Art for All, Downtown — Fountain Square, Lytle Park, and Great American Ballpark

While downtown for the World Choir Games Opening Ceremony, Mark and I went in search of three more paintings from the Art for All exhibit.  We knew there was one at Fountain Square, but not exactly where at the square. I probably noticed this more yesterday because we were wandering around in 100 degree weather. If this heat front persists, I may have to cease and desist on this scavenger hunt until the fall.

In recent years the Fountain Square in the center of downtown Cincinnati has had a facelift and is experiencing a resurgence in activity. There always seems to be something happening on the square.

We found the painting on the right side of the square if you are facing the front of the fountain.

Portrait of a Man Rising from His Chair, 1633 by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), Dutch

The man portrayed here is unidentified, but his rich clothing shows that he was wealthy. “A portrait like this would have hung in the most prominent room of the house, where a host would greet his visitors,” (Art for All signage).

A closer look reveals vandalism on this reproduction. This saddens me. It is a sign of so much that is wrong with our society. No one should feel left out. There is no call for meanness, or destructive behavior. This art is for all of us. Why do people do things like this? I’ll never understand.

The Taft Museum. The Immaculata is visible in the background

Mark, who has always seemed impervious to heat, walked with a spring in his step, while I trudged beside him thinking of shade and a large cold glass of water, the entire seven blocks from Fountain Square to our destination. We passed the Metro Station where we expected to find a painting, but didn’t. (Now that I am home and looking closely at the map, the paintings location is actually Metro Bus Route 1, Bus # 1004. That might be tricky to get.)

We went on, in search of the painting in Lytle Park across the street from the Taft Museum, sponsor of Art for All, and home of the originals reproduced in this exhibit. I never before realized that the Church of the Immaculata is visible from this vantage point.

The Doctor’s Visit, about 1663, Jan Steen (1625/26-1679), Dutch

According to the sign, this painting is about “a young woman who is sick, and the doctor has come to take her pulse. Is it serious? Probably not. This story is a comedy starring a pretty young girl, an incompetent doctor, and a street-smart maid. To find out what’s really ailing this blond bombshell (Is she lovesick?) visit the Dutch gallery at the Taft Museum of Art,” (Art for All signage). I don’t know how they know this from looking at this painting, and can only surmise they have inside information. I may have to make a visit to get to the bottom of it.

The painting was at the far side of Lytle Park from where we entered (of course). We retraced our steps past the beautiful gardens and walked about four blocks more to the US Bank Arena where we enjoyed the Opening Ceremony of the World Choir Games inside in air-conditioning.

It was nearly dark when we left the opening ceremony. We walked a couple of blocks to the Great American Ball Park, where we found our third and final painting for the day hanging on a wall just outside the view of this camera shot to the left.

Charles Phelps Taft, 1902 by Raimundo de Madrazo Garetta (1841-1920), Spanish

Charles Phelps Taft was a lawyer, newspaper publisher, politician, and philanthropist. From 1914 to 1916, he owned the Chicago Cubs. Now his portrait hangs at the entrance to the home of the Cincinnati Reds. “He and his wife, Anna Sinton, acquired the works of art that now form the collection of the Taft Museum of Art,” (Art for All Signage).

About five blocks later we were back in our car and headed for home. Next time Mark says it’s just a couple of blocks, I’m going to check the thermometer right after I check a map.


Duck, duck, goose, goose and a blackbird, swallow or two

Red-winged blackbird at VOA park, West Chester, Ohio

Arthur’s been patiently waiting through rainy and stormy days for me to take him for exercise. Yesterday, under blue skies, we took at walk at the Voice of America county park where red-winged blackbirds are in abundance. They are in the trees,

Red-winged blackbird

on the ground,

Red-winged blackbird

and in the bushes. I might have had a better photo or two if not for the small, white, untrained dog

who was straining at the leash,

tromping through puddles,

and drinking from them.

Queen’s Lace

all the while I was trying to hold steady to catch a photograph of a field of Queen Anne’s lace, or a swallow in the distant—trying to use two hands on my cell phone camera while wearing the leash on my wrist, which continually jerked by said small animal attached to the other end.

Tree swallow

Of course I had my sunglasses on, and the cell phone camera’s screen was dim from the sunlight, so I was shooting blind in many cases. “Just aim in the right direction and hope to catch something. Cropping might help.”

Unidentified bird

I have no idea what this bird is. I saw it fly, then land on a bench and move to the ground. In the flurry of transferring Arthur’s leash from my hand to my wrist, unlocking the iPhone, starting the camera and zooming in, this was the best I could do. Anybody know what this is with so few clues? It’s relatively slim, not full-bodied like a duck.

American Coot

These black ducks made a striking picture on the small lake. I believe they are male American Coots, and that the brownish ones are the females. This is based on merely the color of their beak or bill. You can’t notice it from this professional photography, but they black ones actually had a lot of gray on their lower body if I’m recalling correctly. Feel free to set me straight.

American Coot

Here’s a better picture. Better is a relative word.

Canada Geese and goslings

I do not know how I managed to get this clear shot of the geese and goslings, but I’ll take it. Goslings always remind me of a song we used to sing when I was young called “Go Tell Aunt Nancy,” with the lyrics “Goslings are mourning (repeated three times) because their mother’s dead.” Actually, after some intensive researching online this morning to get to the bottom of this important issue, I discovered that the title is actually “Go Tell Aunt Rhody,” and that the line we always sang, “She died last Friday, (repeated three times) with a pitchfork in her head,” should actually be: “She died in the mill pond from standing on her head.” A little less violent, but gruesome just the same.

Anyway, the next time I want to take bird photos at VOA park, I am going to take my DSLR with my new zoom lens, and a dog-walker with me.

See the lyrics and more information on the American Folk Song, “Go Tell Aunt Rhody.”

The Murals of Cincinnati Artist Amanda Checco

The willowy woman bursts into a room like a beam of sunlight. Her positive energy and optimism energize the room. The artist is a powerhouse of color. Her work energizes the space. The woman and artist is Amanda Checco.

I first met Amanda several months ago when our youngest son Mark Joseph became friends with her through their shared interest in art and their Artworks connection. At the time, she had asked Mark to photograph her mural in-progress.

Find Your Soul in the City by Amanda Checco

Amanda was working on “Find your Soul in the City,” her second mural. This mural is located inside a store called Park & Vine in Over the Rhine, a section of downtown Cincinnati that is undergoing an artistic rebirth. You can see photos of the work in-progress and read about the design and commission of “Find your Soul in the City” on this link to Amanda’s blog.

“‘Find your Soul in the City’ mural is meant to be very spiritual,” Amanda writes in an e-mail. “I used sacred geometry, chakras and symbols from several different religious and spiritual groups.”

Amanda also used Metatron’s cube in her design of “Find your Soul in the City.” This link takes you to this mind-bending YouTube video about Metatron’s Cube and Consciousness. If you have ten minutes to spare, it is well worth it.
“My belief about colors,” Amanda writes, “is that they are powerful healing tools for everyone. I try really hard to wrap my head around color theory and subtle shifts in hue and saturation. And hopefully I will continue to master that. But for this mural, and for ice cream day dream too (Amanda’s first mural shown at the end), I just chose colors that make me happy in hopes that they will elicit the same reaction from other viewers.”
Amanda sent me the following two links about color theory and therapy, and video about chakras’ colors if you would like to learn more about this fascinating topic:
How do you turn a manageable design into a work of art that covers an entire wall from floor to ceiling? Amanda documents the process of transferring the mural to the wall and the first paint strokes with photos in this blog post.
After she began to paint the mural, Amanda decided to refashion some of the characters. “I was trying to figure out how to push some areas in the design as we were beginning to paint,” she writes in her blog.  I thought it would be a good opportunity to investigate something that Ive always loved- fashion.  I felt so many characters in this image were REALLY wanting to wear something awesome.” (From !Character Refashionizin! where you can see Amanda’s inspiration and sketches.)
This break-dancing “bird” character, according to Amanda, is based on my son, Mark. “I had just met him when I started designing, so I decided to put him on the wall,” Amanda writes. “Artists always make work about their life.”
According to Amanda, “Find your Soul in the City” is not finished yet. “It is really not knocking me over like I’d like it to,” she says. “I’ll be going back and adding more to make it a more intense experience.” The mural dedication will be Final Friday in August, (a local street celebration in this area of Downtown Cincinnati that occurs on the last Friday of each month).
Ice Cream Day Dream by Amanda Checco and Cincinnati Artworks

You can read Amanda’s five-part series on How to Make a Mural that she wrote while working on her first mural, “Ice Cream Day Dream.” This mural is located on the backside of the historic Germainia building at the corner of Jackson and 12th streets in Cincinnati’s rapidly growing arts district called the Gateway Quarter.  See more of Amanda’s artwork on her blog

Take me out to the ballgame

I’m not what anyone would mistake for a sports fan. Except when my kids were playing sports in grade school and high school—I wouldn’t miss a game. Otherwise, not so much, unless we’re talking about gymnastics, competitive dancing and maybe diving.

Great American Ballpark, Cincinnati, Ohio

I’m not sure why Mark takes me with him to the Reds’ games when he goes once or twice a year, but I go along to keep him company and for the food. This time, though, I brought my own little sandwich baggie full of pretzels. Then someone sat down across the aisle from us with a large bag of aromatic freshly popped popcorn. I don’t know how I managed to get out of that park without buying some.

We are sitting in this mezzanine level, beside the stairs, on the right, at the bottom, where you can see  Mark wearing a gray jacket. I have a better view of the river from up here.

The ball park sits right on the Ohio River, across from where the Licking River that runs through Kentucky joins the Ohio. If, I mean when,  the Red’s get a home run, fireworks shoot out of the tall stacks you can see across the field. It’s an overcast day today, which is fine with me. Nothing worse than sitting through a three to four hour baseball game with the sun beating down on you.

As I’m documenting the ball park with my photographs, I notice a barge full of coal silently sliding past the stadium on the river.

I’m always amazed at the physics of these heavily laden barges being pushed by a small tug boat. And how in the world would you ever steer that thing? Tricky job. Although, there is something appealing to me about captaining a boat along a river every day. Gliding along. Listening to the water lap the sides. Watching the birds swoop and land on a rail. Seeing the sun sparkle off the water. Alone with your thoughts. I can see why some are attracted to this job.

I notice we are sitting beside the press box (and also beside a woman with very bright hair). Right past the “Cincinnati Reds” sign you can just make out the “Reds on Radio” sign above the glassed-in press box. I don’t know what Mark would do without the Reds on Radio. I also don’t really understand how anyone can listen to a baseball game on radio. Maybe it’s my short attention span. Or maybe I don’t have the childhood memory of sitting outside on a back patio with my family and grandparents, listening to the Reds on warm summer evenings, like Mark does. Maybe I would feel differently about it then.

If I zoom in with my little point and shoot Nikon Coolpix, I can see sportscaster, Marty Brennaman in the white shirt in the press box. If you’re a baseball fan, you’ve probably heard of Marty Brennaman. If not, you might not care.

Upbeat music clips play on the impressive sound system when the teams change fields or between innings. When they built this new stadium a few years ago, I think they made the seats narrower, like they’ve done on airplanes, to pack more people in and make more money. At the same time, I’m getting wider. Not a good combination.

I haven’t made it through the first inning yet and I am already looking for diversions. I can’t decide if this photographer’s job is a good one or a bad one.

Here comes another barge. This one carries something in blue containers. I have no idea what.

But it’s also being pushed by a small tug boat.

Thankfully there is a gigantic scoreboard to my left, so I can at least pretend like I know what is going on.

Oh look, another barge. This one also has closed containers. The closed containers are starting to make me nervous. Just exactly what is inside those? I feel a little bit like a spy. I can take a photograph from a great distance and then crop in and magnify it on my computer and see all kinds of detail not visible to the naked eye from where I sit.

It reminds me of the time we went to Kennebunkport right on the same weekend as a Bush family wedding. Traffic came to a dead halt and helicopter propellers beat the air overhead when the caravan with George W. Bush, who was president at the time, rode in. The quaint little town was crawling with secret service who, in their all-black multi-pocketed suits, looked like something out of a sci-fi movie. We went on a schooner ride and had to pass by the wedding reception venue. The water was dotted with secret service inflatable rafts. It was kind of scary.

I am going to have to find out more about just how these barges and tug boats navigate down the river. This goes on day after day and I’ve never thought about it before. My father-in-law used to sit in his condominium on a hill overlooking the river and watch the barges go up and down the river all day.

I find this fascinating. I don’t know why. Probably has something to do with my OCD. It kind of reminds me of watching teachers erase chalk boards. I used to hate it if they were careless and missed a bit of chalk—the top of a t or the end of a sentence.

More coal. This barge, like all the others is heading east. If it follows the Ohio River, it could go to Pittsburgh or beyond. But maybe it’s taking the coal to fuel a small little town along the river. And where is all this coal coming from anyway? I sure hope it is not the result of mountaintop removal mining. What a travesty.

I caught the wake behind this tug boat. Maybe they’re not actually called tug boats. I need to find out. So many things I just don’t know.

This is the only boat I saw that wasn’t pushing a barge. It is a little entertainment boat that you can ride up and down the river on.

I bought a small soft drink and got gouged for five bucks. Like the smaller seats, I see this as another sign of corporate greed. I refuse to believe it costs Skyline Chili, a Cincinnati food establishment that has booths at the ball park, four times the amount of money to provide paying customers a beverage in the ballpark than it does at their restaurants. Why the upcharge? We are a captive audience. They’re gouging us because they can.

Another thing that bothers me, if I’m being honest, is just how much money and time is spent by men and women watching primarily men play sports. Now you might argue that women’s sports are gaining fans. I’d like to look at the time and money stats. That’s all I’m saying.

I took a little stroll towards the end of the game. The Reds were losing 4 – 1 according to the scoreboard. I shot this photo of the Great American Financial building from a walkway in the stadium. It looks pretty powerful and intimidating, doesn’t it?

I’m pretty sure the Reds lost. If you want more details about the game, you’ll have to check the sports pages.