ArtWorks News

Artists selected for Switch On Avondale, ArtWorks’ nationally funded first public art installation in 2020

Caption: Left image is Matthew Grote’s “Sunflowers”. Right image is Calcagno Cullen’s “What We Need to Hear”. Design subject to change.

Artists Calcagno Cullen and Matthew Grote have been selected by an Avondale public art steering committee to create ArtWorks’ first project in 2020—Switch On Avondale, a series of light-based interactive public art installations along the new walking and bike trail behind the newly renovated Hirsch Recreation Center on Reading Road. The goal of the project is to enhance safety and celebrate the neighborhood’s cultural heritage and was funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

“This work of creating more public art in Avondale is so important,” said April Gallelli, Avondale Development Corporation (ADC) community organizer. “The residents want more art that is reflective of our community’s rich culture and values, and we’re thrilled that a national funder is investing in this work. We look forward to what these artists partnering with the Avondale community will bring to life.”

Cullen is an artist and founder and director of Wave Pool, an arts center in Camp Washington that aims to be a catalyst for social engagement and a cultivator of artistic development. Her other collaborations with ArtWorks include the Cincinnati Artist Report, to be released later this year. Her design, “What We Need to Hear,” includes inspirational quotes from neighborhood residents made from neon flex material that will be installed along the walking trail.

In 2019, Cullen held “Cincinnati’s Table Dinner” at the Contemporary Arts Center where diverse populations in Cincinnati working on immigration issues came together to find solutions. As part of this project, Cullen will be bringing Cincinnati’s Table to Avondale, where a home chef will be featured and words of affirmation for the project will be collected.

“Much of my work as an artist involves listening deeply to both neighborhood and artists’ needs and finding ways to creatively pair them in order to turn deficits into assets,” Cullen said. “I’m excited to work on this project in order to collaboratively create something new and needed with the Avondale community.”

Grote is an artist and designer, and his work ranges from furniture to painted murals. Most recently he contributed artwork to the HUEmanity projection and Urban Campsite for BLINK 2019. He has spent 10 years painting murals and creating art installations, most notably as part of the program at Buffalo’s Albright Knox Art Museum. Previously, Grote spent 4 years working in environmental graphic design at Kolar Design, where he specialized in graphics and murals for corporate clients to express their values in visual form.

His design, “Sunflowers,” will featured solar powered lights on posts that are inspired by kente cloth designs. Each flower will have a center that will designed with community members from Avondale.

“My design was inspired by the tremendous strength of the community in Avondale, and bright colors will speak to the vibrant diversity and personality that exists here,” Grote said. “I’m looking forward to co-creating with the residents to bring the project to life.”

Cullen and Grote will be working with 4 ArtWorks Youth Apprentices, ages 14-21, who are Avondale residents to create these installations, which are being fabricated this spring and installed in the summer.

As the community’s leading public art organization, ArtWorks is partnering with several community partners on this project, such as the Avondale Community Council, ADC, Cincinnati Police Department, Cincinnati Public Schools, Cincinnati Recreation Commission, and Green Umbrella.

The 8-panel jury that selected the Switch On Avondale artists are Gallelli and Avondale Community Council’s president Sandra Jones and past president Jennifer Foster; Cincinnati Recreation Commission’s Lathel Bryant, Tim Heyl, Blake Williams and Johnny Williams; and Green Umbrella’s Wade Johnston.

NEA awarded ArtWorks a $50,000 matching grant in 2019 to support artist-led public art installations in this historic neighborhood in 2020.

“These awards made to organizations across the United States are a testament to the artistic richness and diversity in our country,” said Mary Anne Carter, acting chairman of NEA. “Organizations such as ArtWorks are giving people in their community the opportunity to learn, create, and be inspired.”

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is the matching sponsor for this project with further support from the SunTrust Bank Foundation.

“We’re proud to support projects to promote civic pride in Avondale and showcases how vibrant this community is,” Nerissa Morris, senior vice president & chief human resources officer at Cincinnati Children’s. “Not only will these artists help beautify Avondale by working with the residents, it supports safety for everyone using the Hirsch trail.”

ArtWorks has created several public art pieces in Avondale over the past several years. The newest include A Song of Freedom mural designed by Tylonn Sawyer honoring the late gospel composer Louise Shropshire at the Hirsch Recreation Center, Avondale Pride mural series designed by Cedric Michael Cox recently installed at the newly built Avondale Town Center, a series of murals along the goVibrant Walking Trails in Fleischmann Gardens and Avondale Heroes mural designed by James Pate.

Watch the Sunflowers Apprentice Presentation

Watch on YouTube: ArtWorks Switch On Avondale Sunflowers team presents on their project. 

About ArtWorks

ArtWorks is an award-winning Greater Cincinnati nonprofit that transforms people and places through investments in creativity. The organization provides youth, ages 14-21 with the majority from underserved households, with competitive 21st century career readiness skills through mentorship by professional artists. Since 1996, ArtWorks has employed more than 3,600 youth and 3,200 creative professionals, and the organization has completed more than 12,500 public and private art projects that includes 190 permanent outdoor murals, contributing to the region’s global reputation as an arts destination. Learn more at