CINCINNATI — Organizers of the BLINK light-and-art extravaganza have promised for months that the 2022 event would be bigger than ever. And with its third and final wave of artists announcements, organizers proved they meant that literally.
What You Need To Know
- BLINK commissioned famed multidisciplinary artist Tristan Eaton to create what it called the “largest mural in Ohio”
- Eaton is part of the third and final wave of artists for the festival, which runs Oct. 13 through Oct. 16
- Exhibits range from digitally animated murals to light-based installations to interactive sculpture
- One mural celebrates Cincinnati’s longstanding relationship with Kharkiv, Ukraine
BLINK commissioned famed multidisciplinary artist Tristan Eaton to create what it called the “largest mural in Ohio” as part of the festival this October. The mural space is roughly 17,000 square feet along the side of 84.51’s headquarters in downtown Cincinnati.
The Contemporary Arts Center is one of the prominent downtown Cincinnati covered in projection mapping during BLINK. (Photo courtesy of BLINK)
While he’s worked in design and illustration, Eaton is best known for his large-scale murals featuring his signature style of collaging and layering combined with bright, colorful imagery. He typically works in freehand spray paint, a nod to the traditional graffiti style.
His works are found all over the world, including Paris and Shanghai. One of his most recent works is an 8,500-square-foot mural in Dallas, Texas’ historic Deep Ellum neighborhood. On his website, Eaton described the piece as celebrating Deep Ellum’s roots as a local music, art and entertainment hub.
Specific plans for Eaton’s mural aren’t yet available, but Justin Brookhart, BLINK’s executive director, noted it would pay homage to Cincinnati’s commitment to public art and preserving history.
Brookhart said the mural plan came about earlier this year after the demolition of a former hotel unveiled an enormous concrete wall facing west on Fifth Street in downtown Cincinnati.
The revelation of the building-sized canvas led the BLINK team to “dream big,” he said.
“We wanted to bring the biggest public mural to Cincinnati, and we wanted to bring in the biggest public artist we could to honor the region,” Brookhart added. “Tristan Eaton was our first choice, as we believe no one does massive public murals like him.”
Celebrated artists from near and far
Eaton headlined the rollout of the third wave of artists set to take part in 2022 BLINK. The event kicks off Thursday, Oct. 13 with the BLINK parade and runs through Sunday, Oct. 16.
Murals, displays and interactive experiences will line 30 city blocks between downtown Cincinnati and Covington, Ky. over the course of the four-day festival.
Between 1.25 and 1.5 million people attended the last BLINK in 2019, organizers said, making it the largest event in the region’s history.
A light-based installation on display during the BLINK festival in 2019. (Photo courtesy of BLINK)
BLINK previously announced the first two waves of featured artists for this year — a collection of local and international artists working in various media ranging from street art and sculpture to graphic design and video production.
Brookhart, who joined the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber in January, promised the third phase of artists are all about “big experiences.”
He highlighted a 3D-style painted mural by Greek artist Insane51 as one of this year’s major attractions. Cincinnati-based goDutch, a branding firm, is charged with digitally animating the mural.
Other works include a bevy of light-based installations, such as Empower’s “See Yourself in Light.” The interactive piece invites revelers to create their own piece of light art by taking a digital photograph and having it translated into a one-of-a-kind fractal design.
Immerge Interactive made “Fences,” which tracks each passerby’s position and movement, and then layers it onto a 7-foot tall, 72-foot long, custom LED display. As more people walk by, the installation changes.
The “Rosebud Rotunda” — presented by a group of local startups including Nimble Prototyping, Radius Concepts and Digital Castaway — uses programmable LED and real-time graphical visualizers to create an interactive, 360-degree piece that reacts as patrons walk around the space. The artists received inspiration from a pattern of rose petals.
“Visible Spectrum” is the creation of designers Sean Cottengim and Ted Madden. It features slices of color-tinted vinyl hanging from a structural truss suspension system. Each piece of vinyl is lit from above, causing them to project colorful shadows on passersby as they walk underneath.
A celebration of Cincinnati culture
The Cincinnati Black Music Walk of Fame at the Andrew J. Brady Music Center will transform into a “Golden Garden” during BLINK.
An ode to the region’s music history, the piece features a gold-drenched, twinkling light design and other activations designed to “celebrate Cincinnati as a city where stars are made,” Brookhart said. He views the area as both a destination and a break area, where people can sit on the lawn and listen to a soundtrack inspired by artists inducted into the Walk of Fame.
BLINK displays range from digitally animated murals to light-based sculptures to interactive displays. (Photo courtesy of BLINK)
Local artist Jenny Ustick is creating a mural at 1926 Dunlap Street in OTR honoring the 33-year Sister City Partnership between Cincinnati and Kharkiv, Ukraine. The city suffered considerable damage during the ongoing war with Russia.
Ustick collaborated on the development of the piece with the organizations Cincinnati Kharkiv Sister City Partnership and Cincy4Ukraine, a group founded by local women originally from Ukraine. Fundraising efforts for these groups is mainly geared toward providing humanitarian aid, so partnering with BLINK proved “tremendously helpful and important,” Ustick said.
“They were doing their darndest to sponsor and raise funds, so when (the mural) was picked up by BLINK, it was really exciting,” she added.
Ustick enlisted the help of her fellow University of Cincinnati professor Sean Hafer to come up with the projection mapped animation. The pair will work with UC art and design students on the site in Over-the-Rhine to assemble the piece.
BLINK seeks to “transcend physical and virtual boundaries” with “Breonna’s Garden,” which combines augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), Brookhart said.
Artist Lady Pheønix created the work in solidarity with the family of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African-American woman killed by police in her Louisville, Ky. home in 2020.
“What began as a single powerful concept has blossomed like the garden itself, offering opportunities for honoring and healing entire communities using exponentially merging technology,” BLINK’s description of the piece reads.
Art comes in various forms
The BLINK program includes several photographic and lens-based light projects presented by the regional organization FotoFocus. These outdoor, site-specific projects use a variety of light-based installations to highlight the exhibit themes.
Extending beyond visual art Cincinnati’s Poet Laureate Yalie Kamara is creating a living poem to premiere this year.
BLINK is also going to highlight the work of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra with a special performance of “Sun Dogs” they have planned for the weekend.
“Typically, a composer responds to a director’s ideas in a film scoring capacity, or a filmmaker is given music to respond to visually, but ‘Sun Dogs’ explores how stories can be told with music and film from equal footing,” BLINK said of the piece.
Once again, plans call for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center to glow as a “beacon of hope along the Ohio Riverfront” throughout BLINK.
A complete list of artists and other event information is available on the BLINK website.