Seeing Stars in Cincinnati; A City of Firsts & Dazzling Street Art

Cincinnati, Ohio is known for so, so much.

Fiona the Hippo has been capturing the hearts of followers around the world with her life and daily antics at the Cincinnati Zoo for the past few years.


The John A Roebling Suspension Bridge connecting Cincinnati to Covington inspired the Brooklyn Bridge design, and the Empire State Building was modeled after Cincinnati’s Netherland Plaza.


Justice League’s fictional Hall of Justice was inspired by Cincinnati’s Union Terminal Building.


Cincinnati was the first city to establish a weather bureau, a licensed public tv station, a municipal university, fire department, and to build a fireman’s pole and practical steam fire engine.


It was the first and only city to build and own a major railroad, and it is the site of the Ingalls Building, America’s first reinforced skyscraper.


Cincinnati was the first American city to establish a Jewish hospital and a Jewish University, a professional baseball team, and the first city where a woman, Maria Longworth Nichols Storer, owned and operated her own mega manufacturing business called Rookwood Pottery.


Cincinnati held an extensive network of safehouses for the Underground Railroad and was a hub for abolitionist activists.

It was also the hub of a German immigrant neighbourhood called Over-the-Rhine that became the “Beer Capital of the World.” Over-the-Rhine has an equally extensive network of beer cellars, tunnels, and an abandoned subway system below ground.


Cincinnati is the home of Doris Day, Bootsy Collins, Neil Armstrong, Theda Bara, Roy Rogers, Sarah Jessica Parker, Steven Spielberg, Frank Duveneck, Rosemary and her equally famous son, George Clooney, Jerry Springer, Ted Turner, The Isley Brothers, Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and William Howard Taft, and many others.


Cincinnati is known for its Flying Pig Marathon, a throwback to its “Porkopolis” days of being the head of the nation’s pork production industry. Runners and supporters alike don pig snouts and pink shirts or costumes for the race.

This story of pigs trolling and trampling the streets, and the numerous writers and reporters who wrote about its horrors, actually came as a comedic surprise.


Cincinnati cuisine summons the scents and flavours of subtly sweet Skyline Chili, LaRosa’s Pizzeria, Graeter’s Ice Cream, the regional delicacy called Goetta, Buckeye candies, and scores of German-influenced restaurants. It hosts the largest annual Oktoberfest celebration in the United States, and is the home base of Cin Soy that makes delish Asian condiments.


Cincinnati is also known for its craft beer culture, endless museums and cultural institutes, nightlife, music halls, and increasingly, public art spaces.

ArtWorks, a nonprofit with a mission to create public art for all ages by supporting and involving local artists, is the key player in Cincinnati’s art scene.
In addition to Revival and Cheers to Cincinnati above, ArtWorks has collaborated with countless sponsors, designers, art educators, activists, historians, and apprentice artists to create over 230 murals in Over-the-Rhine and all over Cincinnati.

When I first rolled into Cincinnati I did not know about ArtWorks or any specific local art collectives, I was just stunned by how many murals there were, literally everywhere I turned. I saw DOZENS of gorgeous ones that I could not get to, either for traffic or construction or some other obstacle, but I managed to capture quite a few.
For the sake of simplicity, I will just list the designer of each mural, if known.
Homage to Cincinnatus, designed by Richard Haas, was completed in 1983. This mural was the match that lit the flame, inspiring ArtWorks to create its mural apprentice program. Check out this short 15-minute mini documentary to learn more about the creation of this mural, how it affected the community, and the realization of the ArtWorks mission that unfolded in the process.
Cincinnati Toy Heritage Mural by Jonathan Queen celebrates the legacy of Kenner Toys, which contributed some of our nation’s most beloved toys and action figures. You can find this one on the side of the Towne Properties building.
Cinc Toy Heritage
Hands That Built Our City by Jenny Ustick on Elm Street.

Hands That Built Our City
Jenny Ustick also created Mr. Dynamite, an ode to James Brown, who was signed and supported by Cincinnati’s King Records.

Mamie Smith, the Queen of Blues, was also signed to King Records. She is known to be the first Black/African American blues artist to ever record, and there is an elegant ArtWorks mural, Dreaming Blues, of her on 13th Street but I was not able to capture it.

Mr. Dynamite
Below, Ustick, strikes again. She is the mastermind behind this beauty on Dunlap Street, on the side of Dunlap Café.
A gorgeous woman in traditional Ukrainian attire flourishes, figuratively, and literally of a cornucopia of flowers and wheat, with the Ukrainian flag in the background.
The mural is described as a love letter to the People of Ukraine, especially Cincinnati’s Sister City Kharkiv, in regards to their current struggle under Russian attack.
Also on Dunlap Street is this “Laocoön-inspired” mural, Untitled by Pichiavo.

The Golden Muse by Tim Parsley overlays a gold clock figurine from the Taft Museum of Art across the music score of Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, which he composed for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
Golden Muse1
Mr. Tarbell Tips His Hat, also by Tim Parsley, commemorates an OG Cincinnati native who spent a great deal of his life and energy fighting to preserve Cincinnati’s endangered neighbourhoods, most importantly, Over-the-Rhine.
Hat-tipping is his trademark welcoming gesture.
Jim Tarbell
Ezzard Charles by Jason Snell is a tribute to the two-time World Heavyweight champion and jazz musician, endearingly known as the Cincinnati Cobra. This mural is also very special because it was the 100th mural commissioned by ArtWorks.

Ezzard Charles
Self Portrait, Elizabeth Nourse is actually a replicated self-portrait painted in 1892 by Elizabeth Nourse herself. The project was managed by Eric Ruegg.
Nourse is a Cincinnati native who graduated art school there before moving to Paris and making waves. She embodied boldness and often demonstrated this by portraying herself in traditional male poses, challenging her observers and critics, and becoming feminist icon.SP Elizabeth Nourse1

Connected Through the Generations by Molly Costello is a tribute to the YWCA and its ongoing “mission and legacy to eliminate racism, empower women, and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.”
Connected Through Generations
Visionary Reality Threshold by Saya Woolfalk is so large and intricate that I had to really stop and take it all in for a moment. Woolfalk specializes in portraying spacelike portals using mandala designs. My photos do not do it justice.
None of my photos do any of these murals any justice, but I keep trying.
Visionary Reality Threshold (2)
Mother’s Bouquet by Louise “Ouizi” Jones is another stunner. Her work can be seen in major cities all across the country.
Mother's Bouquet
Tribute to JP Ball by Taron Jordan celebrates the inventions and successes of the African American photographer.

Tribute to JP Ball
One mural that I tried so hard to get a good photo of was this one below, which I am sharing from the ArtWorks website. This is not my photo.
Campy Washington by Scott Donaldson is near (Camp) Washington Park, named after George Washington himself, by a costume shop. Why NOT depict him in period costume?
Camp-Washington by ArtWorks
ArtWorks has a mural series called New Lines that is being developed, and several projects that extend beyond Cincinnati. I had even come across some of them in other cities, not knowing at the time. 
Ripple of Ralph in Covington’s Mutter Gottes neighbourhood is one of those.

I had also just captured a shot of this Healthcare Heroes mural in Newport a few days prior.

BLINK is another name to know in the art world.
BLINK defines itself as a “light and art event featuring large-scale projection mapping, light-based sculptures, interactive art, live performances and mural art.” Each year, it takes over more than 30 city blocks ranging between Cincinnati to Covington, and surrounding areas.
BLINK’s annual event is the largest free public art event, and the largest event (in general) in the whole region, drawing more than 1.5 million guests. BLINK often collaborates with ArtWorks, creating light shows and multi-media installations over or near existing ArtWorks murals. BLINK also works with additional artists to create its own street art and murals, which you can view here.
Euthenia by Insane 51 is the first mural I came across by BLINK. Honestly it is one of my top favourites.

Insane 51_2
At first glance, it is most impressive strictly due to its size. This building is HUGE!I happened to be wearing polarized sunglasses that day, which made the underlying skeleton EXPLODE out of the painting.
The sight left me gobsmacked, to the point of using the word “gobsmacked” for the first time in my life. I had to experience it to know it.

Insane 51
This trippy rabbit mural is by a Brazilian art collective called Bicicleta Sem Freio.

Bicicleta San Fria
Like the rabbit mural, this one called Girl Power by Elle Street Art is very close to Findlay Market. 
Tristan Eaton currently holds the title of Largest Mural in Ohio, with his 17,000 square feet mural paying homage to Mamie Smith, Doris Day, Bootsy Collins, and other performers from, or who became famous in, Cincinnati.
I seem to have visited two days before it was officially presented in this year’s BLINK festival, and can not find the actual title of the mural.

Tristan Eaton
South Korean immigrant, and now Cincinnati resident, Chris Chan Shim is is known for beautiful portraits like this one:


The Young Can Learn From The Old Can Learn From The Young 
by German artist Herakut is rather stunning, but difficult to read from afar, and I have noticed that it is often omitted from mural tours and best of lists. This is not a good photo, but I want to make sure this mural is included.


And my personal favourite mural in Cincinnati; Woman With White Peacock by Tatiana “Tati” Suarez.
Tatiana Suarez
Of course, outside of ArtWorks and BLINK, there are thousands of independent artists, collectives, and all of their murals stretched across the Cincinnati canvas. It would likely take me months or even years to recall, research, and identify each one.
One that stuck out to me each time I drove by is this Welcome to Jaffa mural by “Jason” Yacoub Khaled Al Ghussein.
He painted this 50-feet tall mural of Palestinian oranges, a symbol of his family’s orange groves, or Palestinian hospitality, and a remembrance of the hardships faced and ongoing by the Palestinian people.

Welcome to Jaffa 1
These two kept catching my eye also, but I could not see any artist info, or find anything online. 
After touring the tunnels, be sure to find the nine historic Prost to Cincinnati murals that depict significant elements of Cincinnati’s brewing past, once you are back above ground.

You can find Revival, Queen City Beer King, and Pedestals and Roots on McMicken Avenue; Grain to Glass, Zinzy Ist Bier, and Top of the Barrel on Vine Street; Billy and Schnitzel on Hamer Street; Munich Barmaid on Moore Street, and Cheers to Cincy Brewing the American Dream on Central Parkway.

Revival by Keith Neltner, is best seen with a beer in hand in Somerset‘s courtyard, below:


Cheers to Cincy Brewing the American Dream (also called Cheers to Cincy, Past and Present!) by Tom Post is featured across the street from Samuel Adams Brewing.



In the area for a while? Follow me to Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighbourhood, Brewery District, and other rad places downtown.

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2 thoughts on “Seeing Stars in Cincinnati; A City of Firsts & Dazzling Street Art

  1. Pingback: Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine, Brewery District, and Abandoned Underground Tunnels | Fernweh

  2. Pingback: Queen City & Beyond; Nature, Art, & Architecture in Downtown Cincinnati | Fernweh

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