Keep Cincinnati Secularly Humanist

Keep Cincinnati Secularly Humanist

Sigh… I hope this doesn’t seem spiteful, but I am not at all surprised by these recent modifications to Keep Cincinnati Beautiful‘s Future Blooms project in Over-the-Rhine.

Keep Cincinnati Secularly Humanist

I don’t know what the “Secular Humanist” tag is all about, but this stenciled intervention of hands with a dove seems okay. It interacts with the original painted forms in a way that enlivens the whole composition and, while calling this “site-specific” would probably be a stretch, I haven’t seen another stencil like this elsewhere, and I appreciate that this particular “window” is now drastically different from all the others I’ve seen.

Keep Cincinnati Secularly Humanist

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12 thoughts on “Keep Cincinnati Secularly Humanist

  1. We’d just seen this tag, and I really like it. I agree that it enlivens the composition, and it is drastically changed. No idea if Keep Cincinnati Beautiful will appreciate the unsolicited collaboration, but I think it creates an interesting dialogue between their vision and some unknown artist’s.

  2. Matt, in a way, I wish that all these painted doors and windows were modified somehow. At first, seeing Future Blooms was a visual surprise, but then I got used to their presence in OTR, and now this stencil provided the element of surprise.

  3. I really dislike graffiti. It’s such a deeply narcissistic cry for attention. And it makes me a little nuts to see people applauded because they write something ‘unexpected’ (as though we haven’t seen plenty of hipster graf by now) on a wall. It’s not an interaction with the environment; it’s an imposition.

  4. Hmm, I guess I tend to appreciate visual interventions, be they graffiti or public art or a ghost sign or a well-designed billboard. You’re right that graffiti is basically narcissistic, but I don’t really have a problem with that. When it’s well done, I can respect it and enjoy it.

    The above examples are not especially impressive, but my larger point was that, when I first started seeing the painted “doors” and “windows” of the Future Blooms project, I had speculated that these sites could become targets for crime, instead of deterrents. So far, they’re becoming targets for graffiti.

  5. There are a lot of things I want to say about the Future Blooms project (and your post) and it has taken me forever to gather my thoughts. Let me say, first, that I agree that they have no crime-dampening effect and do not encourage stewardship. I’ve been seeing similar efforts in Cincinnati since the early 80’s and the cycle is the same: a momentary change in the streetscape that quickly fades into the background as dirt, graffiti, time and neglect take their toll. I appreciate that these projects employ neighborhood artists but ultimately the people that paint these boards don’t have a stake in these buildings and there is no sense of ownership that is extended to the entire community, as in, say, a community garden. The communal sense that created is, therefore, very temporary.

    I don’t agree, however, that they encourage crime.

    The criminals that plague OTR and neighborhoods like it are hyper-local. Many never leave the few square blocks or miles in which they live. They simply do not need any visual clues as to where it is easy to sell drugs or sex or to rob people, etc. They spend untold hours studying the streetscape so they don’t need a bright orange boarded facade to tell them that no one is inhabiting the building. What they do need is cover and access. So, non-functioning street lamps encourage crime. And poorly boarded buildings encourage crime as well because it’s easy for people get into them and do whatever they wish, unseen from the street. But bright colors are not a billboard saying, “This is a dilapidated nabe. Do your dirt here.” If anything, it is a sign to the civilian class rather than the criminal class saying, “Problems *and* possibilities exist here.”

    I don’t think we should pretend that run-of-the-mill street thugs are the ones stenciling doves and writing “Secular Humanist” on these boards. More likely than not, these are educated people with some sense of purpose and irony that escapes me, who think they are creating “street art” rather than simple graffiti. So again, it’s another layer of conversation between the civilian classes, rather than the criminal underclass. It’s a sign of fauxhemians ‘taking back’ the ‘grit’ of the neighborhood that they claim to love, speaking their truth to power. I’ll put it like this: I doubt they’d have the chutzpah to tag over a gang sign but a bourgeois pink board is the perfect backdrop. How daring of them. It’s not a sign of crime so much as a quasi-criminal social signifier, like a billboard that is put up without permission.

    More, later.

  6. My original comment about crime was a bit smart-ass; I was getting at the fact that, with this project, KCB has actually added another potentially negative signifier to the neighborhood. My view, versus the official project description, differs in the interpretation of that signifier. But, graffiti is a crime, and that’s what has happened here. You’re probably right in your speculation about the perpetrator[s]; most graffiti isn’t the work of thugs or gangs and, since there’s an art school a couple of blocks away from these sites, it’s easy to guess that this is probably the work of students.

  7. I totally did not get that the ‘crime’ comment was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek. But what I did find disturbing was your remark that “a proliferation of murals can signify a “bad” neighborhood”. I think we have to be careful not to privilege certain kinds of art. A proliferation of, say, Banksy’s, wouldn’t indicate a ‘bad’ neighborhood and I don’t think that sanctioned murals or street art should either.

  8. Alexis, the point about murals [community murals, not Banksy-style street art] was made to me a couple of years ago. It was specifically in reference to Philadelphia, which has a really rich history of murals, but I think it can apply to Cincinnati as well. I was initially thrown off by this notion of a community beautification effort being understood as anything other than that. I may not agree with this line of thinking [in fact, I don’t], but I don’t think I “privilege” a particular viewpoint by pointing out that people “can” read this signifier in this way. Similarly, the Future Blooms project can be read in more than one way. That’s all.

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