Best Of 2018

Best Art Gallery to Really Understand the Importance of Community Engagement: Wave Pool

Best Art Gallery to Really Understand the Importance of Community Engagement
click to enlarge HAILEY BOLLINGER
Hailey Bollinger

Cincinnati has its share of art galleries, but Wave Pool, situated in the post-industrial, onetime blue-collar neighborhood of Camp Washington, has a different approach than any other. It’s not like a commercial gallery with a stable of artists. Instead, founders Skip and Cal Cullen created a dynamic nonprofit in 2015, where art intersects with community and acts as a catalyst for social engagement and artistic development. Their goal is to integrate contemporary art into the neighborhood’s daily life — so they do projects with food equity, events to help artists get seen and a lot of endeavors in which artists go out and work with various groups to create. They were the first venue to feature Still They Persist, FemFour’s collection of protest art from the historic 2017 women’s marches; they operate The Welcome Project, a social enterprise that blends a café with a boutique to empower immigrants and refugees; and they transformed the gallery into a “Gathering Space” in August that functioned as a temporary bookstore, tea shop and living room for events including Poetry and Pie, The Sleep Show slumber party and conversations about creativity. Cal is now the art center’s executive director while Skip is exhibitions director for Visionaries + Voices. Cal continues to see art as a change-maker, engaging with artists whether or not they have studios nearby. Wave Pool, 2940 Colerain Ave., Camp Washington, wavepoolgallery.org.