Friday, January 04, 2002

800-foot mural in progress

Mosaics to grace transit center

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It's not just a 30-foot-high cement-block wall underneath Second Street downtown — it's a canvas.

        By April, when the new Riverfront Transit Center opens under the elevated road, the wall will become an 800-foot-long mural of colorful mosaic icons.

[photo] Chad Scholten looks over some of the completed panels in a warehouse/artist studio in Walnut Hills.
(Tony Jones photo)
| ZOOM |
        They are nods to Cincinnati's past and present.

        The transit center — home to buses and, perhaps, light rail someday — will be the gateway for thousands of visitors annually to Paul Brown Stadium, Great American Ball Park, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and other attractions downtown and along the Ohio River.

        The mural job went to a 26-year-old Walnut Hills artist and University of Cincinnati graduate.

        “I felt it was right up my alley, because I'd done mosaics in the past and that drew me in,” Chad Scholten said. “Really, I think it's a concept, artwork that's accessible and enjoyable to everything. Anyone who comes into the tunnel can find something they relate to.”

        The tunnel is not accessible to the public now. The transit center will be under Second Street between Elm Street and Cinergy Field.

        Mural images range in size from 2 feet by 2 feet to 8 feet by 30 feet. They'll include a relief map of a riverboat, jazz trumpet of aluminum with red tile, hammers, saws, chairs and cookware. Cincinnati themes will include Tall Stacks ships, Riverfest and sports teams.

        Indiana artist Daniel Edwards is creating a commemoration of Cincinnatian William DeHart Hubbard, the first African-American to win an individual Olympic gold medal. The Withrow High School graduate won the long jump in 1924 in Paris.

        A grant from the Federal Transit Administration requires that 1 percent of capital improvement funding go to “aesthetic enhancement.” If Metro didn't spend that portion on enhancement, it would have forfeited it.

        The art project will cost about $150,000, according to Sallie Hilvers, Metro's director of public affairs.

        Thirty-eight Tristate artists applied. Mr. Scholten, who grew up in Mount Washington and graduated in 1993 from Walnut Hills High School, got the job, in part, on the strength of his previous mural work. He did a 6-by-14-foot wall commissioned by the Jewish Federation on permanent display at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, and mosaic work at Findlay Market.

        “Chad's designs really stood out among the others,” said Metro Senior Planner Nancy Core. “He really thought about what would be interesting and attractive to the eye.”

        Being in an open-sided facility subject to freezing and thawing temperatures, and heavy vehicle and pedestrian traffic, the transit center art must be durable.

        And, of course, flood-proof.

        Mosaics are being made from porcelain, glass, quarry tile, water-resistant concrete, granite and cast aluminum.

        And heart.


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