Making Waves: A little paint connects kids, enlivens Cincinnati

ArtWorks SUmmer Program muralIt's hard to find a part of Cincinnati that ArtWorks has not touched. Through their summer mural painting program, the 15-year old organization has energized neighborhoods and empowered teenagers through painting memorable murals across the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky region.

The ArtWorks Summer Program hires youth aged 14 - 21 to work with professional artists to make innovative public art to enrich the Greater Cincinnati community. Since 1996, ArtWorks has employed more than 2500 teenagers and 450 professional artists from 70 neighborhoods throughout the region.

This past summer the program traveled to Avondale for the first time, as part of a neighborhood-wide beautification project. In conjunction with the Avondale Youth Council, the apprentice artists interviewed area residents to get feedback and inspiration for their new mural.

DAAP Alum and artist-in-residence Cedric Michael Cox led the campaign for the new art project. After input and discussion, Cox developed the art for the mural - a text-focused, brightly colored piece that spelled out not only the name of the neighborhood, but also the dreams of its residents.


Avondale Mural by Cedric Michael Cox
“We started out by listening to the words and wishes of what they wanted, and that turned into the art,” said Cox. “What is the Avondale Youth Council about? It’s about self respect, respect for the community, keeping it clean. Avondale’s about diversity, about perseverance.”

The design is based on a map of Avondale, which includes some of the major streets that links the neighborhood together. This mural that celebrates peace, hope, victory, and pride is framed with the rich architecture of the monuments that rest on Reading Road along with images that reference home, family and recreational parks.

Eight young people from all over the region were hired for this particular project. Two girls from the Avondale youth council – Amani and Mariah – were also apprentices that worked on the mural. The various artists hailed  from different backgrounds, had different viewpoints and opinions, but came together to create an incredible painting that sprung up over the course of several weeks on the side of a strip mall facing Reading Road. The experience of working together to complete a common goal created bonds between the artists, apprentices, and community that continue today.

Ultimately, says Cox, it’s the relationship between AYC and artists that is the real work of art. “This mural was much more than just anther project – it is what it is because it’s based upon the community. The work is truly accessible to others due to the process that went into creating it.”

Avondale Youth Council and ArtWorks

                  Avondale Youth Council and ArtWorks Team - picture provided

Linking these mural projects that ArtWorks does to a community where kids are involved – be it neighborhood councils, after school programs, or other clubs – and allowing them to have a voice in the process and what they want to see creates a relationship with the community that lasts generations. 

Cedric said, “These kids from the Avondale Youth Council can say years from now, ‘Hey, I helped plan this, I remember when the artist came down and showed us his design. It’s that kind of bridging that makes a difference.’The real magic is the fact that these kids can say “I helped plan this” – that’s something that lasts forever.