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Grad Student’s Award-Winning Thesis Focuses on Walking Tours in Cincinnati

Art education graduate student and photographer Chris Luessen integrated student- and community-developed urban walking tours of Cincinnati into his recent thesis, which is the first-ever winner of UC’s Robert L. Russell Research Award.

Date: 11/29/2012
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Provided by Chris Luessen
As a fine art photographer, recent University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) graduate Chris Luessen often walked the city’s urban neighborhoods capturing shots of both objects, traces and architecture.
Chris Luessen
Chris Luessen on Orchard Street in Over-the-Rhine.


 
In order to share the experience of walking and seeing – the finding of visual gems, Luessen created a template and asked undergraduate students and community members to create walking tours of their favorite neighborhoods and locales. In all, he collected 25 such tours, and then, ultimately selected ten of those to include in his recent (2012) art education graduate thesis. The community- and student-developed walking tours ultimately included in his thesis and screen printed into a self-contained booklet included Brighton (off of Central Parkway), Burnet Woods, Clifton’s Ludlow Business District, Downtown Cincinnati, Mt. Airy, Northside, Over-the-Rhine in the area bordered by Liberty and 15th streets and several other areas.
 
Luessen’s thesis effort, titled “Locating an Other City: Critical Engagement and Every Day Intervention through Art Education,” recently won him DAAP’s first-ever Robert L. Russell Research Award, named after long-time art education faculty member Robert Russell. Luessen received the award this fall, before an audience consisting of this year’s new master’s of art education students.
book of walking tours
Community- and student-developed walking tours collected by Luessen.


 
He said, “It meant a lot that the faculty valued the work I had done and was doing. It was certainly a reward for choosing a program as challenging as that housed in DAAP.”
 
Luessen’s community-based art was, in part, inspired by DAAP’s Art in the Market program, which guides local teens in the creating of public art in Over-the-Rhine. However, he was also motivated by “my own urban explorations. I wanted to share the experience of walking in the city.”

He displayed all 25 walking tour submissions and distributed all 100 collected tour booklets during his thesis exhibit at DAAPWorks.
 
“I’ve had some feedback that people are using the walking tours. The one walking tour of Mt. Airy, titled ‘Mt. Airy Twin Tunnels and Magic Fall,’ included a hidden swimming hole. One user of the walking tours took photos that he sent me once he located the spot. He even told me how his dog loved swimming there,” stated Luessen, who is currently the art teacher at St. Antoninus Elementary School in Western Hills, as well as a volunteer at Literacy Center West in Price Hill.
 
He will soon participate in an experimental walking tour set for Dec. 1 in Over-the-Rhine, starting at Findlay Market: “Administrators of the online group called Over-the-Rhine Matters and myself are set to sponsor at-least one walking event, sort of like a walking tour of Over-the-Rhine but without a guide or set destination. Everyone involved will be invited to engage with their surroundings and share the experience through map making, sketching, taking photos or creatively sharing the experience via any other form.”

For more information, check out the OTR Matters Facebook page at facebook.com/otrmatters
Walking tour booklet in use in Mt. Airy Forest.
One user of the walking tour booklet took this photo in Mt. Airy Forest.