ArtWorks News

Celebrating Cincinnati’s Diversity Through Art: ArtWorks Dedicates Cuban Cultural Mural in OTR

CINCINNATI— According to the 2020 U.S. Census, Cincinnati has become more diverse, with 6.8% of its residents born outside the U.S., almost twice as many as in 2000. In celebration of inclusion, ArtWorks started a mural series in 2023 to celebrate the various cultures in the city. “Azucar!,” designed by renowned illustrator and artist Jorge Rodriguez Diez, is a mural reflecting the resilience of the Cuban spirit, and the city’s commitment to embracing its multicultural identity.

The mural will be celebrated at a special ArtWorks dedication on Sunday, June 23 from 1–4 p.m. at 1405 Walnut Street in Over the Rhine. The public event will include salsa dancing and music, specialty food options and words from Diez and the young apprentices who painted the mural. The presentation will begin at 1:30 p.m.

The musical mural, “Azúcar!,”  pays tribute to the famous Afro-Cuban singer and pan-Latina icon, Celia Cruz, who died in 2003. Cruz’s notable exclamation ‘Azúcar!’ (Sugar!), was part of her larger-than-life personality that earned her the title of the Queen of Latin Music. The mural features two individuals playing bongo drums against a deep lavender background, with lines radiating outwards. The design reflects on Cuba’s complex history while also questioning it. Using stylized graphics and images typical of Cuban culture, the artist, Diez, creates a connection with its viewer. His art is influenced by his experiences as a Cuban artist and immigrant. Diez currently resides in Miami and holds the position of Chief Curator and Executive Director at the Museum of Contemporary Art of the Americas.

The mural’s completion marks a milestone in ArtWorks’ mission to democratize art and foster inclusivity within Cincinnati’s artistic landscape. It follows the completion of the “Love Wins” mural celebrating 50 years of LGTBQ+ Pride in Cincinnati and an Indian Mandala mural at Esoteric in Walnut Hills. Additional cultural murals will be completed this summer.

The mural was painted in fall 2023. Teaching Artists Laura Diaz Perez and Joy Li led 10 apprentices on the project (ages 14–21). Partners for the project include Urban Sites and Jens Rosenkrantz Jr. and M. Katherine Hurley as part of their “Bridges Not Walls” project, Lisa and Leonard Saia, and Dena Cranley.

“2023 was a year that launched a new focus for ArtWorks to celebrate cultures,” said ArtWorks CEO & Artistic Director Colleen Houston. “Through intentional community partnerships and programmatic design, we aim to celebrate our diverse community now and into the future.”


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About ArtWorks
Since 1996, ArtWorks has collaborated with community organizations and residents, businesses, governments, foundations, and nonprofits to create works of art that have helped to define Greater Cincinnati’s global reputation as an arts destination. Its mural program has made Cincinnati the #1 City for Street Art in USA Today’s 2024 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards. By employing and training over 3,500 professional artists and engaging 4,000 teens and young adults, ages 14-24, ArtWorks is actively investing in the creative economy. Through job creation that supports local talent and mentorship programs that pair professional artists with diverse teams of young people, their programs foster the development of 21st-century career-readiness skills. ArtWorks has created a vibrant citywide gallery with more than 14,000 public and private art projects over the last 28 years. Among these are more than 300 permanent outdoor murals that contribute to Cincinnati’s rich cultural tapestry, enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.

ArtWorks receives ongoing funding from the City of Cincinnati, the Ohio Arts Council and ArtsWave.