Cincinnati Mural Tours

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I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m hometown proud. I know that most people wouldn’t think to visit Cincinnati, but I am constantly surprised at all the history and culture that I continue to learn about the Queen City of the West.

When I tell others about Cincinnati’s history, it’s easy to focus on the German immigration that resulted in burgeoning breweries and pork industry. Cincinnati is also a pivotal point in the Underground Railroad. Slaves who were able to cross the Ohio River found themselves in a free state, though bounty hunters abounded and most continued to make their way north.

I write about Cincinnati a lot because there’s a lot to see and do here. It’s becoming more and more of a tourist town with Segway tours, walking tours, and now Mural Tours in two downtown Cincinnati areas. I thought I’d seen most of the murals during my downtown wanderings until I was treated to a Mural Tour in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood and discovered that there is still a lot to learn about Cincinnati.

ArtWorks has been busy making our city beautiful. Founded in 2007, they have commissioned the creation of 102 murals throughout 36 of Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods. They consider the murals a love letter to the city. Is it any wonder we’re hometown proud?

I was surprised to learn that these murals were actually painted by 14 to 21-year-olds under the direction of a lead artist. Usually 10-15 teenagers work with a lead artist and apprentice on any given project. Most take 4-8 weeks to complete and over the years 2700 youth have been paid to help paint these murals under the direction of 700 different artists. I had no idea!

Some murals depict famous characters/people in Cincinnati.

Some murals are tricks of the eye. The Kroger Company, which is headquartered here in Cincinnati, sponsored the mural below. It is painted on a building right next to theirs and the shadows on the mural mimic the shading that occurs there most of the day. Looks almost 3-dimensional, doesn’t it?

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Fresh Harvest

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Can you tell which windows are real and which are painted?

The above mural of Cincinnatus is actually one that ArtWorks restored. They made Cincinnatus look more like the real man and not so much like Michelangelo’s David. They also revamped the windows to match current styles. Originally, the painted windows displayed curtains, but now that mini-blinds are the typical choice, they painted the fake windows with blinds, too. (The windows on the left are real.)

This mural reflects the diversity of our city and the abundance of activity happening downtown. You’ll notice that each person is looking in a different direction because things are happening all around us.

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I’m tempted to show you all the murals we admired on our walk, but then you wouldn’t need to see them in person. I’ll end with this mural that most people either love or hate. It’s called “Energy & Grace” and was created by Kim Krause. I’m not a fan of it, but it certainly brightens up this parking lot.

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Which of these murals do you like best?

35 responses to “Cincinnati Mural Tours

  1. These are great! I’ve never had much time for the type of graffiti known as tagging, but proper street art by real artists is something that I do enjoy. It was smart to involve local young people in creating the artworks too. If local kids feel some ownership of them, perhaps the wall paintings will be less likely to fall victim to the less pleasant kind of graffiti in the future. 🙂

    • I enjoy good street art, too. You’re right — involving young people was a smart idea. And who knew they had so much talent? ArtWorks does a lot of great things for our city.

    • Actually, no. That was one of the questions someone asked. ArtWorks hasn’t had any trouble with vandalism or graffiti. They make the point that street artists have a code of honor and respect art. I’m as surprised as you are, Roy. Seems like someone would get their kicks destroying these murals, but they don’t. Cincinnatians are a pretty well-behaved group in general.

      • I am impressed. Civic pride is great if it engages everybody. Usually it’s down to a committee of people with the best of intentions but who unintentionally alienate the majority who might wish to be involved.

    • Thanks, Tammi! I agree; it is hard to choose a favorite. I love the “Mr. Cincinnati” because he just seems so friendly. But the Henry Holtgrewe captures my attention more.

  2. I like mural art, a lot, Juliann. I think it brightens up a town and makes it more interesting. The involvement of the young people is a fun, valuable addition. High marks to the city! My favorite was the fruit but I also enjoyed the people looking out the windows. Thanks for sharing. –Curt

    • Thanks, Curt. They really do brighten up the city. Cincinnati is actually pretty small, so you see murals around nearly every corner. It’s such a nice addition to the scenery. I like the fruit mural, too. Definitely not what you expect to see on the side of a building!

      • I’ve driven around Cincinnati but not stopped there, Juliann. Next time I am in that neck of the woods, I’ll have to stop and take a look. My wife, Peggy, is from northern Ohio where she grew up on Catawba Island on Lake Eerie. –Curt

      • Some of my ancestors wandered down the Ohio River and on into Kentucky around 1790. I’ve always wished I could have been with them on the journey. They ended up in Cynthia, not all that far from where you live, Juliann. It is very pretty country. –Curt

      • Some of my ancestors wandered down the Ohio River and on into Kentucky around 1790. I’ve always wished I could have been with them on the journey. They ended up in Cynthia, not all that far from where you live. It is very pretty country. –Curt

  3. What a treat for the eyes!! And your insights made it all so enjoyable! Now I want to see it in person for myself. Thank you!!

  4. Pingback: Huntsville Haiku | Browsing The Atlas·

  5. I, for one, am a big fan of Cincinnati for many reasons besides putting chocolate in chili and chili on spaghetti. I shot a 17 under at the Embshoff disc golf course once but perhaps my favorite memory was celebrating Jenn’s birthday for the first time together in Cinci. We stayed at a bed and breakfast, went biking by Loveland Castle, and visited Kings Island. It was early in our dating and she was going to meet up with a old romantic interest. Instead, I wooed her to Ohio with me (and the allure of the Queen City).

    I think my favorite Cinci murals are probably at the airport. I heard that the Winold Reiss murals were removed for a while but have been repatriated to a new terminal.

  6. Yay! You know a lot about Cincinnati, which is awesome! There is so much to see and do here. Next time you fly in, I think you’ll see those murals again, and lots of framed photos of Cincinnati spots as you walk through the arrivals terminal at CVG.

  7. So well written! I love the one of Cincinattus, thank you for introducing me to this amazing street art scene!

  8. It’s hard to choose which one I like best! But the two trompe l’oeil murals — one with the people hanging out of their windows, and then the restored Cincinatus mural would be my top picks. When I’m in Cincinnati, I’d love to take this tour!

    • There are actually two different tours in two different downtown neighborhoods. Even though I’ve seen several of the other tour’s murals, I’d like to learn more about them. That’s on my agenda this summer.

  9. ArtWorks did a great job transforming Cincinnati into a beautiful city with mural arts! It helps the city look livelier. I especially love the one with the painted windows!

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