The mission of Elementz Hip Hop Youth Arts Center is to inspire and engage inner city youth through innovative hip hop arts programs, leadership development, and community building. By providing a safe place and engaging programs for inner-city youth, Elementz empowers young people to find their voice and connect with their community.
Founded in 2003 in Downtown Cincinnati, Elementz now has over 300 youth members. Members take classes in recording, beat-making, graffiti art, DJing, hip hop dance, and other key elements of hip hop culture. In 2009, 69% of Elementz members came to the center three or more days a week.
After surveying more than 1,000 youth in the community, Elementz decided to focus its programming on hip hop culture. As explained on their website, “Hip Hop is the voice of young people today. Hip Hop has been the biggest selling musical genre since 2000, and the overall culture continues to permeate everything that youth do – from their fashion to their speech.” Elementz encourages and performs socially-conscious hip hop—a subgenre of hip hop that discusses social issues, conflicts, and the lives of ordinary people.
Three years ago, Brother Abdullah and Tiffany Suriah Harmon of Hip Hop Congress held Elementz’ first-ever Youth and Parent Appreciation Dinner as a way to keep the spirit of family alive. “The youth talk about Elementz being a family. We notice sometimes that parents aren’t involved, and we wanted to say ‘we are part of your support system.’” At first, the staff provided a simple meal and a DJ, but this year the dinner included an entire program of poetry, storytelling, and performances. For some of the younger dancers, the Appreciation Dinner was their first opportunity to perform publicly.
Brother Abdullah explained, “Elementz Executive Director Tom Kent and I have been talking about bridging the gap between elders and youth—to help people who aren’t connected to become connected.” Tom is a member of Christ Church Cathedral downtown, and he invited fellow church member Mrs. Merelyn Bates-Mims to join the Elementz family dinner. She shared her story of experiences with family, at universities, and in Africa. “I remember hearing stories from elders and I didn’t always appreciate them,” says Abdullah, “But I still remember pieces of them. We want elders and youth to understand that hip hop is truly not that different—it is storytelling.”
Brother Abdullah will being sharing parts of the Elementz story at an early evening reception this Thursday at SWITCH in Over-the-Rhine. Everyone is welcome to stop by and learn about how they can become involved. “Our youths aspire to be doctors, go to college, be professional artists. They need to meet others who have done these things in order to see themselves in a success story. Elementz is always looking to build new relationships in the community.”
As one of the nation’s first museums focused on contemporary art, the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) connects artists, visitors, and residents to creative things happening all over Cincinnati.
In her recent blog post for Arnold’s Bar and Grill, the CAC’s Molly O’Toole talks about how much she loves showing off the city. “Whenever our artists, speakers and guests come to town, we try to get them out and about as much as possible—connect them to things that are going on here. It's a favorite part of my job.”
Visitors to the CAC often come to see the museum’s incredible architecture— the building known as the Lois and Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art. This dramatic concrete structure, designed by internationally-renowned architect Zaha Hadid is justifiably world-famous—but conversations with staff inside the building often lead them to other treasures around the city.
Molly remembers a couple from Seattle who made a trek to Cincinnati specifically to see the CAC and Hadid’s “urban carpet”. After touring the building, they chatted with the CAC Store manager who guided them in discovering other cool architectural gems and arts districts in the city. Molly says this happens all the time--“The CAC is teaming with people who are deeply involved in this city, and that enriches everyone who comes through our doors.”
Molly notes that CAC staff often direct visitors to check out galleries and shops in Over-the-Rhine, Northside, Wyoming, and other neighborhoods. Mike Deininger, owner of MiCA 12/v, an independent, family-owned shop featuring artisan crafts, jewelry, and more in OTR’s Gateway Quarter, says the CAC is one of their best referrals. “We often know that people are coming up from the CAC because they are still wearing their admission sticker and they’ll tell us that the CAC staff recommended us as an independent retailer,” he notes.
The CAC also nourishes the local arts environment by connecting area students to the wider art world. For example, staff members work with the School for the Creative and Performing Arts (the only k-12 public school devoted to the arts in the nation) to infuse their curriculum with master classes from visual artists showing at the CAC. They also conduct regular teacher workshops free to area teachers on the connections between contemporary art and traditional coursework; and they provide lesson plans, slideshows, podcasts and other enrichment materials to the public for free.
The museum also collaborates with regional colleges to present a one-night art show where students create work that responds to the art in the galleries. More and more, students from these schools are staying in Cincinnati, finding work at the many design firms and digital agencies, or opening their own small arts business in one of the area’s many arts districts.
The city’s high concentration of artists, designers, digital and interactive agencies, and entrepreneurs creates an extraordinary environment for creative enterprise. Small wonder that the OFFF Festival selected Cincinnati to launch its first-ever international tour. The three-day conference brought together people from all over the region to talk about new ideas in art, design, and technology. The Contemporary Arts Center was instrumental in bringing OFFF to the city and hosted the events, hoping to spark even more creative collaboration. This is just one of the ways the CAC provides the creative community with a unique place in which to gather and be inspired.
We asked our staff members and friends on Facebook and Twitter to fill out some Thanksgiving Madlibs and tell us about the arts places, people, conversations, and experiences that they are thankful for this year.
Here are a few of our favorite answers:
- Thanks to the puppeteers at Madcap for sparking a conversation about Annie Oakley and Paul Bunyan! Our kids loved the show! – Jodi Perry
I am thankful that the arts make my neighborhood safe and fun! – Jenny Kessler
Thanks to Visionaries and Voices for introducing me to the incredibly talented and wonderfully humble artist, Corttney Cooper, whose work inspires me to have faith in my own talents. – Mike Boberg
- I am thankful that the arts make my neighborhood a destination for friends to gather. – Jim Ellis
- Thanks to the Cincinnati Arts Museum for sparking a conversation about the glass bubbles in the temporary exhibition space – my son asked, “Is the sand there in case the bubbles fall?” – Lisa Wolter
- Thanks to Cincinnati Shakespeare Company for introducing me to my husband, John Bromels! – Rebecca Bromels
- The arts changed my life forever, too. Thanks, Enjoy the Arts, for introducing me to my main squeeze, Jeff Syroney. – Katie Syroney
- We are thankful that the arts make our neighborhoods more fun! – Family Friendly Cincinnati Thanks to the Cincinnati Ballet for sparking a conversation about why ballet dancers always rehearse in snow boots and leg warmers. – Jared Queen
We think Frank Hilbrandt summed it up better than anyone. When asked what art experiences he was thankful for, he replied: "The list is too long. Let's just sum it up by saying life is great in this magical place called Cincinnati- where everyday brings an encounter with art!"
We hope you’ll add your own Arts Thank You to the comments below or on our Facebook page all weekend long!
Most importantly, we wanted to take a moment to thank YOU for all the ways you support the creative things happening in our region. We are so grateful for our friends, volunteers, arts partners, and neighbors. You make our community a great place to live.
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at ArtsWave!
P.S. Shopping online this holiday weekend? Here’s a free and easy way to support ArtsWave!
We registered ArtsWave (Cincinnati OH) with GoodSearch.com, a company that helps non-profits like ours raise funds through the everyday online actions of our supporters. Use GoodSearch when you search the interent – they will donate a penny to ArtsWave every time you do. Use GoodShop.com when you shop online – they work with more than 2,500 major brands, have over 100,000 coupons, and donate a percentage of every purchase you make to ArtsWave.
Please join our community on GoodSearch.com and help the arts thrive in our community. Get started by clicking the “Become a Supporter” button on our profile page here!
It'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.
“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 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.
Though they're best known for performing at Music Hall, The Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestras remain committed to bringing world-class music to the entire Greater Cincinnati region, and present several community concerts throughout the area every year.
This summer, the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra and conductor John Morris Russell were prepared to kick off the season with a performance in Cottell Park in Deerfield Township. Sponsored by the Mason-Deerfield Arts Alliance, Deerfield Township, and ArtsWave Presents, the concert was originally scheduled for Friday, June 10th—but nature had other ideas. A spectacular lightning storm erupted just before the concert was to begin.
As Meredith Raffel, Executive Director of the Mason-Deerfield Arts Alliance, wrote in a blog post:
“As the lightning got worse, we encouraged our hundreds of guests to take cover. They picked up their picnics without complaint and headed to our waiting shuttle buses, tents, cars and the Snider House. The Pops musicians sat waiting in their bus, hoping to perform. A Fire chief kept a keen eye on his radar.
A cool vibe started to emerge. Those waiting in the various shelters had their own little community gathering. This storm encouraged strangers to start talking and finding common ground. Volunteers rallied. Trustees helped. Parks and Recreation workers went over and above the call of duty to keep everyone safe.
As the sky flashed and huge cracks of lightning hit the ground, everyone waited it out. They laughed, they talked, they came together. There was something kind of gratifying about the community closeness that was surrounding us.
In the world of arts event planning, we hope for magical results. We keep our fingers crossed for a perfect day and a happy community. In the end, that’s exactly what we got.
Not a note was played. But through that disappointment, we came to find the true meaning of partnership. It’s a puzzle of many pieces that in the end came together through compromise, understanding, agreement and best of all, new found friendships.”
The following week, the collaborators began talking: could the performance be rescheduled? The task was a huge one—the symphony’s musicians play a rigorous schedule throughout the summer with concerts at both Riverbend and the Cincinnati Opera at Music Hall. Still, everyone was committed to finding a solution. “Musicians kept saying that they hoped we could go back,” said Anne Cushing-Reid, Director of Community Engagement at the CSO. “I think it may be the first time in decades we have rescheduled such a performance.”
Meghan Berneking, Communications Assistant at CSO, thinks that the cancelled date may also have built up anticipation. “I think when we rescheduled, it gave people more time to look forward to the concert. The local arts alliance really got the word out to the Mason community through social media.”
pictures from the rescheduled concert, via YouTube
As a result, the rescheduled concert attracted a huge crowd on July 30th—over 3,500 friends, family members, and neighbors came together to hear a spectacular Pops concert in beautiful weather. “The audience covered the soccer field,” says Anne, “It was an amazing crowd.”
Together, the Mason-Deerfield Arts Alliance, Deerfield Township, the Northern Cincinnati Youth Orchestra, Whole Foods Market, and several local businesses helped make the event a community affair. Families enjoyed kettle corn and ice cream while listening to a wide variety of American music - from jazz to bluegrass to rock ‘n roll. In the green space just in front of the stage, small children were dancing, conducting, and having a great time all night long. A banner reading “Choose Deerfield Township” expressed the community’s pride.
The great success of the concert is just the beginning. The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and May Festival Chorus will perform a special, sing-along concert featuring Handel’s Messiah on December 17 nearby at Christ’s Church in Mason to celebrate the holiday season.