Monday, June 29, 2009

Stars and Butterflies

An apprentice bends glass stringer over a small flame

Brilliantly colored pieces of glass glimmer in Glass Canopy’s dim studio, which is punctuated with the pinprick glows of the small tea candles they use to heat and bend thinner strips of glass, called stringer, which they layer over larger panel for details and more complicated effects.

Looking something like a beautiful laboratory, sketches of the designs the apprentices plan to create adorn the walls, featuring butterflies, a moon and sun, a mother and child, and other whimsical images. Two kilns open to reveal finished pieces as well as tests that show how certain combinations of glass look once they’ve been fired. Larger sheets of glass line the edges of the room, glowing with rich golds, blues, purples, and greens.

Glass Canopy is setting right to work. “There’s no time for practice,” says apprentice Lindsey Daniels as she works. “With only three weeks, we can’t, really.” Despite this, the apprentices are already creating art with what looks like practiced skill. Small glass stars are filling opaque skies, hearts popping up in the green leaves of a glass tree, and, just like that, a glass canopy for Ronald McDonald House is well underway.

Friday, June 26, 2009


Northside apprentices present at their 6/19 presentation

Apprentice Ihsan looks at part of the Northside mural design

Since the Northside mural presentation last Friday, it’s been all presentations all the time for the ArtWorks documentary team. Besides getting the privilege of seeing all of the stunning mural designs, we also learned a little bit about each neighborhood, saw the apprentices dressed in their best, and sampled plenty of delicious food. I know I’m supposed to be a journalistic superhero, but it would be impossible to do each mural full justice here. Instead, I’ll just give some highlights.

Northside mural’s presentation in the Visionaries and Voices gallery was a fabulous way to kick off the summer. With a full audience and a practiced and effortless presentation, everyone in the room was utterly transported from the warm blue room and into a completely new land—one of circus tents and thunderbolts shining in the sky, both motifs that figured prominently in Northside’s mural. Designed by Antonio Adams in honor of Raymond Thundersky, the mural was eagerly accepted by the community and is sure to remain both an inspiring work of art and a profound memorial to a local artist for many years.

Columbia Tusculum’s presentation was transporting as well, sending each visitor into a different era as soon as they entered the studio. With soft classical music playing in the background and a smorgasbord of delicate sandwiches, delicious cookies, and whimsical teacups filled with sweet tea looking tempting against one wall, Columbia Tusculum outdid themselves in creating a very convincing Victorian High Tea for visitors to enjoy.

And then there was our own presentation, which, though we might be a little biased, we thought was wonderful. Presented to the ArtWorks staff at our headquarters on Race Street, Alex and I asked questions and answered questions, pitched our ideas for the three different documentaries we hope to complete, and showed off our lovely schedule for planning, filming, and editing. Inspired by all of the accomplished presentations we’ve been visiting lately, we also threw in a brief history of ArtWorks—just in case anyone didn’t know. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I Heart Ronald McDonald House

Room by Room apprentices set to work in their studio

Uninhibited by the preliminary activities such as priming and power washing that keep murals busy their first few days, Room by Room has already been getting to work. A favorite place for the documentary team to retreat on days with less-than-pleasant weather, Room by Room’s studio at the Essex is always cheery, with upbeat music playing and happily sketching apprentices included. When not in their studio brainstorming, sharing inspiring song lyrics, or learning about stencils and mandalas last week, the apprentices were out on a field trip touring the Ronald McDonald House, the site for their completed artwork.

Ronald McDonald Houses are truly a godsend for hundreds of families whose critically ill children must remain either in or near a hospital for extended periods of time. With a brand new addition to the house recently added, the facility is able to serve more families than ever, and is now the fourth largest Ronald McDonald House in the world. Because of the many services it must provide on a very limited budget, though, Ronald McDonald House is unable to make each room personal in the way they’d like to, so, at the moment, most of the rooms are like hotel rooms: warm and pleasant, but sort of impersonal.

Room by Room is partnering with Ronald McDonald House in order to change that. The plan is to create heart-themed artwork to hang in the different rooms, bringing art and joy into the rooms of the families who are facing such challenging times. The Room by Room apprentices, led by project manager Tina Westerkamp, gathered information and inspiration from their tour of the houses, noting architectural motifs and other such details to incorporate in their work. A place that truly affirms belief in the goodness of humanity, I could see clearly by the earnest concentration of each Room by Room apprentice as they walked through the rooms on their tour that they were going to, just as truly and earnestly, pour their hearts into these hearts.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Painted Ladies

Columbia Tusculum apprentices sketching the local architecture

After a brief hike through the colorful—and hilly—streets of Columbia Tusculum, the Documentary Crew caught up with the Columbia Tusculum Mural project, gathered at the top of the hill, sketchbooks out and pencils brandished. Looking more like a class of DAAP students than a group of teen Apprentices, Columbia Tusculum was spending the morning sketching architecture drawn from the beautiful houses that surround their project. Fondly termed “Painted Ladies” these Victorian houses are decked out with intricate details and stunning coats of paint in rich and surprising shades. Zigzags of purple, pink and yellow are not uncommon on these houses, which, though often almost one hundred and fifty years old, are anything but sedate.

Project Manager Pam Kravetz told me that apprentices were drawing on the neighborhood’s treasure trove of color and design for inspiration to create borders that will later surround the panels of the murals they’ll be painting. Judging by the fact that even I was itching to sketch the beautiful architecture of the Painted Ladies, this mural’s in for some beautiful borders.

Introducing... FilmMan and WriterWoman!

I’m Avery and the videos that will soon fill this blog are filmed and edited by Alex. You’ve probably seen us around by now, appearing in the midst of your projects, spying over your shoulders, and making sure to document it all. But let’s be fair—we can hardly ask questions of you and not give a little information about ourselves in return. So, here goes: I go to SCPA and Alex goes to Elder. When asked about his favorite food, Alex says he likes “barbecue, in general,” whereas I’m more of the fruit and vegetables type. Our hobbies are fairly obvious, with mine involving lots of writing, and Alex’s indicated when he admits that he can easily spend eight hours behind a computer, editing film. And this summer we’re all ArtWorks’, and all yours. Be sure to check in on this blog and be ready for interviews—led by our fearless photographer, Brandon, we’ll soon be coming to a project near you.

Giant Flamingos

The Stage Crew team poses in front of the pouncing board at the scene shop

As soon Opening Day activities concluded on Monday the 15th, the auditorium at the Cincinnati Art Museum exploded into motion and sound. The lingering applause faded into chattering, laughter, and the clicking of chairs folding up as Apprentices began to seek out their various projects. Some groups made their way directly into the warm green of Eden Park for get-to-know-you games and planning, some stopped for a lunch break, and some headed right out into the city for field trips. Stage Crew was one of the lucky projects that got to go on a field trip—to the Alice-in-Wonderlandesque kingdom of Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s scene shop.

You can’t help but notice the giant flamingo standing by the vending machines just inside the scene shop’s doors, and the strange sights didn’t stop there. Caricatures of various creatures crawled along the walls, leading Stage Crew’s small group back into the area of the shop where props from past shows are stored and believe me, your grandma’s attic’s got nothing on this place. Bicycles dangle from the ceiling, stacks of dishes and cups of all shapes, sizes, and colors fill the shelves, disembodied dummy heads and “blood” stained sheets lurk under stacks of tables and chairs of every imaginable description. Besides providing a great place to ransack if one needed to furnish a new apartment, Playhouse in the Park’s scene shop gave the Stage Crew apprentices a glimpse at the sort of work they’ll be undertaking in the next few weeks, and certainly got them inspired.