Artworks dedicates Charlie Harper mural

While we were downtown for the Underground tour earlier this month, we stopped by the Artworks dedication of the Charlie Harper mural.

You can see a photograph of the wall before the mural as well as a picture of the Charlie Harper painting here.

“Founded in 1996, ArtWorks is a non-profit arts organization that connects artists of all ages with opportunities in the arts through inspiring apprenticeships, community partnerships, and public art,” (Artworks/about us/ organizational information).

Tamara Harkavy, CEO and Artistic Director, has served at the helm of Artworks since its beginning. The Charlie Harper mural is one of ten painted this year. Created in partnership with Charley Harper Art Studio and Court St. Executive Suites, this rendition of Harper’s “Homecoming (Bluebirds)” is the largest Artworks’ mural to date.

Tamara Harkavy with Brett Harper, son of wildlife artist Charley Harper at dedication of Court Street Artworks’ mural, September 2012.

Born in West Virginia in 1922, Charley Harper came to Cincinnati to study and later teach art at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. He became well-known as a wildlife artist. Charley Harper passed away on Sunday, June 10, 2007. (About Charley Harper). His son Brett Harper represented his father’s work at the mural’s dedication. This is the second Harper mural. The only other one is in Dayton near The Green.

Tamara expresses her appreciation to lead artist Jenny Ustick with a bouquet of flowers.

Jenny Ustick, the lead artist, worked with two teaching artists and a group of students to produce this beautiful piece of art on Court Street in downtown, Cincinnati.

What’s Happening Downtown – Artworks 2008

Over the last 16 years, Artworks has produced 46 murals in Cincinnati and three other cities. As we walked the few blocks from our Underground tour to the Charley Harper mural, we passed this 2008 Artworks’ mural, “What’s Happening Downtown,” on Walnut Street,

Kroger Headquarters mural on Vine Street – 2012

and this new mural on Vine Street at the Kroger headquarters.

You can find more information about this year’s and the previous years’ murals at the Artworks website.

Read my post from last year, Artworks is painting up the town.

Watching my son shine

Today marks the 28th year that has passed since I first saw his face.

I called him Son-shine.

He used to sit at our kitchen table, paintbrush in hand, and paint small structures he made from clay.

I watched, by his side.

Matthew Grote, 1987

Now he calls himself Ogre.

He climbs up ladders, paint can in hand, and paints existing structures built of bricks.

Story from Buffalo’s Artvoice, July 19, 2012

I applaud from a distance. Shine, son, shine.

Read more at, Artists transform a wall on Main St.

Watch video interview of the three artists who painted this mural at (Grote, pronounced incorrectly in the video, is actually pronounced Groty.)

Ogre Hungry — Matt Grote’s Street Art at 464 Gallery, Buffalo, NY

“As traditional ideas of high and low art have been redefined, art forms such as crafting, (including such extensions of craft as yarn bombing), video art, digital art, street art, and graffiti have made their way into national and local galleries. Instead of diminishing classical standards for art, the emergence of these art forms has created a wider acceptance for new media and methods of expression.”  Jill Greenberg, Artvoice

Our son Matthew had his first art showing at a gallery this past weekend in Buffalo, NY.  He was fortunate to receive nice press coverage with a short article in the Buffalo newspaper, and a feature in Artvoice, a popular weekly newspaper distributed for free in the local area. A large picture of the above mural appeared on the cover of this Artvoice this week.

This publicity was a big deal, as we came to realize over the course of the weekend through our conversations with Matthew’s friends and acquaintances. It was fun because our hotel lobby had a stack of Artvoice with Matt’s painting on it. We soon realized his artwork was spread throughout town as we encountered the publication at grocery stores, restaurants and the local college cafe.

We arrived in Buffalo Friday afternoon to help Matthew with the last minute preparations. His show consisted of paintings on boards, pen and marker sketches on paper and paintings on carpets.

I might describe Matthew’s artwork as whimsical with an edge. He creates captivating characters like the little dog in the striped sweater in the above mural, but places the little dog with his buddies in the mouth of green creature with jagged fingernails. Matthew says that he throws things into his artwork to make people a little uncomfortable. He wants to allow them to explore their discomfort. The jagged fingernails really get to me. I don’t understand why.

Some of his artwork contains social commentary. Frequently he uses letters in his paintings and sketches that form words that are not always readily apparent to the casual observer. The animals in the above mural spell out the name of his show — Ogre Hungry.

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In an interview with Franklin Aquilina, Matthew “says that he gains inspiration for his work everywhere. ‘I’m an avid reader,’ he said. ‘I also surf the net a lot, and draw inspiration from everything. Lately I’ve been influenced by Mayan art.'”

A few days before the gallery showing I asked Matthew if he was going to show my favorite piece. When he said he was, I put dibs on it. I’ll be framing this and hanging it in my home soon.

Artwork Copyright © 2011 by Matthew A. Grote

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

Weekly Photo Challenge: Colorful

Find Your Soul in the City by Amanda Checco

This vibrant, colorful mural captures your attention as you enter Park & Vine in Downtown Cincinnati. Park & Vine store sells eco-friendly merchandise and encourages people to become more aware of their environmental impact. The mural, designed and painted by a talented young Cincinnati artist, Amanda Checco, is entitled “Find Your Soul in the City.”

Tomorrow I’ll bring you more about Amanda, this mural, her other work, and her philosophy of art.