This summer, ArtWorks will recognize a Cincinnati artist whom the nonprofit’s CEO/artist director Tamara Harkavy calls a rock star and also a British illustrator who made a name for himself in Rolling Stone. The organization will also crank up the volume on social issues via a handful of other murals.
Edie Harper is being added to ArtWorks’ Cincinnati Masters mural series. Harper, who passed away in 2010 at age 87, joins her husband, Charley, the Modernist wildlife illustrator who died in 2007, plus previous honorees Frank Duveneck, Elizabeth Nourse, John Ruthven, Tom Wesselmann and cartoonist Winsor McCay in this distinction.
The other artist of note this summer is Ralph Steadman, who U.S. audiences first met through his partnership with gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson and via his drawings for Rolling Stone.
Harper’s multicolored “Crazy Cat, Crazy Quilt” is going on the back of the American Building condominiums at 30 E. Central Parkway downtown, within sight of Charley’s “Homecoming (Bluebirds)” mural at Walnut and Court streets. Harkavy calls the site “a dream wall” and was thrilled when residents approached her.
Harper’s turn in the ArtWorks spotlight comes just months after Covington’s The Carnegie hosted the first solo retrospective of her career. E is for Edie showcased the lesser-known half of what Harkavy calls one of Cincinnati’s “truest love stories.” Primarily an illustrator, painter and photographer, Harper also mastered jewelry, ceramics, enameling, sculpture and weaving over a half-century.
“I truly believe Edie was the force behind Charley,” Harkavy told American Building residents at a gathering where the mural design was revealed. Covering more than 8,000 square feet, “Crazy Cat” will be one of ArtWorks’ largest undertakings since its mural program began in 2007.
Upon the 10th anniversary of the program, Harkavy says ArtWorks is stepping up its role in sparking conversations about issues facing the city, country and world. The Steadman murals are part of that effort. The 81-year-old will have his trippy, splattered illustrations reproduced on Coffee Emporium’s roasting facility at 12th and Walnut streets in Over-the-Rhine.
One side of the Coffee Emporium building will feature his work titled “Democracy,” in which a screaming mouth forms the “o” in the word.
“Democracy is messy,” Harkavy says, “and I think that is 100 percent communicated through this piece.”
The images on the other side of the building are more whimsical but also suggest a call to action. A monster from Steadman’s children’s book That’s My Dad is paired with the quote, “A bad idea knows no bounds,” which is the motto of project sponsor Frank Wood Jr., onetime general manager of WEBN. What Harkavy describes as “colorful little armies of furry legs” also march across the wall.
ICY and SOT, Iranian refugees who last summer assembled a temporary mural for downtown’s Christ Church Cathedral to address gun violence and promote education, this year will create a permanent “Faces of Homelessness” mural at 1225 Vine St.
“Dispelling myth and informing us about some of our challenges as a city through art is a pretty powerful way of engaging the community,” Harkavy says. “Maybe more of us than we realize are one paycheck away from homelessness.”
In Camp Washington, ArtWorks is partnering with Wave Pool for a patchwork quilt mural that celebrates immigrants. “I love it because it’s almost like a poncho that you can wrap around yourself,” Harkavy says. “To me it represents the willingness of that community to embrace our refugees and highlight them, let a light shine on them through the indigenous fabrics that are part of the quilt.”
In East Price Hill, home to large Appalachian and Hispanic communities, five murals will depict the different cultures of the neighborhood’s residents. The project title is “Building Cultural Understanding.” By working with groups like Price Hill Will and Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation, Harkavy says ArtWorks intends to make a year-over-year investment in Cincinnati’s less-affluent communities in order to have a lasting impact.
Also on ArtWorks’ summer list are murals celebrating the Scripps National Spelling Bee and the 20th anniversary of the Flying Pig Marathon, plus a floral motif at Rookwood Pottery’s production facility. And youth apprentices will get ready for October’s BLINK light festival, building lanterns and human-powered floats for an event that Harkavy promises will be “Lumenocity on steroids.”
“Cincinnati likes nothing better than to tell its own story,” she says. “And we’re so lucky that we get to be part of it.”
The public is invited to a free Skype talk with Ralph Steadman noon Sunday at the Cincinnati Art Museum. For more information on the event and ARTWORKS SUMMER MURAL PROGRAM, visit facebook.com/artworkscincinnati or artworkscincinnati.org.