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Cincinnati Symphony opens new season thriving on experimentation


The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra opens its new season Sept. 25-27 with a weekend of events centered around Hector Berlioz’s edgy, dreamlike Symphonie Fantastique. It’s a fitting accompaniment to the organization’s high-profile efforts to experiment on new ways to connect with the community.
 
The weekend offers a variety of events for different audiences, including a Friday morning performance of the Berlioz Symphonie along with the Beethoven’s Overture to Fidelio and Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 2. The CSO performs all three works again Saturday evening after its annual Opening Night Gala, culminating with one of the largest after-parties it’s thrown in years.
 
“This will be a chance for people to let their hair down a little bit,” CSO Director of Communications Meghan Berneking says. “Symphonie Fantastique has this lore around it that the composer was on opium when he wrote it, so they’re capitalizing on that for the (party) theme.”
 
The “5th Movement” after-party will feature psychedelic decorations, dancing and a specially-brewed beer from Taft’s Ale House. The event will likely appeal to the Young Professionals crowd the Symphony tries to cultivate early in their careers with a variety of CSO Encore events, although Berneking emphasizes that all of the weekend’s events are open to anyone.
 
Opening weekend wraps up Sunday evening with the first installment of CSO’s new “Stories in Concert” series. The orchestra will again perform Symphonie Fantastique, this time without the other pieces but with accompanying explanations to tell the story of the music in greater depth.
 
“If you’re intimidated by classical music, this performance is for you,” Berneking says, adding that the goal of “Stories in Concert” performances is to help audiences better understand and engage with classical music.
 
The series is just one of many innovative projects CSO is working on to help connect with the community at large.
 
“The Orchestra prides itself on being a place of experimentation,” Berneking says. “That comes with us not being afraid to try new things.”
 
Over the past few years, the CSO has been involved in events and collaborations that might seem surprising from a symphony orchestra dedicated to classical music.
 
The organization has collaborated with Cincinnati native Bryce Dessner and The National rock band at the annual MusicNOW festival, which promotes artists experimenting with new music at Memorial Hall, Music Hall and other local venues. The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra just released American Originals, a live album honoring the works of Stephen Foster that features collaborations with such artists as Rosanne Cash, Over the Rhine and Comet Bluegrass Allstars. The CSO has also been engaging the city with its One City, One Symphony series, which will continue this year with a tribute to Maya Angelou focused on the theme of “freedom.”
 
Of course, the experiment that’s garnered the most attention is Lumenocity, which had its third annual run in early August. The CSO charged for tickets for the first time this year in order to help fund the $1.4 million event, and the concerts set to light projections drew more than 30,000 people over four nights in Washington Park. It was a smaller turnout than the first two years because of the restricted ticket sales, but the event has quickly become one of Cincinnati’s most popular summer traditions.

Berneking says all of this summer’s Lumenocity performance sold out, proving that patrons valued the event enough to pay for it and boding well for future years.
 
“When you’re experimenting, there’s always the risk that it won’t work, but even if it flops we see it as our duty to try new things anyway,” she says.
 
Those risks are paying off in a big way for the CSO. As orchestras around the country struggle and occasionally fail, Cincinnati’s has seen an uptick in attendance over the last few years. Leadership plans to continue experimenting, commissioning new works and finding new ways to share musical stories with the community.
 
“If Cincinnatians are engaged, we’re happy,” Berneking says.
 

Chatfield College's new OTR home maintains community ties, provides room to grow


The paint might still be drying and floors still being laid, but Chatfield College’s new Over-the-Rhine facility on Central Parkway is already bustling with students and staff for the fall semester.
 
Chatfield is a unique institution in Cincinnati: a private, not-for-profit, faith-based Associate’s Degree program that emphasizes the liberal arts. The college, founded in the Ursuline tradition of Sister Julia Chatfield, has campuses in both Cincinnati and St. Martin, Ohio, to focus on critical thinking and preparing students to continue at four-year bachelor’s degree programs while remaining accessible to students who face significant barriers to education.
 
“We’re all about taking down barriers,” says Chatfield President John Tafaro, explaining the school’s student-focused programs from financial aid to daycare.
 
Tafaro explains that the new Over-the-Rhine building is within walking distance of 15 bus stops, saying it will make the college’s services available to even more students while providing an upgraded space for classes and resources.
 
“This is a first-class learning environment,” Tafaro says, “because our students deserve the best.”
 
The new environment is the result of a 14-month, $3.4-million renovation of a building on Central Parkway near Liberty Street. The building was formerly used by the Cincinnati Association for the Blind (now Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired) as a broom factory employing its clients.
 
The socially conscious renovation made use of historic tax credits by maintaining the historic character of the early-20th Century building and created an energy-efficient green facility.
 
“We met our goal of using 30 percent minority-owned and women-owned businesses and 70 percent union labor for our subcontractors,” Tafaro says.
 
The space includes versatile classrooms for small classes and larger events, science labs, work space, a computer lab, a non-denominational chapel to be completed in early 2016 and a large music and dance studio space with wide windows overlooking Central Parkway and the Cincinnati Ballet headquarters right across the street.
 
Tafaro is especially excited about the natural light and open feel after moving from the space Chatfield rented nearby since 2006. That space had been just one third the size of the new Central Parkway building, with no outward-facing windows. The new space provides the college much more opportunity to grow — the campus currently serves just over 200 students, but Tafaro can imagine a day when it might host many more.
 
He says that Chatfield is deeply committed to the Over-the-Rhine community and excited to take advantage of the resources near their new location and build on collaborations with its neighbors. Several tours of the new campus are coming up, including one on Thursday, Sept. 17 in collaboration with the OTR Chamber of Commerce and Taft’s Ale House.
 

Neltner Small Batch focuses on "true stories" behind branding work

 
Consumer and brand marketing is pretty big in Cincinnati, where big firms work with big clients to reach a big audience. Neltner Small Batch, as the name says, is doing things a little differently.
 
Keith Neltner established his design firm in 2012 on his family’s farm in Camp Springs, Ky. with a small staff and key collaborators such as photographer and cinematographer Brian Steege and editor and colorist Tate Webb. Their most recent project, a promotional film for Braxton Brewing called Born in a Garage, exemplifies what makes this team unique.
 
“We started working with Braxton in January of last year,” Neltner says. “Way back in the beginning, we established the whole garage sensibility, because they already had that story: They started as father and son brewing in a garage and turned it into a really cool brewery. When they started to actually build out the space, we recognized that there were going to be some unscripted moments that we wanted to capture.”
 
Neltner had worked with Steege on music videos and documentaries and realized they both loved telling stories. As the Braxton space was developed in Covington, featuring a mural designed by Neltner, Steege documented the process and turned the raw footage over to Webb, who put the story together.
 
“People talk about authentic stories and they’re really talking about a style of storytelling,” Webb says. “I think what Keith does, and the reason that he connected with Brian and me, is that we have strong feelings about telling true stories and showing true things.”
 
The team behind Born in the Garage takes a hands-on approach to its work, focusing on the story behind each brand.
 
“This is not design for design’s sake,” Neltner says. “We’re always digging for that story that’s going to mean something to people. Our writer, Jeff Chambers, connects with people on a fundamental level in the conversational way he writes copy.
 
“Hopefully we’re creating artifacts that will live on. Ten years from now someone might pick up a vinyl record that we had the opportunity to work on and it’s an artifact, it’s not disposable. That said, we’re not artisans with little lamps in workshops toiling away on woodcarvings. We have that sensibility when we tell a story, but we’re connected and definitely use technology to our advantage.”
 
Neltner, Stegge and Webb are each running their own businesses in addition to collaborating on projects. Their informal style and honest admiration for each other clearly feeds the success of their partnership.
 
“Everything Keith has ever designed has been influenced by growing up out in a farming community and coming to a sense of design and art by the life that he lived,” Webb says. “His work truly is as authentic as you can get. Keith is not trying to conjure an image or a look that is popular because of the back to the roots movement — it’s an outpouring of what is natural to him. I think that is what makes his work resonate with people, because in the end authenticity just means truth.”
 
Webb says the collaborations border on a “mystical experience” when the three start working together on a project.
 
“The three of us all have separate worlds that don’t cross over at all,” he says, “but occasionally a special project comes along and we know we have to work together.”
 

Strap welcomes Mondelez International to Cincinnati to begin working with two of its brands


In cities like Cincinnati where marketing is king, “you are what you buy” is a familiar phrase. But the minds behind Strap, the Brandery-born human data intelligence startup, believe that “you are what you buy” and “you are what you tweet” are hardly relevant in today’s marketplace.
 
“We say you are what you do,” says Patrick Henshaw, COO at Strap, “whether it’s an activity, the food you eat, body metrics, sleep metrics. With that data, we can paint a more precise picture (for our clients).”
 
Strap’s approach to human data recently earned it a visit from Mondelez International, the global snack food leader. In June, Strap applied to be a part of Mondelez’s Shopper Futures Program, an initiative that brings together entrepreneurs and leading retailers to improve the customer experience. Last week, Strap announced that it’s been accepted into the program.
 
Strap will be using its human data intelligence platform to pitch a branding/marketing strategy for Trident, one of Mondelez's major brands.
 
Mondelez officials will visit Cincinnati this week as a part of an immersion tour. The Strap team will then have 90 days to come up with a pilot campaign for Trident. Convenience store Kum & Go will be Strap's acting retail partner for the project.
 
Strap’s technology integrates with smart phones and wearables to passively collect data ranging from a person’s physical activity to their sleeping habits. Strap can then offer data science to the brand to help them support their mission.
 
“And the data is not tainted by your social habits,” Henshaw says.
 
Strap has been an active part of the #StartupCincy movement for a couple of years now. Since graduating from The Brandery, the startup has moved into 84.51° in downtown Cincinnati as one of their Entrepreneurs-in-Residence, joining fellow Cincy startups Hello Parent, Casamatic and HireWheel. Strap also has a presence in San Francisco to better service existing clients.
 
“We’re wherever our customer is,” Henshaw says.
 
Though Strap is growing rapidly and this work with Trident will only propel them further, the company is still rooted in Cincinnati.
 
“You don’t have to head out to San Francisco to find innovation,” Henshaw says. “We love being a part of the movement that is proving that there is innovation outside of Silicon Valley.”
 
In Cincinnati, Henshaw and his Strap colleagues also act as mentors for The Brandery, UpTech and Ocean. Henshaw sees these mentorship programs as a great way to help budding companies avoid the pitfalls of the startup journey.

“A 30-minute conversation could have saved me two months when we started,” Henshaw says.
 

New round of People's Liberty grants available as first year starts to wind down


The next few months will be busy at People’s Liberty, with new grantees announced, current grantees premiering project results and two grant application deadlines.
 
Last week, the organization announced the three winners of their Globe Grants for 2016, an opportunity that gives projects $15,000 and three months to create some kind of innovative installation or programming in the People’s Liberty Globe Gallery space on Elm Street across from Findlay Market. The 2016 group of grantees features a photography exhibit of African-American men as Kings, a “toy library” for both children and adults and a chain-reaction space-filling machine art installation reminiscent of Rube Goldberg. Winners Nina Wells, Julia Fischer and Michael DeMaria should provide some captivating experiences in the space in its second year of installations.
 
The first year has one exhibit left: Deep Space, a nontraditional installation by Amy Lynch, Joel Masters and J.D. Loughead that provides an environment for creativity rather than presenting its finished products. It aims to be an “indeterminate space, a nebulous nurturing envelopment where creativity can thrive unencumbered.”
 
Deep Space will open with an event during Over-the-Rhine’s Final Friday on Oct. 30, finishing out the first full cycle of one of the three main People’s Liberty grants. The first two Globe Gallery projects were Jason Snell’s Good Eggs (March-June) and C. Jacqueline Wood’s Mini Microcinema (July-Sept. 3).
 
People’s Liberty launched a little over a year ago to provide opportunities for “new philanthropy” in Cincinnati. Founded by Eric Avner and Amy Goodwin via the U.S. Bank/Haile Foundation and Johnson Foundation, the philanthropic lab invests in individuals and human talent rather than the traditional model of foundations making grants to nonprofit organizations.

“I think this model gives us the opportunity to advance someone’s career,” says Aurore Fournier, a program director at People’s Liberty. “Sometimes we can even help them figure out what they want to do next.”
 
She expects People’s Liberty to continue expanding its marketing to reach an even wider pool of potential grantees.
 
“We want to strive toward even more great applicants,” Fournier says. “We want people to come from all over the I-275 beltway area.”
 
Fournier encourages everyone with an idea to apply for two upcoming grant opportunities. The first, due Wednesday, Sept. 9, is the Project Grant, which gives each winner $10,000 to complete a short-term project in Cincinnati.

The previous round of projects ranged from a cultural dance event to real-time arrival signs at Metro stops. Several of that group of grantees have their own milestones coming up this fall.

Alyssa McClanahan and John Blatchford just published the first issue of their Kunst: Built Art magazine with a series of events in Over-the-Rhine. Mark Mussman’s first class of Creative App Project students will premiere their finished Android apps at the Globe Building on Sept. 14. Giacomo Ciminello’s Spaced Invaders had a successful first test in Walnut Hills recently.
 
The Project Grantees aren’t the only ones making progress.

The first two recipients of the full-year $100,000 Haile Fellowship are also coming to the culminating stages of their projects. Brad Schnittger will soon launch the MusicLi platform to help connect local artists to music licensing opportunities, while Brad Cooper’s Start Small tiny homes project is due to break ground in October.
 
The application for next year’s Haile Fellowship will be open until Oct. 1, with a variety of opportunities for applicants to consult with People’s Liberty staff about their ideas.
 
Fournier sees the Haile Fellowship and Project Grants as a way for individuals not only to realize their ideas but to learn and grow in the process.
 
“This is not just a learning experience for us,” she says, “but also a learning opportunity for the people we fund.”
 
People’s Liberty staff members are proud of the work they’ve done and the people and projects in which they’ve invested so far. The five-year project will continue until 2020, when the team and funders will take some time to reflect on their work, its impact and what might be next.
 
“We’re extremely happy with the results,” Fournier says. “The opportunities are endless, and I think only time will tell with People’s Liberty.”
 

Unpolished Conference aims to be source of inspiration for entrepreneurs


Unpolished, a grassroots collective of startup leaders based at Crossroads Church, will host a national conference Sept. 17-18 focusing on the intersection of faith and entrepreneurship.
 
“There is an incredible lineup of speakers and teachers,” says Matt Welty, executive producer at Crossroads. “I think everyone who attends will walk away inspired, encouraged and motivated to jump into their work. People will hear surprising things about how faith and entrepreneurship overlap in very meaningful ways.”
 
“Unpolished came about when a few entrepreneurs who were attending Crossroads were gathered together by senior pastor Brian Tome,” says Unpolished co-founder Tim Brink. “He had seen us working out of the atrium. He was curious what we were doing, why we were there and if there was anything Crossroads could do to support us.”
 
Weekly meetings led to creating “place where we can talk about the things that are hard about being an entrepreneur: co-founder issues, health and space,” Brink says. “You spend so much of your time pitching — investors, employees, customers — you’re constantly trying to sell and put your best foot forward. Unpolished provided space for the other stuff.”
 
As word of the informal group spread, attendance grew, culminating in an event last January that drew 3,500 attendees.
 
“When that happened, something clicked,” Brink says, “This isn’t just a localized interest, there is a real DNA level thing going on here and our hunch was that it was broader than Cincinnati. That planted the seed for this conference.”
 
Unpolished aims to engage a wide range of entrepreneurs.
 
“Entrepreneurship very easily gets defined as tech,” Brink says. “But that is such a small piece of it. Most of the people we have speak at our Unpolished events are not tech — they’re just great creators of products, businesses and services.”
 
Andrew Salzbrun, managing partner at Agar, describes Unpolished as suited for everyone: “The tech startup who has big ideas they’re dreaming about bringing to life; a small business owner who needs to be encouraged and filled with great content; corporate innovators who are expected to lead the way and push boundaries; and students of entrepreneurship from regional colleges.”
 
The two-day conference features mainstage speakers as well as break out sessions and networking opportunities. Conference keynotes include Kirk Perry, President-Brand Solutions of Google; television producer Mark Burnett; and Wendy Lea, CEO of Cintrifuse. Other presenters include photographer Jeremy Cowart, Choremonster founder Chris Bergman, attorney Calev Myers and Chris Sutton of Noble Denim. The event will be hosted at Crossroads’ main campus in Oakley; tickets are available here.
 
“We have two days of highly interactive and engaging content that explores and discusses different facets of faith and entrepreneurship,” Salzbrun says. “Unpolished is based on the idea that entrepreneurship is one of the loneliest jobs on the face of the planet. Some of today’s best leaders will provide context on how to do work that is meaningful and with purpose.”
 
In addition to formal presentations, attendees can visit Startup Village “featuring startups and small businesses representing technology as well as people who are makers,” Welty says. “It is going to be a really cool opportunity to show off the Cincinnati entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
 
Participants can also apply to the second class at Ocean, also hosted at Crossroads, or take part in a contest where attendees can record a brief video pitching an idea to the conference. The other participants will be able to vote on which ideas are the best; winners will receive $2,500-$5,000.
 
The event is working with entrepreneurs and leadership from regional accelerators, including The Brandery, UpTech, Ocean, Mortar and Cintrifuse.
 
“A big desire of mine is to find ways for the Cincinnati startup ecosystem to gel and come together,” Brink says. “There is often a sort of competitive, parochial view of the world, but we're competing with San Francisco and New York, not each other. There is a chance to have something really special here.”
 
“Crossroads is really passionate about being a source of inspiration,” Welty adds. “To create a place where entrepreneurs can gather and be who they really are while being encouraged in their faith and in their businesses. Our hope is that through the ongoing Unpolished group that meets here in Cincinnati, we can begin to develop an even bigger community of people who are connected to each other beyond just one conference.”
 

Spaced Invaders uses play, retro video games to re-energize blighted spaces

                                     
Designer Giacomo Ciminello uses play to help spark ideas. In his People’s Liberty grant project, Spaced Invaders, he wants to use it to re-invigorate blighted spaces.
 
Ciminello’s concept uses the aesthetic of vintage video games like Space Invaders to create large-scale interactive games in blighted spaces in Cincinnati in order to help people interact with and have fun in those spaces.

Ciminello has a long history of using play in creative ways. A Cincinnati transplant from Philadelphia, he graduated with a bachelors and then a Design for Social Change masters from the University of the Arts in Philly. While working in advertising and with corporate clients, he helped found PlayPhilly, an organization that aims to energize concrete “grayspaces” through creativity and play.
 
He has helped start a similar organization, PlayCincy, since moving here but has also noticed big differences between the two cities.
 
“On the East Coast we were working with concrete alleys and sort of spaces between buildings,” Ciminello says, “whereas out here there are entire abandoned blocks.”
 
Those large blighted spaces are part of what inspired Spaced Invaders. The project is Ciminello’s first large-scale, tech-heavy enterprise in Cincinnati. Previous projects, like PlayCincy’s Lite Brute and Maxx Chalkers, use simple materials that reminded players of childhood toys and games.
 
Spaced Invaders also gives participants and spectators a sense of nostalgia for games but uses a much more sophisticated setup and set of technology resources.
 
The game features a huge light projection into the space and software that tracks players’ movements, allowing them to become a part of the game. The setup hearkens to the wildly popular Lumenocity light show, but with an interactive element.
 
It’s also part of the growing popularity of vintage video and arcade games from the 1980s seen in institutions like 16-Bit Bar+Arcade, which opened their Cincinnati location in Over-the-Rhine a few months ago. But this version of the nostalgia will require participants to actively play.
 
“You can’t do this standing still,” Ciminello says. “You have to do 20-yard sprints.”
 
According to Play Theory, that kind of activity changes the way you think and gives individuals a totally different experience in the blighted spaces Ciminello wants to re-energize.
 
“It's a workout!” exclaimed the first player to try the game in the project’s first public test Aug. 27 at Brew House in Walnut Hills.
 
Some logistics of the setup have yet to be finessed. Last week’s test, for instance, was delayed slightly to allow for de-bugging the software and setting up the technology.
 
But once the program was up and running, it inspired wonder and curiosity in everyone present. As volunteer players raced around the Brew House parking lot in reflective vests, defending from pixelated alien invaders, the small crowd egged them on, rejoicing their accomplishments and commiserating with their losses.
 
Ciminello hopes to continue building from this test, recognizing that People’s Liberty has been supportive in pushing the project to be bigger and better. Next steps for Spaced Invaders will involve more events in other spaces and developing other games, even site-specific games that use the landscape features in particular areas.
 
He also hopes that Spaced Invaders will not be the lone project to make use of these concepts.
 
“It's all going to be open source,” he says of the software. “We’re not going to lock it away.”
 
The idea is that the Spaced Invaders base and available software will inspire other local designers and DAAP students to build upon the concept and develop new ways to use play theory to transform spaces.
 
“This should be something that helps people stretch their imaginations,” Ciminello says.
 
If you want to stretch your own imagination, sign up at fighttheblight.org and follow #fighttheblight to learn more.
 

Children's study finds higher rates of childhood illness in poor neighborhoods across Hamilton Co.


New research from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center reaffirms the connection between neighborhood resources and health issues.
 
Dr. Andrew F. Beck, assistant professor in UC’s Department of Pediatrics and attending physician with the Department of Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital, studied bronchiolitis and pneumonia cases in children across Hamilton County and mapped out hospitalization stays over the course of the study period. He calculated hospitalization rates by census tract, which in essence parallel neighborhood boundaries.
 
“Bronchiolitis is a very common lower respiratory tract infection among children age 0 to 2 and pneumonia is one of the most common infectious conditions across childhood,” Beck says. “We found some of the same disparities across our community as we have seen in our research on asthma and life expectancy study published by the Health Department. There is a lot of data suggesting that there are disparities in chronic conditions, and now we’re seeing these disparities in acute infections as well.”
 
The study indicates that hospitalizations for bronchiolitis and pneumonia infections vary widely across Hamilton County, and those differences appear related to neighborhood socio-economic conditions. The study reported hot spots with higher hospitalization rates in high-poverty areas of the inner city, with equivalent cold spots in the more affluent northeastern suburbs.
 
“The depiction of these disparities is a call to action on multiple fronts,” Beck says. “There is a strong desire here to understand difference and disparities within our neighborhood settings across a wide breadth of diagnoses. The related desire is to begin to understand the characteristics of those communities: what are the risks within those communities and what are the assets, resources and potential partners within those communities that we could then leverage moving forward.”
 
Beck and his Children’s colleagues have a strong track record of pursuing research and intervention in tandem.
 
Over the past few years, Children’s has worked closely with Freestore Foodbank to address food insecurity in families with infants, providing not only medical intervention but also educational opportunities and resources to improve quality of life. Children’s also partnered with the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati to launch the Cincinnati Child Health-Law Partnership, providing legal council and assistance to families struggling with legal issues related to housing and income or health benefits.
 
“I like to consider myself an expert in child health,” Beck says. “But I am not an expert in housing or hunger or air pollution or those factors that may be exacerbating the well-being of the kids I’m treating. So it behooves me to think through who are those key community partners that might actually drive more health improvement than I might as the pediatrician. That’s why we really value collaborations with community agencies that are those experts.”
 
The recent research by Beck and his colleagues on hospitalization rates for bronchiolitis, pneumonia and asthma shows there is a relationship but not a causality between these illnesses and poverty. Beck anticipates additional research will be done to examine the possible sources of the disparities.
 
“We need to do a better job understanding why some of our kids are doing worse than others and then think through what the best next steps are and how this data can spawn action,” he says. “(It’s important) both as a hospital trying to provide the best care we can to every kid within our community and in every neighborhood within our community and also to help start conversations with some of these community experts and agencies that may play an even larger role than we could.”
 
Health statistics are often provided on a macro level, with rankings of the most and least healthy regions, states or counties. Beck and his colleagues are examining the data at more micro level.
 
“Even if there are big disparities between County X and County Y, you need to look at a smaller, more granular place,” Beck says. “Because within County X, there may be disparities that need to be narrowed. So we’re trying to understand how we can help our kids do well across communities, not just as an aggregated community.”
 
Beck and the Department of Pediatrics at Children’s are open to new collaborations to build on the success of their relationships with Legal Aid and Freestore Foodbank.
 
“The list goes on and on for potential partners who are truly the experts in the social determinants that are perhaps driving the disparities that we see across all these conditions,” Beck says. “We need to think through our complimentary strengths, our complimentary needs and how can we collaboratively provide a better service than we could in isolation.”
 

Hello Home project tries new way to welcome residents into civic participation


Nancy Sunnenberg wants to create a broad, proactive way of welcoming people when they move to a new neighborhood. She’s been thinking about the questions of “How do we attract and retain people who are residents?” and “How do people become more active citizens?” for a long time.
 
After moving to Roselawn in the early 2000s, Sunnenberg joined the Community Council to become more involved in her new neighborhood. She became a trustee and officer, and her work with the group got her thinking about how to get more people involved in that kind of community work.
 
Like many organizations, Sunnenberg says, “we were looking for (people with) the energy and physical wherewithal to do things.” So in 2006 she started researching how a proactive welcoming of people to a neighborhood might cultivate them to be active participants in civic life, hoping to find ways to engage more people.
 
Now Sunnenberg is exploring the same question through her People’s Liberty grant project, Hello Home.
 
It felt like a perfect funding opportunity, she says, for a project that didn’t fit neatly into an existing nonprofit’s mission. The People’s Liberty grant allows her more flexibility than a traditional organizational grant.
 
The goal of Hello Home is to create a united “welcome packet” for Walnut Hills, East Walnut Hills and Madisonville, which Sunnenberg chose because they connect along one of the city’s major transportation corridors in the city, Madison Road. The packets will contain offers from and information about ArtsWave, Cincinnati Museum Center, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Metro, Cincy Red Bike, local businesses and much more.
 
The crux of the project, however, is not the packet itself but how new residents will receive it. Sunnenberg is training Neighborhood Ambassadors to actively meet and greet recipients; community councils and organizations and signature neighborhood businesses have helped her connect to volunteers in the three target areas.
 
The process starts with a note left on a new resident’s door, allowing that person to contact the Neighborhood Ambassador. They then meet for conversation at a local coffee shop or similar neighborhood hub. The Ambassador acts as a host, welcoming the newcomer to the neighborhood, and the packet is delivered through that active process of welcoming.
 
“The process is part of the package,” Sunnenberg says, adding that the real idea is human contact and personal engagement will help inspire and empower people to get involved in their new neighborhood communities.
 
“People do not recognize how much resource they carry within themselves,” Sunnenberg says.
 
Neighborhood Ambassadors were trained last week at People’s Liberty HQ in Over-the-Rhine. Once the packets have been launched for a few months, Sunnenberg, the Ambassadors and participating organizations will come together to evaluate how the process is going and identify opportunities for growth and change.
 
“There are a lot of opportunities to expand the project based on ‘how do we help people connect?’” Sunnenberg says. “I hope that what will come out of it will be the conversation that expands the idea. I am even more of a fan of the creative process than I was coming into this.”
 

Unleash your inner child at 2015 Mini Maker Faire


Next weekend, the Cincinnati Museum Center wants to remind everyone what it's like to be a kid again. A 21st Century kid, that is.

That means live demonstrations from YouTube celebrities, high tech robots, 3D-printed phenomena and interactive activities like laser painting. They'll on be on display at the third annual Cincinnati Mini Maker Faire Aug. 29-30.
 
Inspired the national Maker Faire movement born out of San Mateo, Calif., and sponsored by Make magazine, Cincinnati's event is hosted by one of dozens of chapters across the country. Referred to as The Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth, its goal is and always has been to showcase invention, creativity and resourcefulness while entertaining to the fullest.
 
Cincinnati's Mini Maker Faire is one of 120 independently-organized events modeled on the larger-scale Maker Faires. This year, Cincinnati brings together over 30 makers and inventors to showcase their gadgets and discoveries.
 
While the event is about as kid-friendly as it can get, the team behind the Mini Maker Faire hopes to draw in adult crowds as well. The Museum Center will be presenting a wealth of information on the history of innovation in Cincinnati along with promises of drag-racing power tools, 3D-printed prosthetic hands and a racecar custom made by University of Cincinnati students — just about every age group will find something worth exploring.
 
For the little ones, the Duke Energy Children's Museum will offer projects like painting with lasers, playing with puppets and building cities out of paper.
 
The event will also include a celebrity appearance. Eepybird, the famous duo responsible for the Coke-and-Mentos YouTube video that sparked appearances on Letterman, Ellen and Blue Man Group performances, will conduct one of their Coke-and-Mentos experiments to kick off the Mini Maker Faire.
 
The Cincinnati Mini Maker Faire will also host area artisans and crafters to sell their handmade items in the Rotunda throughout the weekend.
 
The event is scheduled for 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free to Cincinnati Museum Center members and holders of their All Museums Pass ($14.50 for adults, $10.50 for children). Tickets can be purchased online or at the museum.
 

Toms Shoes executive to discuss corporate responsibility at second annual Social Enterprise Week


Social enterprises, businesses that exist to accomplish a social good, are rapidly gaining popularity in the U.S. Companies like Toms Shoes and Warby Parker are known for their outstanding social impact — as well as their enviable profit margins — and their influence is evident in the growing number of businesses directing profits toward the greater good.

Last year, FlyWheel Cincinnati introduced the first-ever Social Enterprise Week as a response to that trend. The main focus of last year’s event was a showcase of local businesses with a social element to their business plan.

This year, the team behind the event has created a Social Enterprise Week with a broader national scope.

The week kicks Sept. 1 off with a Social Enterprise Summit at the Cincinnati Museum Center, where keynote speaker Sebastian Fries, Chief Giving Officer at Toms Shoes, will be joined by several local movers and shakers in the social enterprise realm. Fries will discuss his efforts to scale Toms’ giving practices to over 130 NGOs in 70 countries.

In addition to his input, the panel discussion welcomes Dan Meyer of Nehemiah Manufacturing, Dr. Jason Singh of OneSight, Joe Hansbauer of Findlay Market, Allen Woods of Mortar and Brett Smith of Miami University's Institute for Entrepreneurship, who will touch on everything from job creation for disadvantaged workers and community involvement to entrepreneurship and sustainability.

The Social Enterprise Showcase will be held Sept. 2 on Fountain Square, a lunchtime learning session highlighting more than 30 local businesses that support a variety of causes across the region.

Another new element to this year’s event is a networking event called Cincy Celebrates Social, which takes place Sept. 3. The event will open with a tour of La Terza coffee roasterie and a series of inspirational speeches from local entrepreneurs, followed by an hour of networking for those interested in becoming more involved in the social enterprise realm.

The week wraps up with Buy Social Saturday on Sept. 5. Several local companies will be offering special promotions on their products and services; the full list of the participating companies can be found here.

Though many of the week’s events are free and open to the pubic, those who wish to attend the Social Enterprise Summit must purchase a ticket — they're available online at $35 for general admission, $20 for students and $65 for VIP.
 

Big Pitch finalists ready to rumble, excite and blow minds on Aug. 27

 
Eight local small businesses will take the stage at ArtWorks’ Big Pitch next week, with $20,000 in funding and services at stake. But the Big Pitch isn’t just about prizes.
 
“The finalists put themselves in the position of opening themselves up to feedback because they want to grow,” says Rachel Rothstein, creative enterprise marketing coordinator at ArtWorks. “From the start, they’re working with their bankers and mentors to refine and develop their business plan. The prize money is awesome, but it’s just the icing on the cake.”
 
The 2015 Big Pitch finalists are a motley bunch, as evidenced in interviews with Soapbox published throughout the summer. Click on each company to read its Soapbox profile:
Brush Factory
Butcher Betties
Cityscape Tiles
Cut and Sewn
Grateful Grahams
Original Thought Required
Roebling Point Books & Coffee
We Have Become Vikings
 
“We had a really high quality group of applicants this year,” Rothstein says. “They were aware of who the finalists were last year, so they knew what they were getting into. The 2015 applicants knew what to expect and what they wanted to achieve, so it will be really exciting to see their pitches. The finalists are great representatives of the diverse ecosystem of entrepreneurs in greater Cincinnati.”
 
The Big Pitch finale is Aug. 27 at downtown’s Cincinnati Masonic Center, where the businesses will compete for two cash awards.
 
The top $15,000 prize will be decided by a panel of judges who will review the finalists’ business plans and evaluate their live pitches. Judges are Corey Asay, attorney with Dinsmore and Shohl; Roger David, president and CEO of Gold Star Chili; Maggie Paulus, strategy director at LPK; Rachel Roberts, owner of The Yoga Bar, Bija Yoga Schools and RAKE Strategy; and Max Sullivan, CPA with Clark Schaefer Hackett.
 
Judges will consider the potential impact, value and sustainability of the eight businesses as well as the founder’s/founders’ energy, passion and conviction.
 
Another $5,000 prize will be awarded by Big Pitch audience members. After the finalists complete their five-minute pitches, which may include a visual presentation and one “wild-card” prop, attendees will vote for their favorite finalist. Those ballots will be collected and tallied by Clark Schaefer Hackett.
 
The winner of both prizes will be announced at the event. It’s possible the same business could win both prizes, although last year saw two different winners.
 
At the event, ArtWorks will also provide a “where are they now” update on its 2014 finalists, including a video from Noble Denim’s Chris Sutton, last year’s $15,000 winner.
 
The Creative Enterprise division of ArtWorks is further celebrating Cincinnati’s entrepreneurial community with three videos produced by six summer apprentices. Led by 2014 Big Pitch finalist C. Jacqueline Wood, the apprentices interviewed, shot and edited the short films highlighting the supportive resources for people starting a creative sector business in Cincinnati.
 
Going into the Aug. 27 Big Pitch final, “there is no clear winner,” says Caroline Creaghead, ArtWorks director of creative enterprise. “We are very excited to see the pitches and how the voting goes.”
 
Tickets are still available for the event, which will be emceed by Mark Perzel of WGUC-FM and WVXU-FM. ArtWorks moved the event this year to Cincinnati Masonic Center in anticipation of 400-600 attendees. In addition to the pitches, attendees will have an opportunity to network with the finalists and each other both before and after the presentations.
 

Evanston Community Council, Xavier and ArtWorks partnership produces more than a mural


Public art is used in Evanston as an innovative tool to bring people together and build community, as evidenced by this summer’s ArtWorks mural project on Duck Creek Road. It’s the fourth public art collaboration between the Evanston Community Council (ECC) and Xavier University’s Eigel Center for Community-Engaged Learning.
 
“Through partnerships and collaboration, the murals have really focused on energizing our community,” ECC President Anzora Adkins says. “They help spread our mission, that we are dedicated the well-being of all residents and to the development of the community through education, business and spirituality. We are really pleased with our efforts and the partnership with ArtWorks and Xavier.”
 
Eigel Center Director Sean Rhiney says when he first met with the community council in 2011 to discuss possible collaborations, they agreed to focus on art.
 
“Access to art in the community is a powerful tool for engagement and is multi-generational,” Rhiney says, “so it works great when you have folks of all backgrounds and ages getting together.”
 
One of the first partnerships between ECC and the Eigel Center took place when Evanston participated in the Contemporary Arts Center’s 2011 Inside Out project. As one of the neighborhood sites, Adkins and Rhiney brought community members together with Xavier faculty and students.
 
The success of that project resulted in a collaboration between Evanston Academy, Walnut Hills High School and Xavier to design a pig for the 2012 Big Pig Gig. Each partnership built trust and relationships within the community, leading to an even larger project in 2013.
 
“Mrs. Adkins and I reached out to Keep Cincinnati Beautiful to talk about the redevelopment of the Flat Iron building in Five Points and the opportunity to create a mural there,” Rhiney says. “With funding from Safe Routes to Schools, we created a mural about education.”
 
“What is so beautiful about this partnership is that we engage the college students and involve people from our community,” Adkins says. “Evanston is the ‘educating community,’ where one can obtain an education from pre-K to a PhD. Public art has a teaching value, and the mural helps us tell the history of our community.”
 
Adkins and Rhiney began talking to ArtWorks last year about replacing an existing mural on Duck Creek Road at the Dana/Montgomery exit from I-71 north. The original mural, designed by local artist Jymi Bolden, was completed in 1992 and was showing its age. Adkins wanted a new mural that “paints a picture of what is actually going on in our community.”
 
As part of the design process, Rhiney says, “we did programs with some of the kids form Evanston Academy as well as community-based charettes with residents.”
 
Out of those sessions, Adkins says, came the themes for artist Jimi Jones to include in the mural: “Emphasis on the importance of family, education, spirituality and recreational activities.”
 
The location of the mural is a bit symbolic. The construction of I-71 in the 1970s resulted in the demolition of many Evanston homes and businesses and effectively divided the neighborhood in half.
 
“We focus on the positives,” Adkins says. “We’re looking toward the future and revitalizing our community. I hope the mural will draw some attention and that drivers will take that exit and really look at the mural.”
 
“We knew this was a very visible site,” Rhiney says. “We want the mural to be a piece that people could really engage in. There is a lot of detail that can only be appreciated when you get up close.”
 
As the mural nears completion, Evanston is still working to raise funds to support the project through an ArtWorks matching grant on the Power2Give website. The goal is to raise $5,000 by the end of the month, when the matching grant could bring the total to $10,000.
 
“The website helps us reach out to individual donors,” Rhiney says. “It helps us engage the community and give them ownership of the project.”
 
“We plan to have an official dedication of the mural,” Adkins says. “We hope that the artist and the ArtWorks apprentices who worked on the mural will be able to be there and really explain the process.”
 
Power2Give donors will also receive invitations to the event.
 
“It takes collaboration, partnership and of course money to do all these things that we would really like to see happen in our community,” Adkins says. “We encourage everyone that resides in the community who is able to do so, to get involved. Working together is very important. We have had our challenges, but we’re working toward making change.”
 

11th annual Bold Fusion event encourages Cincinnati YPs to get up and move forward


Hundreds of young professionals from across the Tristate will gather for Cincinnati HYPE's 11th annual Bold Fusion event at Horseshoe Casino on Thursday, Aug. 13. The team behind the event is bringing together a group of speakers who truly encapsulate the theme of moving forward, both as individual professionals and as a city.
 
The lineup includes a keynote address from Robert DeMartini, CEO of New Balance athletic shoes/apparel. His message promises to encourage attendees to not only "move" and stay active but also have the courage to "move and shake" within their communities by getting involved.
 
The event's ambassador speakers are all local indivuduals who plan to further highlight DeMartini's message.

Mark Jeffries, founder of GoVibrant, will talk about his company's message of getting out and moving within your community. Dr. Chalonda Handy of Children's Hospital Medical Center will also speak at the event along with Chris Moore, creator of the transit app Bus Detective.
 
Bold Fusion is and always has been half networking opportunity, half professional enrichment seminar. Over the last decade, however, the event has evolved along with the city itself. The dozens of young professional happy hours and network events we see every week were few and far between in 2004, when Bold Fusion announced its first event.
 
Julie Bernzott has been involved in the program since the beginning. At that time, Bold Fusion was the result of a brainstorm by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber and focused primarily on drawing young professionals into local leadership roles.
 
"So much has happened in Cincinnati in 10 years," says Bernzott, senior manager of HYPE (Harnessing Young Professional Energy) programs for the Chamber. "Today, young professionals have a much stronger voice in the community."
 
Unlike 2004, Bernzott and her team don't have to find a speaker who offers young Cincinnatians a voice. In 2015, they already have one.
 
"We look for speakers that have a powerful message about career opportunities, community involvement," she says. "As a part of the HYPE initiative, we want to put on a great event for people to meet other people and connect."
 
The Chamber's HYPE program focuses on retaining young professionals in the city. With the many positive changes happening across Cincinnati's urban core, it's becoming easier and easier to convince talent to stay in the area.
 
"My job was a lot harder in 2006," Bernzott says. "Being excited about being here was a lot harder of a message."
 
Bernzott sees this year's event as sign of Cincinnati's rapid progression over the past several years, specifically since 2008. The speaker selections also mark a shift in focus from previous years.

"For the past couple of years, we've had authors as speakers," she says. "It's a totally different feel this year — (DeMartini) will actually share how he manages a company."
 
With Cincinnati's entrepreneurial spirit in full swing, his message will likely be well received.
 
Get more information about or register for the Aug. 13 Bold Fusion event here.
 

Mortar accelerator teaching its second class, planning expansion


At their weekly meeting Aug. 3, members of Mortar’s current startup class christened themselves “Second to None.”
 
The 17 entrepreneurs are the second group to go through Mortar’s nine-week course of classes and mentorship. They’re now five weeks into the program, modeled after a similar effort from partner Launch Chattanooga, and many are already benefitting from the guidance and education.
 
Started in 2014 by Derrick Braziel, William Thomas II and Allen Woods, Mortar is not your average business accelerator. The Over-the-Rhine based organization focuses on non-traditional, minority and low-income entrepreneurs, seeking to provide resources to individuals often left out of “renaissances” like OTR’s.
 
“A year in, we’re starting to see that it is possible,” says co-founder William Thomas.
 
Along with its course, Mortar supplies entrepreneurs with mentorship from organizations like SCORE and legal guidance through a partnership with University of Cincinnati’s School of Law. It also has a pop-up storefront, Brick, next to its Vine Street offices, which gives new businesses a chance to experiment in a real-world context. Even after graduation, Mortar stays in touch with participants to serve as a resource, a networking tool and an inspiration.
 
Dana “Nyah” Higgins, founder of JameriSol, which makes vegan and vegetarian Jamaican/Soul food, graduated from Mortar’s first class in April after learning about the program through CityLink. Through the Mortar program, Higgins went from creating dishes out of her home for family and friends to conversations with Findlay Market and a national food chain.
 
“Initially when I started the class, JameriSol was only an idea that I had had for way too long,” Higgins says. “The men at Mortar — Allen, Derrick and William — gave someone like me, with little experience, the foundation and skills needed to take JameriSol from dream to reality.”
 
Lindsey Metz is a participant in the new Mortar class. Much like Higgins, she came to the course with an idea: Fryed, a french fry walk-up window in OTR. Although she has food service experience, Metz appreciates the support and the visionary mentality of Mortar’s founders as much as the nuts-and-bolts business advice in the classes.
 
“I never would have dreamed I could actually do this, but the Mortar founders themselves and the resources they’ve connected me with have shown me I can,” Metz says. “They are extremely knowledgeable guys, but beyond that they are ridiculously supportive.”
 
The class also includes businesses that are already established but wish to grow. Mike Brown wants to take his business, Brown Lawn Care, from part-time to full-time, adding more clients and employees.
 
“I’ve really been cultivating all the creative aspects I touched on before, now I’m getting to know them much deeper,” Brown says. “My relationship with clients is really taking off.”
 
Mortar itself is also taking off. For the second class, the organization received 50 applications, a significant increase over the first class.
 
“This time it feels real,” Thomas says.
 
But the Mortar founders aren’t content with the success of the class and Brick in OTR and are thinking of expanding and replicating their model in other neighborhoods. Whatever they do next, it will be visionary.
 
The “Second to None” class will present its business plans to the public in early October. You can follow Mortar on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for details and updates.
 
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