Best Of 2023

Arts & Culture

Arts & Culture
Here are the 2023 Best Of Cincinnati® Reader and Staff Pick winners for Arts & Culture.
With over 800 artists, curators and other participants involved in staging some 100 exhibitions in about 90 venues, it’s a challenge for any one artist to really stand out for presenting lens-based art in a radically new and different way at the FotoFocus Biennial. But on evenings at Camp Washington’s CampSITE Sculpture Park, Liz Roberts’ site-specific Post Blonde installation succeeded. She presented her varied driving-oriented images — including excerpts from road films— on a makeshift screen of salvaged car windshields and also on cars parked in the park. The effect was eerie, causing transfixed visitors to think about the allure of the wide open road as well as its inherent dangers.
  1. The City Flea
  2. Summer Cinema series
  3. Opera in the Park

Period rooms often recreate homes too distant in the past for us to relate to beyond our silent admiration for their individual antique objects. But two shows in 2022 brought such rooms — and their potential — into the 21st century by making the lives of their inhabitants seem relevant and modern. Cincinnati Art Museum's Unlocking an Art Deco Bedroom by Joseph Urban recreated a bedroom he had designed in the Roaring ’20s for a teenage girl living in a Chicago high-rise with her wealthy parents just ahead of the Great Depression. Likewise, Binky Brown's Funeral Pyre at (DSGN)CLLCTV recreated the exciting, wildly creative workspace of pioneering comix artist/sign painter Justin Green, who died in Cincinnati last year. Both of these displays were temporary but deserve to be permanent somewhere in Cincinnati.;

Cincinnati ranked on Moviemaker Magazine’s best places to live and work in the film industry again this year. Over the course of 2022, five feature films were shot in the Queen City. The film that seemed to draw the most attention in Cincinnati was Wise Guys, which follows a feud between two gangsters, both played by Robert De Niro. Parts of Downtown were transformed into 1950s New York for the filming of the movie. Locals were recruited as extras, apparently along with Cincinnati’s treasured Arnold’s Bar and Grill. The only thing cooler than a feature film being shot in your neighborhood is when you get to see it on the big screen as it debuts.

Jane Austen: Fashion & Sensibility
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Jane Austen: Fashion & Sensibility

Last summer, Jane Austen fans had the chance to see costumes from beloved film adaptations of the author’s novels at the Taft Museum of Art. Traveling from London, England, Jane Austen: Fashion & Sensibility featured dusters, capes, dresses, tailcoats, trousers, trimmed bonnets, spencers (cropped jackets for women) and other items worn in films like Pride & Prejudice, Emma, Sense & Sensibility and Mansfield Park. While the majority of the exhibit was housed in the Fifth Third Gallery, many of the costumes were placed intentionally by curator Tamera Muente throughout the Taft historic house. Visitors could stroll through the space and be greeted by gorgeous outfits at nearly every turn. Also on display was a 7’x13’ wall-sized map of London made in 1746, about half a century before Austen began writing. The highly detailed map highlighted the spots Austen frequented, including her go-to tea shop and her brother’s flat on 10 Henrietta Street.

Krohn Conservatory provides Cincinnatians with an urban oasis of well-tended, lush foliage. Backdropped by a burbling waterfall, a stroll through the Krohn’s plant houses (fern, palm, orchid, desert and bonsai) might just be one of the best ways to destress in the city. But between July and October, the conservatory welcomed even more color into its space via Prismatica, an art installation featuring large interactive kaleidoscopes. Guests could peer into the prisms, casting the plant life (and themselves) into a sphere of color. The show also included placards explaining the science behind color as well as prompts encouraging visitors to engage visually with their surroundings. Both playful and soothing, Prismatica was part of Krohn’s ongoing efforts to bring in more exhibits throughout the year.

Tucked away in Devou Park, the Behringer-Crawford Museum is a bit of an overlooked local gem — but it shouldn’t be. Dedicated to showcasing Northern Kentucky heritage, the stated mission of the BCM is to collect, present, study and enjoy the area’s natural, cultural, visual and performing arts heritage. Founded in 1950 as the William Behringer Memorial Museum, it initially showcased the collection of oddities its namesake acquired on his travels, including a stuffed two-headed calf born on a Kentucky farm. (The bi-brained bovine now serves as the museum’s mascot.) Today, visitors can continue to pay tribute to those curiosities while exploring exhibits dedicated to everything from regional paleontology and steamboat history to folk art and fashion. Climb aboard a 19th-century streetcar or watch toy trains whiz by in an elaborate, miniature urban display. Upstairs, the museum has space for rotating attractions, including this winter’s White Christmas exhibit, featuring costumes and ephemera from Irving Berlin’s classic holiday film on loan from the Rosemary Clooney House in Augusta, Kentucky. Check the BCM’s schedule for slice-of-life history lectures, which explore offbeat topics ranging from murders and classic cars to local landmarks.

You might think that after 16 years Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s annual holiday show, Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and Then Some!), would be worn out. But the classic theater company keeps it fresh and timely with topical references to local and national politics, pop culture and current events. Directed for many seasons by Jeremy Dubin, it’s refreshed annually with a cast of jokesters drawn from Cincy Shakes’ acting company. Rubbery comedic veteran actor Justin McCombs keeps audiences in stitches with his childlike persistence in believing as well as with his misinterpretation of BHCs (beloved holiday classics, for those in the know). The show has become a regular must-attend outing for office groups, families and anyone else who’s weary of predictable holiday offerings.

Last August, Cincinnati Jewish arts organization ish hosted Trashion, an immersive eco-art fashion experience at the Mockbee. Described as “Hunger Games meets Harry Potter’s Yule Ball on Project Runway,” Trashion featured teen-designed clothing that celebrated creative fashion design and promoted waste reduction and sustainability. The event was hosted in the spirit of vogue balls in drag culture, and those who participated created their own “house,” developing a general theme for the designs created by their group. In addition to the upcycled costume fashion show, the event had music, circus performers and a silent disco.