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UC’s Hero Bearcats art exhibit celebrates everyday heroes

UC art exhibit supports student scholarships and services, celebrates Cincinnati’s everyday heroes

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a… life-size Hero Bearcat?

The University of Cincinnati’s beloved Bearcat will parade around Greater Cincinnati for six months beginning next spring celebrating heroes who don’t wear capes or boast superhuman powers.

Hero Bearcats, a free public art event starring 30 life-sized statues decorated by local artists, will unveil in April 2019 across campus and at prominent locations throughout Greater Cincinnati. Each 200-pound fiberglass statue will celebrate everyday heroes like teachers, nurses, firefighters, police officers and others in colorful, whimsical ways, says Marty Ludwig, UC’s director of trademarks and licensing.

“This is a platform to increase visibility for UC’s brand and engage the entire community by bringing people together in a fun event that celebrates the good among us all,” he said. “We felt it was fitting to go with the name ‘Hero Bearcats’ to recognize the everyday heroes who help make Cincinnati such a unique and wonderful place to live.”

Ludwig says the creative campaign is designed to showcase the university’s impact on Cincinnati and beyond. UC, Ludwig points out, serves as an economic powerhouse for the Queen City, with more than 15,000 employees, 45,000 students, 300,000 living alumni and countless Bearcat fans.

And among the state’s five counties in southwestern Ohio, UC generates a whopping $3.3 billion annual impact. The campus community is also credited with an $8.5 million annual impact thanks to volunteerism and community engagement.

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The Hero Bearcats exhibit not only celebrates local ordinary superstars, but the event itself provides a way for sponsors to serve as heroes for students and members of the community in need.

Proceeds from sponsorships of the statues will benefit student scholarships and the Bearcats Food Pantry, which provides food, hygiene items and cleaning supplies to students with food insecurities and other needs. Healthcare services for underserved members of the community will also be provided by UC Health, the university’s healthcare affiliate.

Kroger and UC Health are presenting sponsors of the campaign.  

Budding artists are invited to submit designs for Hero Bearcats now through Oct. 28. If selected to participate in the campaign, artists will receive a $1,500 stipend to complete their design and special recognition for their work.  

Hero Bearcats will be on display April through September 2019. The exhibition is set to be a one-time campaign for now, Ludwig says, but there’s always a chance it could roar back again.

Call for artists

Submit a design for a Hero Bearcat for a chance to be a participating artist of one of the chosen Bearcats to be placed around the city. Proposals are due Oct. 28.

Become a sponsor

Become a sponsor of a Hero Bearcat and receive special recognition and access to private events.

The story of the Bearcat

Hand drawn cartoon of a bearcat chasing a wildcat

UC’s most loveable and best recognized mascot’s roots were born during a formidable football game between the University of Cincinnati and the University of Kentucky on Oct. 31, 1914. To drum up support, cheerleader Norman "Pat" Lyon, introduced a new chant, using a play on fullback Leonard K. "Teddy" Baehr’s name: "They may be Wildcats, but we have a Baehr-cat on our side." UC won the day, 14-7, and a cartoon published in the student newspaper memorializing the victory featured a Kentucky Wildcat being chased by a creature labeled the “Cincinnati Bear cat.” The name stuck, and a legend was born.


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