Kennedy Heights Arts Center Expands

The Kennedy Heights Arts Center, one of the best and most ambitious in the region, takes a great leap forward this weekend when it opens its new 10,500-square-foot annex in a portion of an old Kroger grocery store.

Aug 26, 2015 at 11:49 am
click to enlarge Ellen Muse-Lindeman and Jonathan Sears
Ellen Muse-Lindeman and Jonathan Sears

The Kennedy Heights Arts Center, one of the best and most ambitious in the region, takes a great leap forward this weekend when it opens its new 10,500-square-foot annex in a portion of an old Kroger grocery store.

The overall site has been christened the Kennedy Heights Cultural Campus because the building also holds the Kennedy Heights Montessori School in addition to the arts center’s Lindner Annex.

“This expansion will allow us not only to expand our programs to include digital art forms, but also to have a big open space for different kinds of performing arts and to host performances and concerts,” said Ellen Muse-Lindeman, the arts center’s executive director, during a recent tour of the addition. (The annex will also be home to the workshop/studio of the Ohio Valley Woodturners Guild, as well as to studios for individual artists, and there will be a small gallery.)

Opening ceremonies start with a ribbon-cutting at 10 a.m. Friday, followed by the Raise the Heights art parade and festival 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday (with a Sunday rain date); ten artists created entries for that parade, which starts at 11 a.m. and will travel up Montgomery Road from Ridge to Kennedy avenues. (The new annex is at the corner of Montgomery and Kennedy.)

While this is indeed big news, and the programming at the annex will indeed produce notable activities in the future, the most intriguing art at the site right now is likely to be a special exhibition, Light Strikes. It debuts Saturday from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. and then is open for the same hours on Sept. 5 and 19, and from 7-9 p.m. on Oct. 3.

It is in a 9,000-square-foot portion of the old Kroger that is still vacant and unfinished (and without air conditioning). Originally, the Cincinnati Art Museum was going to adapt this space for an innovative neighborhood open-storage facility, but that fell through, and as of now there is no planned permanent occupant.

Muse-Lindeman got Northside-based nonprofit PAR-Projects to organize Light Strikes. PAR-Projects’ Jonathan Sears is the curator.

In this space with darkened windows, five artists/teams will create large-scale experiential work that addresses themes related to light. They are: Intermedio, Sean Mullaney, Karen Saunders, Team B and Rob Wolpert.

“We’ll have projection pieces, some shadow and light play, some glowing pieces,” Sears said during a tour of the space. “The goal is to highlight individual works in a vast area as best as possible.”

During my visit, there were early signs of what to expect. Saunders, a Kennedy Heights resident, had been testing two large inflatables, and their collapsed skin was on the floor.

There were also three large fabric screens suspended from the 19-foot-high ceiling in preparation for Wolpert’s installation. He eventually will have 21 installed and project images onto them. “The animations on them will be black-and-white and abstract, and viewers will be encouraged to walk throughout and become part of the installation,” Sears said.

The nonprofit Kennedy Heights Arts Center started 11 years ago to save an 1875 wood-frame, Gothic-style building at 6546 Montgomery Road. That location now holds programs and shows — the current is Fibers: The Next Dimension.

The drive to convert the nearby business into a cultural campus began in 2009, when the arts center partnered with the Montessori school and art museum to use it. The city provided the neighborhood redevelopment corporation with $675,000 to purchase the building in 2012.

The arts center’s annex cost a further $700,000 to remodel — the money was raised through donations. The lead gift of $250,000 was from Robert and Betty Lindner; the place’s formal name is the Carl, Robert, Richard and Dorothy Lindner Annex. The media center, which still needs funds for equipment, has been named for Scripps Howard since its foundation was also a donor.

Meanwhile, PAR-Projects has ongoing plans to create a permanent home, using shipping containers for arts programming in Northside, and it has done temporary shows there. But now it also plans to offer arts-education classes in the new Lindner Annex media center, once that is active, and maybe more shows in Kennedy Heights.

“We’re still fully committed to our Northside site,” Sears said. “We see this as our second branch. It’s just happening before Northside. There, we’ve purchased land and are at the grant-writing stage. So it seemed like a wise decision to start working out here now.”

More info at kennedyarts.org.


CONTACT STEVEN ROSEN: [email protected]