Taking on the title role in The Elephant Man, a great play from 1979, is no easy task. But Cincinnati Shakespeare Company had the right veteran actor for the role when it staged the show in October. In his 17th season with Cincy Shakes, Giles Davies totally inhabited the part of John Merrick, a severely disfigured man in Victorian London whose body made him the object of scorn and morbid fascination in the 1880s. The physically adept actor played the part with his face and body contorted, walking with a painful, limping gait. He also employed a voice that emerged from Merrick’s tortured body, muffled at first, then increasingly clear. Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, 719 Race St., Downtown, 513-381-2273, cincyshakes.com.
2. Art Academy of Cincinnati
3. The Pendleton Art Center
2. Contemporary Arts Center
3. Taft Museum of Art
2. “Charley Harper’s Beguiled by the Wild”
3. “Swing Around Rosie”
ArtWorks keeps artsy teens employed in the summertime creating cool murals all over town. In 2016, they added eye-catching walls celebrating boxer Ezzard Charles, astronaut Neil Armstrong, sharpshooter Annie Oakley and dynamic singer Rosemary Clooney, to name just a few. (There are currently more than 100 murals around the city.) The program marked its 21st anniversary and celebrated adulthood with a big, sprawling party on Nov. 18, 2016. It was called “21 Candles” and turned out hundreds of supporters for a good time in a hangar at Lunken Airport. It was a night of noisy festivities with 21 performers dressed up as candles — including flame-shaped wigs. ArtWorks, 20 E. Central Parkway, Over-the-Rhine, 513-333-0388, artworkscincinnati.org.
There are many reasons why when choosing its first Poet Laureate, Cincinnati got it right in bestowing the honor to Pauletta Hansel. A lifelong devotee to poetry in both her teaching and her writing, she has taken an often-honorary position to new heights with a philosophy of inclusion and participation. Making good on her promise to offer writing experiences for both adults and youth to explore the nature of our city and its communities via her Cincinnati Walking Sonnet and Writing the Neighborhood projects, as well as making them easily enjoyed via her website, Hansel has also reminded us that poetry need not be merely a passive act; it can also be a means to unity.Pauletta Hansel, paulettahansel.wordpress.com.
For almost three years now, the builder/artist Mark deJong has been transforming a Camp Washington three-floor, shotgun-style domicile into the Swing House, a large-scale art installation in which the interior has been almost completely opened up — no stairs, no floors, no rooms with walls. But the center attraction is a new 30-foot-long swing with ropes secured to an iron beam across the ceiling. You can swing virtually from end to end, imagining the generations who have lived there previously. It’s a trip through time as well as space. DeJong has been inviting people for special occasions, but envisions a well-attended open house this summer when he’s finally finished. He also promises to get the word out about it through both social and traditional media; until then he’s letting the anticipation grow organically.
Since — despite what Ken Ham says — nobody knows what Noah’s Ark really looked like or even if it actually existed, forget that humongous “life-sized” behemoth of a recreation at Northern Kentucky’s Ark Encounter and go for something more human-scale and charming. Like the small ark with cartoon-like animal figures parked outside the All Creatures Animal Hospital in Mount Washington. Life-sized? Who knows? But definitely friendly and cute — it’s an ark animals would like. All Creatures Animal Hospital, 5195 Beechmont Ave., Mount Washington, 513-231-2345, all-creatures.com.
If you’ve never been inside The Galaxie Skateshop in Northside, you may have steered clear because teen (and adult) skateboarders can be intimidating if you’re not one. But that would be a big mistake. Not only would you be missing out on a local community of beanied athletes and the nicest guys in town, you’d also miss some of the best gallery openings in the city. Each month, owner Zach Kincaid selects an artist to feature on the walls of his shop. Sometimes the artist is a prolific wildlife photographer, like Jordan West, but there is much variety in the choices. The Galaxie Skateshop, 4040 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-542-3400, galaxieskateshop.blogspot.com.
POPP=D ART gallery borrowed the food truck concept and hit the road last summer and fall to bring art to overlooked neighborhoods. People’s Liberty grantees Janet Creekmore, Melissa “Mellkat” Mitchell and Ben Jason Neal renovated a cozy 1963 Rainbow camper and filled it from floor to ceiling with locally made pieces measuring no more than a square foot. Prices were small, too, at $100 or less, making POPP=D ART the best deal on wheels since some genius thought up Taco Tuesdays. The three partners say to look for more “art that moves” in 2017, especially as they team exclusively with the Contemporary Arts Center this fall to continue to engage communities. Until then, find the camper at the Cincinnati Art Museum, Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum and other artsy spots. POPP=D ART gallery, poppedart.gallery.