How to Talk to Your Cat about Gun Control, Luke Kindle looks up from his nook in Wave Pool art gallery to cars whizzing past the window through the Camp Washington neighborhood.One half of the husband-and-wife team that founded the gallery, Cal Cullen, enters the gallery with a mug of coffee for Kindle. Her 18-month-old daughter Alice toddles not far behind, ready to run around the gallery. The furry pink rug underneath the swinging pink monkey sculpture is calling her name.
Skip Cullen joins his family in the gallery and tells me that Alice is obsessed with the furry pink monkey piece, otherwise known as “Not My Circus” by Pam Kravetz. Watching Alice run and dance around the gallery, it seems to be the most whimsical playground a toddler could ask for. It is also the site of Wave Pool’s current exhibit, Cincinnati 5: Artists Impacting the Community.
The exhibit complements the newly released book of the same title by Emily Moores, which explores the practice of five local visual artists and highlights their connections to the city. The gallery features new works from each of the artists, not only as a glimpse into their studios, but also as a celebration of the local visual arts community.
Skip says the goal of Wave Pool is to elevate the arts scene in Cincinnati. The contemporary art fulfillment center hosts eight exhibits per year, which pair local artists with national and internationally recognized artists. The center consists of art studios, a woodshop and other spaces community spaces that can be rented out for private events.
Wave Pool is also the site of a small shop of quirky reading material. In addition to art books that complement the exhibitions, there is an array of humorous titles to choose from. “We also wanted to be a weird, indie book place,” Skip says.
Kindle, a fine arts student at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning, tells me he plans to reads all of them over the summer when he isn’t busy with school.
After meeting as graduate students at DAAP, the Cullens say they always had the dream to open a gallery together. While they lived in San Francisco for five years, they came back to Cincinnati to start the gallery. The couple agrees that there are not enough opportunities for local artists in Cincinnati, and they started Wave Pool to create more.
Despite being located in an old firehouse, Cal and Skip say what makes Wave Pool unique is the artist in residency program, which pays two artists per year to engage with the community in a unique way. The residency application is open to everyone, and the committee chooses artists based on how they will engage the community.
This year’s artists in residence are Sam Ihrig and Anna Riley from Brooklyn, N.Y., and Valerie Molnar and Matt Spahr from Richmond, Va.
Ihrig and Riley will bring their RIAS Studio (Research Institute of Analog Sampling), a project based on the origins and production of glass, to Wave Pool in May. RIAS Studio will explore the intimacy between maker and material and material and place through creating glass pieces specifically for Wave Pool from regionally and locally harvested materials.
The studio will also host a community workshop in which participants can join a
geological expedition to identify and collect materials to create glass. They
can then create their own formula in the studio and keep their unique Ohio
Cal says Wave Pools looks for experimental art, such as interactive pieces. The gallery looks for work that pushes the envelope of what people believe is art. “Because we are a nonprofit, we’re all about education through art,” she says. While other galleries may look to feature artwork that sells, Wave Pool is dedicated to facilitating the interaction between artists and the local community. She adds that although Cincinnati has many disparate arts communities, Wave Pool is a space where any artist can feel supported.
It’s the 15th century, and remnants of the Middle Ages hang over Europe as it unknowingly waits for the Renaissance. In the dim candlelight somewhere in Spain shines an altarpiece painted to depict the lives of St. Peter and Jesus Christ along with images of the Virgin Mary and other saints. With its impressive strokes of paint and gold and silver leaf, Lorenzo Zaragoza’s “Retablo of St. Peter” is remarkable to behold.
More than 600 years later, the altarpiece rests under the skilled hands of Cincinnati Art Museum’s chief conservator Serena Urry. With only the clack of museum visitor’s shoes disturbing the quiet peace, the setting resembles the serenity of the piece’s original home.
Zaragoza’s piece has stood the test of time, more or less. While it has been admired by thousands of Cincinnati Art Museum visitors since the museum purchased the piece in1960, it was taken off exhibit in 2010 due to its poor condition. It is now back on exhibit through April 24, as visitors can watch Urry bring the retablo to life again through cleaning all 18 of its panels.
It’s a two-in-one exhibit, giving visitors an insider’s look at the work done
by the museum’s conservation department while they view and learn about the
piece. Established in 1935, the museum’s conservation department is one of the
oldest in the country. Since then it has grown from one part-time paintings
conservator to four professionally trained conservators, each of whom have their
own specialization in paintings, paper, textiles or objects. The department is
in charge of conserving the museum’s entire collection (with the exception of
works that are on loan to the museum).
Urry proposed the exhibit because the retablo needed to be treated before it
could go back on view in the galleries. However, this is no small task — the
retouching is not expected to be complete for another few years. On view in the
exhibit is only the first step of the process: cleaning and consolidating.
Urry says determining the full condition of a piece of art before beginning its conservation treatment is the hardest part of conserving art. The two most important tenants that guide painting conservation are reversibility, which ensures that nothing will be done to the work that cannot be removed later, and dissimilarity, which means suing conservation materials that are not found in the original painting.
Of course, Uri’s conservation efforts are not the first for the retablo. With a piece of art this old, it is common for there to be many years of retouching — the first effort to conserve the retablo may have occurred around the early 1500s. It is believed that the central sculpture of St. Peter was created to replace the original lost piece.
Urry’s work includes using a variety of solvents, hand tools and a hot air gun to remove the effects of older retouching campaigns, such as discolored varnish and wax. This includes a layer of wax added by the Art Museum in 1960 to contain flaking. Since then it has become clouded with dust and grime, and the wax tinted to match the gold leaf of the painting has discolored to a greenish metallic hue.
After cleaning, painting conservation also involves structural treatments, such as modifying or replacing the canvas, its lining and stretcher. There may also be surface treatments done to conserve paintings, such as filling losses of paint, toning the fillings and adding layers of varnish.
“All of the paintings in a multi-piece work like this should be worked on together to ensure consistency,” Urry says. “The gallery space gives me an opportunity to have all of them on view as they are conserved.”
Jens Lekman, the acclaimed Swedish singer-songwriter whose weeklong residency at Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center is now in its third day, has finished and posted the first five songs in his Ghostwriting project.
You can hear them here.
Through Thursday, Lekman will be meeting with 11 people (it was supposed to be 12, but one had to cancel) whose written entries about their experiences were selected by him for song adaptations.
He will be discussing their stories with them, creating lyrics and then recording — with a small combo — songs that he posts for the world to hear. The participants receive a USB copy in a gift box. Read more information about the project here.
Listening to the five songs posted so far, one can hear that his knack for melody is up for this challenge. “What Was Worth Saving,” “Cartwheels” and “The Love It Takes to Get By” are particularly memorable. Because of an issue with one song on Monday night, Lekman compensated by recording two versions of another, “Northeastern Ascent.” Three more songs are scheduled to be finished and posted online tonight and another three on Thursday evening.
On Friday at 8 p.m. at the Woodward Theater, Lekman will perform in concert with the MYCincinnati Ambassador Ensemble, a string section of Price Hill youth under the direction of local musician/composer Eddy Kwon, who also adapted the arrangements. Some of the Cincinnati-composed songs will be included.
Tickets are available at contemporaryartscenter.org for $20 (or $15 for CAC members) now and should still be available at the door.
Every piece of art has a story, but what we don’t often remember is that
the story of the artist can be even more enthralling. Donna King of River’s
Edge Pottery Studio shared not only her trade but her history with a group
during a pottery demonstration at the Covington branch of the Kenton County
Public Library. The demonstration, which was scheduled for only two hours,
stretched out as King engaged her audience in a series of stories.
She begian by slamming the clay on the wheel, making a large thump. “You’ve
gotta get really really tough with it,” she explained. After centering the blob
of clay on the wheel, King went to work on what she tells us is going to be a
bowl. “With my students, the first thing I have them do is make a bowl,” she said.
As we watched, King masterfully poked a hole in the middle of the clay lump,
eventually widening it out to form a discernable bowl shape. Once she was
finished with it, King set it aside and grabbed a larger lump of clay, which
she again threw on the wheel. This one was to become a vase, and King eagerly
shared her technique for designing her pieces, which includes using a variety
of objects to create patterns. Leaves, feathers and lace are a few of her
standard tools, but she’s also used Hot Wheels cars, plastic placemats and
pages from adult coloring books. “Sometimes I use a feather, sometimes I use
sugar, and one time I actually used cat’s whiskers,” she said, laughing.
The library demonstration was King’s second at the Kenton County Public
Library. The artist, who has been creating pottery for nine years, originally asked
to display pottery for the Clay Alliance of Cincinnati, but when the library
reached out requesting her to come give a presentation last fall, she gladly
accepted. “It’s just fun,” she said. “It’s
just been an adventure.” The artist says she’s traveled all over the community
doing demonstrations and classes and has worked with several Girl Scout troops
and taught classes at Christian schools in the area, as well as teaching
private or group classes. “I’ve had them as young as two years old, and up to
86 years old,” she said “People who say, ‘You know, I’ve always wanted to try
that,’ and I say, ‘Well, now’s your chance.’ ”
Find this interesting? Check out similar events at the Kenton County Public Library:
Nov. 12: Scarf
It Up: Learn to knit from a local hobbyist. (Durr Branch)
Nov. 17: Coloring for Adults: Unwind at the Erlanger branch with this creative past time. (Erlanger Branch)
Nov. 19: Holiday Sewing: Machines and fabric are available for you to come make a holiday gift. (Covington Branch)
People’s Liberty, a local group that describes itself as a “philanthropic lab that brings together civic-minded talent to address challenges and uncover opportunities to accelerate the positive transformation of Greater Cincinnati,” has announced eight new grantees who will receive help and funding from the organization for their various project proposals.
The group previously announced two 2015 Haile Fellows to receive funding and other support from People’s Liberty. Brad Cooper’s Start Small project involves building two efficient, low-cost “tiny houses” and engaging residents about the benefits of “tiny living” (the small, affordable homes will be powered by solar panels). Local musician Brad Schnittger was also named a Haile Fellow and is working on a music publishing platform called MusicLi, which will feature a library of original music by artists in Greater Cincinnati that can be licensed for commercial use (and provide income for the artists). Schnittger is currently surveying area businesses interested in using music in advertising to get a sense of their needs (click here if you’re involved in a business that would like to participate). There will be an event on May 7 at Over-the-Rhine’s Woodward Theater (6-8 p.m.) to discuss the new venture (Cincy’s Buffalo Killers will provide live music). Click here for details.
The just-announced Spring Project Grantees were chosen by a panel of creative types, business people and others from the community. This round of grantees includes CityBeat editor Maija Zummo, along with partner Colleen Sullivan, whose project Made in Cincinnati is a planned “curated online marketplace that simplifies shopping locally by offering goods directly from Cincinnati’s best craftspeople, creatives and artisans in one centralized location.”
Others chosen by the panel include Daniel Schleith, Nate Wessel and Brad Thomas’s Metro*Now project, which will provide signs with real-time Metro bus information; Nancy Sunnenberg’s Welcome to Cincinnati tool, to help newcomers connect with “local organizations, businesses and civic opportunities”; Mark Mussman’s Creative App Project, which will certify several Cincinnati residents via an Android App Developers educational series; Alyssa McClanahan & John Blatchford’s Kunst: Build Art, a print magazine focused on redevelopment projects for local historic buildings; Quiera Levy-Smith’s Black Dance is Beautiful, described as a “cultural event … designed to showcase diversity in Cincinnati dance, as well as encourage youth to pursue their passions and break down barriers”; Anne Delano Steinert’s Look Here!, a history exhibition to take place in Over-the-Rhine and feature 50 historic photos to help people connect that neighborhood’s past and present; and Giancomo Ciminello’s Spaced Invaders, an interactive installation featuring “a projection mapped video game that will activate the abandoned spaces once occupied by buildings.”
For more information on People’s Liberty’s work in the community (including information about how to apply if you have a good idea), click here.
The Contemporary Arts Center will open its renovated lobby to the public Saturday after a members preview Friday night. The $1.1 million upgrade includes a new lounge area, a much-needed cafe and overall artsy facelift.
Local architecture and design firm firm FRCH Design Worldwide reimagined the interior space, which was under construction since Jan. 6.
The CAC's updated lobby features more seating and gathering spaces, a relocated welcome desk and, yes, more art. Previously exhibited mostly upstairs, artworks will now be displayed around the ground-level. Of course, the museum's excellent gift shop is still a part of the lobby, just more centrally located now.
Collective CAC, the museum's new cafe, comes courtesy Dustin Miller and Dave Hart of local favorite Collective Espresso. Located where the gift shop used to be in the corner of the lobby, Collective CAC will serve signature coffees along with breakfast, lunch and dessert items, plus beer and wine. Visitors can sit at communal tables or grab a drink at the bar.
The new CAC gallery hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Monday, closed Tuesday and 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday-Friday. Collective CAC will be open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Tuesday and 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday-Friday.
The CAC celebrated its 75th anniversary in May 2014.