An Art Lover's Guide to Cincinnati, OH

The Tyler Davidson fountain
The Tyler Davidson fountain | © sabreguy29 / Flickr
Photo of Laura Dorwart
16 March 2018

Cincinnati, OH, is a haven for art lovers, with a wide array of art museums, public art, and galleries to choose from. Whether you’re into photography, sculpture, painting, or art history, you’ll find something in our art lover’s guide to Cincinnati to inspire you.

Cincinnati Art Museum

Cincinnati’s flagship art museum is located in the city’s beautiful Eden Park and offers general admission to all visitors. The museum houses nearly 70,000 artworks from the past 6,000 years, and has a massive permanent collection that includes photography, musical instruments, textiles, as well as pieces by Native American, European, American, South Asian, Asian, and South African artists.

There are always multiple groundbreaking special exhibits by contemporary artists on display. Special programs include Art After Dark (after-hours museum access that usually includes live performances and workshops), summer camps, art classes, film screenings, and tours designed for kids and even babies.

Cincinnati Art Museum | © Daderot / WikiCommons

ArtWorks Public Murals

Driving around Cincinnati, you’re likely to see paintings splashed across dozens of urban surfaces. Much of the public art that gives life to Cincinnati’s landscape was organized by ArtWorks after being commissioned by former Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory. Modeled after a similar program in Philadelphia, ArtWorks’ mural program transforms the city into a living work of art with the help of professional local artists and youth apprentices. Now, the city boasts murals in 36 of Cincinnati’s neighborhoods and seven nearby cities, with more to come.

You can take a self-guided mural tour of the city with ArtWorks’ downloadable map. Mayor John Cranley has officially designated October to be “ArtWorks Mural Month,” which will be celebrated annually with citywide special events and mural dedications.

Be inspired by street art | © Eugene Kim / Flickr

21c Museum Hotel

Not a fan of nondescript hotel art? That definitely won’t be a problem at Cincinnati’s groundbreaking concept hotel 21c Museum Hotel, where you literally sleep in a museum. The hotel’s multiple galleries (with over 8,000 square feet of display space) are home to a frequently revolving array of special exhibitions by notable international artists. Recent exhibits have focused on pop culture, global displacement, and contemporary feminist art.

And while you can certainly stay in one of the museum’s 156 stylish rooms and enjoy local cuisine at the famed bar and restaurant Metropole, you can also enjoy the exhibits for free. They’re open to the public 365 days a year.

Contemporary Arts Center

If you’re into art that actively engages in today’s political, social, and economic conversations, Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center is your best bet. The exhibits here are always changing and eclectic, from Brazilian artist Sandra Cinto’s “multi-sensory sanctuary,” the Contemplation Room and the Library of Love, featuring guided meditations and works from artists around the world, to Britni Bicknaver’s politicized take on the museum tour, titled “Audio Tour.” Kids will love the UnMuseum, the CAC’s wonder-evoking, quirky riff on an interactive children’s art exhibit.

The museum also hosts a number of special events, such as Art Play, in which kids and adults alike can meet with one of the exhibiting artists and create art based on their work. Programs like One Night, One Craft and Makerspace will bring you back to the days of hot glue guns and DIY culture as local artisans lead you in creating pieces of your own.

Swoon exhibition at CAC. #contemporaryartscentercincinnati #cincinnati #makeartnotwar #swoon

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Manifest Gallery

Manifest Gallery is Cincinnati‘s quintessential local art nonprofit. Founded by Cincinnati’s professors of students in 2004 and funded by the Ohio Arts Council and ArtsWave, the gallery is now one of the city’s preeminent arts organizations.

Exhibits are often themed (recently, “Arboreal”: art about trees) and often foster interaction between artists and their mentors as well as the public. There are also regular regional exhibits at Manifest Gallery on Woodburn Ave., featuring work from artists in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana.

In addition to the gallery, Manifest runs an esteemed Drawing Center Studio, publishes work through Manifest Press, and provides working space and support to artists from around the globe with its annual residency.

Miller Gallery

Located on Erie Avenue in historic Hyde Park Square, Miller Gallery is Cincinnati’s oldest operating art gallery. Originally owned by the Miller family, the gallery has since changed hands. Miller Gallery is a favorite of local art collectors, who come here for exclusive art sales and professional framing services.

There are also regular exhibits at Miller Gallery, promoting over 60 artists regularly. The gallery often features photography, portraits, and landscape painting, as well as hosting themed shows like the recent exhibit of female artists.

Taft Museum of Art

The Taft Museum of Art is one of Cincinnati’s, and the country’s, best-known small museums of fine art. The museum is on the National Register of Historic Places and houses art pieces from across the globe, including Chinese porcelains, European decorative arts, and works by Rembrandt, Goya, Hals, and more.

The Taft Museum is also home to “Virgin and Child,” significant to art aficionados and historians as one of the most important surviving Gothic ivory sculptures. The museum regularly hosts afternoon teas, talks, tours, Easter brunches and other special events, and kid-friendly Sunday Fundays on the third Sunday of every month.

Chinese porcelains | © Forever Wiser / Flickr

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