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Public Art Guides a New Vision for Pleasant Street

A series of projects by UC faculty and students will help facilitate a pedestrian-friendly corridor in a key area of Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.

Date: 6/16/2015 12:00:00 PM
By: Abby Otting
Phone: (513) 556-2974
Other Contact: Danilo Palazzo
Photos By: Abby Otting and Danilo Palazzo

UC ingot   When Kate Bonansinga and Danilo Palazzo joined the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning three years ago, she as director of the School of Art and he as director of the School of Planning, they discovered that they shared an interest in increasing the college’s contributions to public art.

Seeing an opportunity in the university’s UC Forward initiative, which fosters progress through collaboration and innovation, they created an interdisciplinary studio class that explores the ways in which art in the public can impact a community, neighborhood and identity of a city.
Theme Board
A DAAP theme board from the Pleasant Street project.

“Art plays a very powerful role in the vitality of the city,” says Palazzo. “It can very quickly change the public’s perception of a neighborhood or community.”

This summer, the collaboration has expanded to include a bundle of courses that address the full spectrum of issues that inform an urban planning project. From ethics and community relations to budgeting and law. Taught by planning faculty members Leah Hollstein, Chris Auffrey, Rainer vom Hofe, Nancy Cutler and Fruth/Gemini Chair Vikas Mehta, the courses are all connected by a real-world application: establishing a pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare along Pleasant Street in Cincinnati’s historic Over-the-Rhine.

The original studio class, titled IMPACT: Public Art and Planning, has shifted to a stronger “maker” focus. Planning professor Hollstein and fine arts professor Joe Girandola are leading students’ investigation into how public art can specifically encourage Pleasant Street’s pedestrian traffic and connect two of Over-the-Rhine’s jewels: Findlay Market and Washington Park. Students will go beyond generating ideas to creating tangible artifacts that will play a role in the project and inspire engagement from the community.

Running parallel to the fine art and planning classes, the University of Cincinnati Research Institute’s MetroLAB, led by DAAP architecture professor Michael Zaretsky, is exploring additional ways to activate the vision for Pleasant Street.

All of the work is supported by The Carol Ann & Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation and People's Liberty, and was informed by a series of panel discussions with the Findlay Market Committee, neighborhood residents and economic stakeholders.

DAAP’s contributions to the Pleasant Street project culminate in several exhibits in June and July. The first is “Field of Greens.” One part Wiffle ball field, one part urban farm, the Field of Greens transforms a vacant lot on Pleasant Street between Washington Park and Liberty Street into a working garden and play area for residents and their children. It is also a key location to facilitate a pleasant connection between the neighborhoods north and south of Liberty. First pitch in the opening game will be thrown at 7 p.m. on June 22.
wiffle diamond
One project along Pleasant Street is the installation of a neighborhood garden and wiffle ball field.

“When you have a roadway as big as Liberty, it inhibits walking and forms a barrier within the neighborhood,” says Girandola. “There needs to be a compelling reason or clear route to encourage people to cross.”

In conjunction with “Field of Greens” DAAP School of Planning students will showcase their research and ideas for encouraging walkability along Pleasant Street that benefits both neighborhood residents and visitors in an exhibit at People’s Liberty headquarters in the Globe Furniture building at Findlay Market. Open from 5-7 p.m. June 22, it features the work from the IMPACT: Public Art and Planning course. The exhibit is intended to start a larger conversation about how to improve life on Pleasant Street, connecting new residents to community members who have called OTR home for decades and engaging people living in the community who might not usually be included in the area’s development plans.

To further encourage people to make the connection between north and south Liberty, the studio class is creating an art installation informed by the research they’ve conducted with neighborhood residents at community meetings. “Pleasant Street Alternative Steps” will be a public art infographic that combines the sentiments of pedestrians about the future of their neighborhood with photographs of their feet. Printed on street wrap slip-proof vinyl, the installation will serve as a path marking the way between Findlay Market and Washington Park.

"Our intention with both the Field of Greens and Alternate Steps installations is to really activate the street,” says Hollstein. “It’s been exciting for the students to see the amount of effort it takes to create a genuine citizen-engagement-oriented planning initiative.”
green boxes
A garden of edible greens planted in recycled milk crates will line the Pleasant Street Wiffle ball field.

On July 11, Michael Zaretsky and the MetroLAB students will illustrate to neighbors what the pedestrian-friendly streetscape could look and feel like. This is the Saturday prior to the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, so it’s an opportune moment because both Findlay Market and Washington Park will see an increase in foot traffic from visitors to the city. Sections of the street will be closed to motorists, and MetroLAB will apply research gained from a community engagement event on June 5 to demonstrate options for encouraging pedestrian use of the corridor, such as seating, lighting, interactive art, food trucks or stalls and musical installations.

“If residents are invested in the process and their voice is heard, the chances of the work being embraced by the community are much higher,” says Zaretsky. “We are not building final solutions. We are helping residents test ways to make Pleasant Street more pleasant, getting their feedback and making adjustments throughout the summer.”


DAAP School of Planning, IMPACT: Public Art and Planning Exhibit at People’s Liberty – June 22, 5-7 p.m.
Field Of Greens Urban Farm and Wiffle Ball Field – Opening game June 22, 7-9 p.m. 1510-1524 Pleasant Street in Over-the-Rhine.
MetroLAB Event on Pleasant Street – July 11, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Pleasant Street Alternative Steps – Opens July 11, Pleasant Street between Washington Park and Findlay Market.

People’s Liberty is a philanthropic lab that brings together civic-minded talent to address challenges and uncover opportunities to accelerate the positive transformation of Greater Cincinnati. People’s Liberty invests directly in individuals through funding and mentorship, creating a new, replicable model for grantmakers in other cities. People's Liberty is powered by the Haile/U.S. Bank Foundation and the Johnson Foundation. For more information, visit


Findlay Market - operated continuously in the same iron-framed building since 1855 - is not just another historic monument. It is an essential institution to life in 21st century Cincinnati. Linking Uptown with Downtown, Findlay Market is a vibrant living landmark at the heart of Cincinnati's future. The mission at historic Findlay Market is to build an authentic and vibrant environment for food and food-related economic activity and social interaction in a great public space. The vision is to lead a resurgence of a local food culture that provides communities safe and healthy food grown and produced in a manner that protects the environment and adds economic and social value to rural, suburban and urban communities. For more information visit


The University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) is a comprehensive research and design institution offering undergraduate majors in Architecture, Art History, Fashion Design, Fine Arts, Graphic Communication Design, Horticulture, Industrial Design, Interior Design, Urban Planning, and Urban Studies. DAAP also offers the following graduate degrees in Architecture, Art Education, Community Planning, Design, Fine Arts, and Regional Development Planning.

DAAP’s primary mission is the creation of a better visual and design environment, which is achieved through excellence in educational programs, research, creative works, and service to the community, the faculty, the students, and administrative officers. DAAP’s programs within the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning are, year-after-year, ranked among the very best in both a world and national class. Visit DAAP at