On a quiet midweek afternoon in late November 2008, I was wandering through the Cincinnati Art Museum. There was unusual degree of activity afoot. Something was about to happen in the museum's main hall. Whatever it was seemed fairly significant and official: Seemingly everyone was wearing suits with ties that looked like American flags or nice red-white-and-blue dresses that looked like they'd been purchased for the still-mystifying patriotic occasion. People were alternately congratulatory and nervous. Obsessed with seeing the entire museum before it closed a couple hours hence, I initially paid the hubbub little notice and made a beeline for the paintings galleries.
Eventually I overheard someone explain the cause of the hullabaloo: Scores of immigrants would be taking the oath of citizenship in a ceremony held in the center of the museum. Having never seen something like this before, I pulled myself away from a notable Courbet to watch the brief ceremony. After brief remarks from various Official Figures, scores of middle-aged folks stood, raised their right hands and took the oath of citizenship.
When two people get married, two people are the focus of the scene and the people around them serve as extras. This was different. Dozens of people took the oath together, creating dozens of focal points, dozens of points of poignancy. They weren't just expressing joy, they were clearly full of pride - and most of them were sharing that with multiple generations of their red-white-and-blue clad families. The museum guard who stood to the left of me as we watched from the museum's second floor cried. (OK, I did too.)
Art museums try lots of things to get people in the doors: They launch allegedly populist exhibitions of dubious merit. They host after-hours, mating-dance parties. The put sports cars just inside their front doors and pretend that's meaningful. (Ahem, Cincinnati.) They think that they need to put up a multi-story sculpture of a train by a semi-famous artist so that people will think that the museum is a community landmark, a place of importance.
On a chilly weekday in February, the Cincinnati Art Museum trumped all that by doing what an art museum should do: Present itself as the center of its community, as a gathering place for a special experience, as a place where the largesse and generosity of several previous generations of a community are on view and available to welcome that community's most recent generation. The art museum made itself available, and as a result the visitors and new citizens made themselves available to the art. I'd bet $100 that everyone who took their oath of citizenship at the Cincy museum that day will not just go back to the museum, but that they will value the place for the rest of their lives. So will their kids. Sometimes the best things museums do are the simplest - and they don't cost $25 million.
Schwartz's Point now has a new website. "Ed Moss invites you to the most intimate jazz experience. Jazz at Schwartz’s Point, great jazz is the point."
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From the website: How often have you headed up Vine Street and stopped at the five-way corner at West McMicken, waiting for the light to change and staring up at a funky triangular building with a circular sign naming it “Schwartz’s Point?” Reward you’re curosity and go in side for a musical treasure that’s been around for a while but is only just getting on people’s radar. The Jazz Club is the longtime labor of love of Jazz pianist Ed Moss, who happens to live upstairs. He’s always at the keyboard; and depending on the night he might be joined by singer Pam Ross or vocalist Kathy Wade.
Check out the site for the calendar, music clips, newsletter signup, etc.
I'm excited to check out The Brush Factory in Brighton, a new shop just opened by recent DAAP Fashion Design graduate Brittany Rose Kovacs. Her plan is to offer new and young designers a space to create their own mini store and sell their collections in a retail environment.
Ohio recently released a new, incredibly ugly, license plate designed by... the governor's wife.
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I'm going to assume she has no prior graphic design experience based on how ugly it is. Fortunately, they have stopped production and the older, slightly less ugly plates will stay.
I am not sure why we feel we have to make the plates all fancy. A plain numbered plate would be fine with me! It's not that I'm not against the new plates looking like a butter package, my problems with them are, 1) they are trying to convey too many thoughts at once (Ohio is beautiful, founded in 1803, birthplace of aviation, we have both farmland and cities!, etc...) and 2) there are plenty of talented graphic designers and illustrators in ohio... why can't the state government hire one of them instead of making it a PR stunt for the governors wife?
I started digging around for other plates and here are my faves. I think simple is best.
I'm loving this idea from Newport photographer Jonathan Robert Willis... The Simple Portrait Project. Limited by "one light, one prop, no descriptive backdrop and 30 minute sessions" The photographer challenges himself to photograph 100 families in 100 different ways.
Thanks to Matt for pointing out this cool Flickr set taken by Michael G. Smith, the grandson of photographer Nelson RonSheim. Smith grabbed some photos that his grandfather took around Cincinnati 70 years ago, then photographed the same scenes. Here's three that grabbed my attention:
It looks like the 21c hotel is officially coming to Cincinnati.
image from 21cmuseumhotel.com | click to enlarge
According to their website, 21c is working with 3CDC to restore the Metropole Apartments. There will be "160 rooms, a contemporary art museum with more than 8,000 square feet of exhibition space open to the public free of charge, a Proof restaurant and bar, and meeting spaces." The hotel will follow federal standards for historic rehabilitation for the building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Can Cincinnati be the "Silicon Valley of Consumer Marketing?" Apparently the folks that put together Agenda 360 think so. From the Enquirer, “the work grew out of the Agenda 360 community-wide plan sponsored by the Cincinnati USA Regional chamber, which set as one of its goals the creation of 50,000 jobs by 2020.” The marketing campaign aims to “support entrepreneurial companies in consumer marketing in Cincinnati” with a goal to "make Cincinnati as well known for consumer marketing as California's Silicon Valley is for technology."
• Consumer Packaged Goods: Cincy is the home of not only Procter & Gamble but also Kao Brands / Jergens, Perfetti Van Melle (maker of Mentos), and US Playing Cards. There is a reason that Cincinnati was the birthplace of Brand Management.
• Retailers: The area is the home of the United States largest grocery chain (Kroger with ~2,500 stores) and largest department store (Macy’s with over 1,000 stores)
• Design Firms: Cincinnati is filled with amazing firms including Landor, LPK, Deskey and Interbrand. We also have one of the top Design Schools in the country with the University of Cincinnati College of DAAP
• Advertising Agencies: Cincinnati has a rich advertising history and today is home to agencies like Bridge Worldwide, Barefoot Proximity, Northlich, and many others.
• Market Researchers: The Nielsen Company and dunnhumby both have a major presence in Cincinnati.
What do all of you think. Do you think it's possible for the city to become the "Silicon Valley of Consumer Marketing?"
I share the self-imposed rules that so many Cincinnati blogs seem to have... I don't like to write about politics at designcincinnati. However, I feel that I would be remiss if I didn't urge you to vote NO on issue 9 on November 3.
However you feel about the streetcar, don't be fooled in to thinking this is solely about the streetcar. For more information, check out Cincinnati Streetcar Blog. Or, watch this video by Soapbox:
Detroit seems to have a problem with razing its historic architecture rather than preserving it... unfortunately, that sounds too familiar 'round these parts.
I recently came across the photography at 100abandonedhouses.com, which documents homes in Detroit's abandoned neighborhoods:
images from 100abandonedhouses.com | click to enlarge
From the photographer: "The abandoned houses project began innocently enough roughly ten years ago. I actually began photographing abandonment in Detroit in the mid 90’s as a creative outlet, and as a way of satisfying my curiosity with the state of my home town. I had always found it to be amazing, depressing, and perplexing that a once great city could find itself in such great distress, all the while surrounded by such affluence."
Let's make sure Cincinnati doesn't get to the point where tourists are flooding in to photograph our crumbling historic architecture.