Over the past few years, the streets of Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine (OTR) neighborhood have transformed into a world-class outdoor art gallery. You could spend the whole day looking at art, giant murals taking up a whole building and smaller pieces tucked into small alleys. For this tour, we’ll look at some highlights in the area between two of the neighborhood’s biggest landmarks: Washington Park and Findlay Market.
Most of the murals you’ll see come from one of two sources: ArtWorks or BLINK. ArtWorks is a Cincinnati nonprofit that has partnered with many local organizations to transform the city through art. Their murals, many of which focus on local themes, are the work of teams of artists and youth apprentices. They give mural tours too! (Weekends May-Oct., $25)
BLINK is a unique light and art festival that has twice turned the streets of Cincinnati into a luminous outdoor art gallery. Street artists from around the world painted murals for the event, each in their unique style. The festival is set to return in fall 2022.
Look, I made you a map!
Start of Tour: Washington Park
Washington Park is OTR’s main square and the perfect place to start any venture into the neighborhood. On the west side is Music Hall, perhaps Cincinnati’s grandest building. It dates from 1878, when OTR was a growing center of commerce built largely by German immigrants. After a long period of economic decline, the early 2000’s saw a massive effort to redevelop this area. The Washington Park you see today was mostly completed in 2012.
Turn away from Music Hall and head east toward the corner of Race St. and 13th St.
The Golden Muse
This is one of my favorite murals in town! Across from the venerable Music Hall is a tribute to music in Cincinnati. The namesake muse comes from an 18th century clock in the collection at the Taft Museum of Art. Swirling around her are musical notes from Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” which the composer wrote for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in 1942.
The Vision of Samuel Hannaford
Across the parking lot is a mural that pays tribute to Music Hall’s masterful architect, Samuel Hannaford. His portrait is on the right. Throughout the scene, you can see other Cincinnati landmarks he designed including the Elsinore Arch and City Hall.
Go back across Race Street and head toward the north end of the park. Walk past the green and around the stage area. Directly behind the stage is Pleasant Street. Head north.
We’ll be walking along Pleasant Street all the way to Findlay Market. Take a moment to appreciate the unique, new-meets-old style of this corner of OTR. You’ll see the next mural a few blocks up on the left.
Mural by Bicicleta Sem Freio
It’s hard to miss this bold design by the Brazilian team of Bicicleta Sem Freio. The duo’s style draws on rock and roll posters combined with bright, tropical colors. They painted this motorcycle-riding character for the 2017 BLINK festival.
Tea For Three
On the opposite side of the street is another mural from BLINK 2017, a surreal scene by Telmo Miel called “Tea for Three.” It features the duo’s signature style of combining realistic and fantastic elements using a limited color palette.
Mural by Ernest Zacharevic
Ernest “ZACH” Zacharevic is a Lithuanian artist known for meaningful works that respond to the social environment around them. He painted this portrait of a black girl who lived in the building, now seeming to look out over a changing neighborhood and wonder what the future will hold. The background text pays tribute to street artist Jason Brunson, aka RAPES, who passed away in 2017.
Turn right and head east across the parking lot.
Flying Pig by Bik Ismo
Looking right, you’ll see a very shiny flying pig. Acclaimed artist and “chrome master” Bik Ismo painted this symbol of Cincinnati in his distinctive metallic style.
Ezzard Charles: The Cincinnati Cobra
Ezzard Charles was a two-time heavyweight boxing world champion who famously beat Joe Louis for the title in 1950. “Ezz” lived in Cincinnati from the age of 9 and trained at an upstairs gym just down the street. Besides being a champion boxer, Ezz was also an accomplished jazz bassist and a community leader in Cincinnati’s West End.
Go back to Pleasant Street and head north across Liberty Street. Continue on Pleasant Street.
This mural by Beau Stanton depicts the mythological Atlas holding up a fragile window just starting to crack. Does it look familiar? That’s the rose window from the facade of Music Hall.
When you reach the parking lot, turn right. We’ll see a few murals in this area before continuing to Findlay Market.
Mural by The London Police
The art collective known as The London Police have been painting their signature smiley figures around the world since 1998. Founded by Chaz Barrisson and Bob Gibson, you can see their murals in 35 countries. In fact, there are a few more pieces around Cincinnati and northern Kentucky.
The Secret Garden
Artist Natalia Rak is known for her brightly colored murals, often of female subjects. Based in Poland, she draws inspiration from folklore, fairy tales, and stories. She painted this whimsical portrait for the BLINK festival.
Go back through the parking lot toward Pleasant Street.
Mural by Ana Marietta
Originally from Puerto Rico, artist Ana Maria Ortiz, aka Ana Marietta, has painted murals across the US. Her unique style often features animals with human-like features.
Cross the street and veer slightly right into the alley. Continue past the parking lot.
Denver-based couple Lindz and Lamb painted this geometric mural for the 2019 BLINK festival. Take a moment to adjust to the dizzying black-and-white stripes of the painting to see the title in red letters. One half of the duo has a local connection: artist Jonathan Lamb grew up in Cincinnati.
Turn around and return to Pleasant Street again. Then, turn left toward the market.
This mural on the side of the Pleasant Street Friary offers a contemporary take on a classic Biblical subject: the angel Gabriel telling Mary she will be the mother of the Messiah. Artists from Xylene modeled their annunciation on a 14th century fresco from the Basillica of the Angels in Assisi, Italy, where the order of the Fransican friars was founded. Matthew Dayler founded the Cincinnati-based art collective known as Xylene. He and his team have painted many indoor and outdoor projects around the city.
Look toward the opposite side of Pleasant Street.
Mural by ROA
Belgian street artist ROA is known for painting murals of native animals around the world. He added this collection of critters in connection with BLINK in 2017.
You have arrived at Findlay Market.
End of Tour: Findlay Market
Findlay Market is the epicenter of delicious food in Cincinnati. Opened in 1855, it is Ohio’s oldest continuously operated public market. It was built on land owned by James Findlay, a leader of early Cincinnati who served in Congress and led troops during the War of 1812. The building was constructed using iron framework that was new technology at the time. Today, it’s still home to a variety of independent food vendors and shops. Take some time to explore the market area!
The tour ends here, but let’s call it “Part 1.” There are lots more murals in OTR. (And if you made it this far, I haven’t finished writing Part 2 yet. Come back soon!)