The Art Climb: A Signature Gateway from the Streets to the Cincinnati Art Museum

June 1st, 2019  |  Published in May 2019

Take the climb to art.  A new staircase developed by the Cincinnati Art Museum will take visitors from the intersection of Eden Park Drive and Gilbert Ave. to the front entrance of the museum.

This represents the museum’s emphasis on engagement with the community.  Not only can visitors climb the stairs to the museum, they can also view outdoor artworks determined by Cameron Kitchin, CAM director, working with curators closer to 2020.  Kitchin said, “We consider the landscape a curated gallery.  The sculpture represented in the discourse will encourage discussion, creative activity and social connection.  There will be artists of today both local and national.  Works will change.”

Kitchin said, “The Art Climb at the Cincinnati Art Museum activates recreational interaction with art on the museum public grounds.  It connects the museum to our historic neighborhood of Walnut Hills and anchors the Art Museum as a key local asset.  Furthermore, the broader site master plan for the museum encourages wellness for all of Cincinnati and promotes the integration of culture by and for all, kinetic learning, economic growth and civic pride.”

There will be approximately 450 feet from the street to the parking lot.  Lighting includes light poles that change color which will help people see the Art Climb; landscape lighting to showcase certain walls, trees, etc; and safety lighting in the handrails and as needed. Once visitors reach the stop of the stairs, they will find a large pavilion with a view of the city.  Metro bus riders can disembark near the start of the staircase.

The 2016 – 2021 strategic plan for the Art Museum identified connection with Walnut Hills and engagement with Eden Park.  This was the result of conversations held with the Mayor’s office, the Cincinnati Park Board and leadership, and Walnut Hills and Mount Adams representatives.

Gary Dangel, Healthy Outreach Coordinator, Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation, said, “The Art Climb fulfills an aspiration in our 2016 Reinvestment Plan that states ‘A primary goal is to…once again make Walnut Hills one of the city’s most walkable, bikeable, and connected neighborhoods.’”

“We look forward to having a natural and artistic entryway into CAM that’s accessible and draws visitors up the hill. This new, outward-facing landscape will create a more visible presence for the museum in Walnut Hills,” Dangel said.

CAM partners with several area organizations including Frederick Douglass Elementary School, Mercy Montessori School, St. Ursula Academy, and Walnut Hills High School Redevelopment Foundation, among others.

Former employee of Cincinnati Art Museum, Jason Franz, executive director, Manifest Creative Research Gallery and Drawing Center, said, “As a founder and director of another, albeit much smaller and younger, visual arts nonprofit only a couple miles distant, I appreciate deeply the impulse to design the public experience of the institution starting from a distance. The hillside of Eden Park, and the nature that shrouds it, is a perfect setting that has for too long gone unappreciated as an … extension of the spirit of the CAM’s place in the public sphere. Over the past few decades the CAM has begun to reform itself … into a temple to the life that is imbued both in art of the past, and the creative, thoughtful, and deeply impactful presentation efforts of the museum’s curators, designers and exhibitions staff.”

To fund the project, CAM received money from the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC).

Sue Plummer, founding member, Walnut Hills Historical Society, said, “I think CAM is working to become more generally accessible to a broader community, and I welcome this, as I believe all of Cincinnati needs to better access this institution… This has been a long process, and it seems Art Climb is just one in the works for this right now.”

“Looking at the renderings, I like the design.  While this section of Gilbert isn’t necessarily linking to folks in the more active business district of Walnut Hills … it is one more effort of working with what it’s got, geographically to be less cut off in its ‘ivory tower’ at the top of Eden Park,” Plummer said.

Human Nature is the lead architect and Emersion Design is assisting with landscape. Designers wanted to retain as many trees as possible.  Turner Construction is the construction firm, which will begin in June and complete in late 2019.

Laura Davis, owner, The Brew House, said, “I am glad to see CAM working to improve their connection to our neighborhood. As one of the things that makes this city special, it will be lovely to have it acknowledged that it is a part of our community. “

–Laura Hobson

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