'Bout Sound and Vision
Parties are not unusual in Clifton, the neighborhood that surrounds the University of Cincinnati. They’re also entirely unavoidable when living on or around campus, and (perhaps more importantly,) away from your parents. So when another house, (which will be left unaddressed for privacy reasons,) becomes an epicenter for attention with loud music and college kids attempting to cram their cars in what free street-parking was left, nothing is really out of place. However, don’t be fooled by the guise of a college party. There’s more than meets the eye here—as a matter of fact, there’s Sights & Sounds: a one-night art exhibition paired with live music, curated by Nick Mason.
Mason is a fourth year Industrial Design major at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (DAAP) who is taking the chance to create his own DIY space, The Glendora House (not to be confused with the prior existing Glendora House), with an ongoing project to pair art and music, titled Sights & Sounds, and the Last Saturday Series.
Initially, Mason started at DAAP as a Fine Arts major, so curating in a DIY space isn’t that out of the ordinary. The party projects have been in existence for over a year, Sights & Sounds 2 took place in the brisk of February this past year, and the Last Saturday Series cycled new art and music every last Saturday of the month during this past summer (June-August). Both projects featured installations that took over Mason’s living room walls, floors, and stairway. In addition to the artwork on view, carefully selected bands performed in the top floor as a concert space during the winter, or the backyard in the dog days of summer.
The roots of the project came from Mason’s 23rd birthday celebration, where he says he wanted to bring friends together to make art to hang throughout the home and to then celebrate the works in the form of a party. Mason and his in-house crew, friends and neighbors (Michael Barkett, Gabe Biolos, Pat Carr, Jasper Cohen, John Flaherty, Adam Froehlich, Bryn Hastings, Dia Huggins, Adriana Noritz, Jorge Rivera, Nick Sultzman and Luke Weaver), make a sincere effort to create a safe space for both works of art and people. For example, when one of the initial parties became too crowded for comfort, the informal group of friends revised the planning process for Sights & Sounds in order to create the Last Saturday Series.
In the past, parties at the house have showcased the artwork of recent-DAAP grads like Aubrey Theobald, or past artist-in-residence at Manifest Gallery, Charlie Goering. In terms of music, funky and up-and-coming bands like Fruit LoOops, and Brooklynn Rae were featured during the summer stretch to pair well with the curated visuals.
For instance, Mason paired Fruit LoOops , a female-fronted band, and Theobald together to combine a concrete and confident female presence—pun intended since Theobald’s work is affectionately created in literal concrete. The parties operate in place of a typical art gallery opening, and after the night is over, the work can be seen on an appointment-basis. To Mason, the events serve as a leveled playing field, uniting friends across fields of interest, while offering a platform for emerging artists.
As time has gone by, the project has become more refined and even a portfolio piece for the Industrial Design major. This project proves to be deeper than what shallow aesthetic exists around the idea of college parties. It’s an attempt to reimagine the possibilities of an art space, and, as Mason enthusiastically puts it, to “bump shoulders” of different scenes.
This idea of reimagining the traditional white cube gallery is not new—especially now as contemporary artists push the limits of what an art space can be. When creatives are unhappy with their work being boxed into stale white cubes, they often challenge the status quo in creative ways and by reimagining the ideal art space.
In some ways, putting one’s entire house on display, inviting all walks of life into their intimate personal living space with the potential for damage or loss is arguably a normal thing for a twenty-something in college to do. What initially began as events featuring multiple bands and artists, was then pared down to one featured artist, one featured band, and a couple of openers. They also decided to change the very public-address blast to a Facebook friend invite-only, which can extend to the friend of a friend, if needed.
Mason’s platform of using his own backyard, living room, and whatever else as an art gallery isn’t the first of its kind in Cincinnati. There have been many local creative spaces that featured several years worth of arts programming but literally ended when the tenant/organizers moved away: Publico Gallery, Live-In Gallery, The Last House on the Left, The Glendora House, and PEAR Gallery are just a few examples from the recent past.
However, Mason’s house still feels important to the current artistic landscape. Right now, it’s the current community’s art home to bump shoulders and to socialize, and it attempts to be even a jumping off point for emerging artists of all sorts. Mason and his roommates are here to help Cincinnati’s art in their own capacity, all while maintaining portfolio deadlines and their degrees.
While museums in Cincinnati like the Contemporary Arts Center and Cincinnati Art Museum have made recent strides in accessibility by securing free admission and art programming to engage communities, there are other—less traditional—art spaces in the Cincinnati area pushing make art viewing even more accessible. For example: local printmaker/UC professor Breanne Trammell’s Eastern Pole “gallery space,” (an extension from Jesse Malmed’s Western Pole based in Chicago) exists on a telephone pole on Colerain Avenue, and presents new pieces on a bi-weekly basis.
Trammell, Mason and others like them are working—often unpaid and with little recognition—to democratize the art world, one show at a time. To the spaces that have always been free, based in their communities and boost their friends work, we salute you.