UC student infuses art and design into Cincinnati’s newest sports venue

Unique co-op experience brings fine arts student to FC Cincinnati’s newly opened home field

Fine arts and sporting events might not seem to have much in common, but for one University of Cincinnati student, that intersection was key to her co-op experience.

This spring Emily Baxter, a fine arts senior in UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP), spent her co-op working for RAREculture, a New York-based design firm. However, instead of traveling to the Big Apple, the job kept her right here in the Queen City working on a highly anticipated new sports venue: TQL Stadium, home of major league soccer team FC Cincinnati.

Whether they co-op in New York, Tokyo, Amsterdam or here at home, the co-op program lets each student blossom.

“Our program allows students to explore and define what being an artist means for them individually,” says Maureen Buri, assistant professor in UC’s Division of Experience Based Learning and Career Education. “We examine diverse approaches to creative professions, and students learn how their skills can translate into opportunities. I’m very proud that our program opens up a variety of possibilities for students to consider in creative fields.” 

Portrait photo of UC's Emily Baxter, DAAP fine arts student

Emily Baxter

Because of the rare opportunity on several levels, student Baxter describes the advantage of participating in the co-op requirement at UC — the birthplace of co-op and one of the first universities in the country to offer the paid cooperative education experience for fine arts students.

“Not only was it super exciting to work on a local project and have the chance to assist on my first install with the company, but it was also RAREculture’s first stadium project,” says Baxter. 

As part of this team Baxter designed multiple large-scale pieces consisting of three murals and a series of 12 pop-art portraits of “Cincinnati Legends.” Her designs are currently on view in several clubs in the stadium including inside the First Financial Club on the entry level.

Later tasked with capturing the iconic landmarks of old Cincinnati for the second-level Cincinnatus Club, Baxter sifted through hundreds of old photographs, collaged them together and created a mural featuring Cincinnati’s Union Terminal as the central focal point.

Co-op creativity

Wall mural and bar shelves inside First Financial Club in Cincinnati's FC soccer stadium.

Baxter's work can be seen in TLQ Stadium's Cincinnatus Club (right). The mural on the left was designed and illustrated by 2015 DAAP grad AJ Yorio.

Bar shelves inside First Financial Club in Cincinnati's FC soccer stadium.

Wall mural adorns top of bar inside TLQ Stadium's First Financial Club.

“We began the project in January and completed it by mid-April, so it was an extremely fast-paced project considering the scale,” says Baxter. “It was a lot of hard work, some late nights and back and forth with the client, but being able to assist with the direction of the installation and seeing all our hard work come to fruition was totally worth it.”

Especially grateful for co-op, Baxter says it was a big part of why she chose DAAP and UC. 

“The program, especially my co-op adviser professor Buri, does an amazing job of giving fine arts students new and different opportunities they wouldn't have otherwise thought about,” adds Baxter. “There are so many jobs and careers to pursue, especially with fine arts, that it can become overwhelming trying to figure out where you want to take it. 

“I appreciate how the program allows fine arts students the chance to get a taste of the real world and experience what they could be doing after graduation,” she adds.

While the program allows students to define what being an artist means for them personally, Buri says they also examine diverse approaches to creative professions so students learn how their skills can translate into opportunities.

“[Baxter’s] experience illustrates just how impactful experiential learning can be,” says Buri. “After two semesters with RAREculture, Emily has exhibited the confidence and experience to be assigned as company liaison for this entire project.”

Old legends, new life

12 colored pop-art portraits of Cincinnati legends.

12 colored pop-art portraits of Cincinnati legends.

Various pictures and trinkets lining shelves inside TLQ Stadium featuring unique Cincinnati history.

Shelves featuring unique Cincinnati history.

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Employers often indicate they will give UC graduates priority in hiring because their co-op experiences have significantly prepared them professionally, adds Buri.

UC DAAP fine arts stuent Emily Baxter wearing hard and PPE mask inside TLQ Stadium.

Emily Baxter inside TLQ Stadium.

While initially unsure about what she wanted to do with a fine arts degree, Baxter says she knew in her gut it was what she needed to pursue to be happy and satisfied with her life. 

“I didn’t want to practice studio art because I want to keep my personal art personal,” says Baxter. “But I do want to curate, as well as create when I have an idea for a piece. RAREculture gives me exactly that as a job.”

Because of the positive team dynamic and good fit with her first co-op experience, Baxter plans to begin her career with RAREculture once she graduates UC.

“We’re very proud that our program opens up a variety of possibilities for students to consider in creative fields,” says Buri. “Having graduated two cohorts of fine artists from the program, students report their most significant impact of co-op is an improved level of self-confidence, personally and professionally. That gives them the opportunity to explore the possibilities.”

Learn more about UC's global co-op program.

 

Featured image at top: UC DAAP fine arts student Emily Baxter inside Cincinnati's TLQ Stadium. photos/provided by Emily Baxter

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