Imagine a museum where you can hug the art, seesaw in a trailer, play “Mary Had A Little Lamb” with some neon cubes, and chill on a bench next to shark girl all the while learning more about art and humanity. No matter where we travel to, I love cities with a strong museum culture, especially one where visitors can play. Even better: this museum isn’t a science center but instead all about the contemporary arts. While modern art tends to get some crap, this institution is more than fancy canvas splatters and abstract sculptures that all look like penises—which I equally love. The Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center in Ohio is filled with interactive and engaging exhibits and is worth a visit if you are looking for fun educational opportunities within the city. Did I mention that the museum is free?
Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center
Park In A Nearby Garage
Before we headed to the airport for our flight home, we dropped into downtown to check out the free Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center. That’s right FREE! If you park in one of the many garages nearby, you will have to pay a small fee, which is well worth the expense.
The Exhibits Are Always Changing–Even As I Write This
Small Disclosure: At the time of this post, September/October 2018, we only had access to two of the floors, which spoiled guests raged about on Trip Advisor. At the time, we had access to floor numbers 2 and 6 as well as the ground floor. We had no complaints. Perfect for a 45-minute to hour-long visit with the family, we enjoyed the available exhibits and would go back in a heartbeat. Also, because the center is a non-collecting institution, there is no permanent collection. Exhibits are always changing, even as I publish this post. Check the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center website for the most current information.
Lets start at the top! Located on the sixth floor is my little heaven, the UnMuseum, especially because I have to touch everything. I am nosy and curious and playful and hyper and have the attention span of a fly. Something tells me most kids do too. Plus, y’all, I am the worst kind of person: AN INSTAGRAMMER. When I see a photo opp and chance to create new content, I take it. When art says to HUG it, dude, you hug up all over that shit.
What is the UnMuseum?
The UnMuseum boasts of “creativity and curiosity for everyone.” It is a space for exploration and the senses. Hello unique learning stations, hello art molestation by hyper uncorked bloggers, and hello FUN. Interactive commissions fill the sixth floor with learning opportunities for everyone. There are tables and seating for art projects and play. Inspirational art gallery space meets art making.
A little frustrating, the website is not 100% extensive or always updated. The site crashes a lot too. Some of the exhibits are not listed for the UnMuseum, so expect surprises–which I enjoy. A few exhibitions to catch this fall:
Rockin’ Trailer by Simparch on display through April 1, 2019
A motion sick girl’s worst nightmare, I couldn’t resist the Rockin’ Trailer. Bless the security staff members who have to listen to that rocking noise all day. Truly, it sounds like people getting it on in the trailer park. Padded benches line this little egg-shaped RV. The trailer is decorated with vintage Route 66 signs and is essentially a giant seesaw that wobbles back and forth.
Deep Space by Lucius LCD (Amy Lynch, Joel Masters and J.D. Loughead) on display until Nov. 14, 2018
Reminiscent of a Ripley’s Believe It or Not mirror maze, stare into neon lights and walk through a rave-like hallway. Why do I keep opening my mouth in photos? I. Don’t. Know. I was overstimulated, what can I say?
Not listed on the website, I loved:
I See Myself in You by Jenny Roesel Ustick
Throughout the arts center, encounter mirror people of different ages, backgrounds, genders, ethnicities, and races. Each mirror person represents a real person who lived in Cincinnati, Ohio. When you look into the mirror, you are also looking at a reflection of yourself. Imagine the powerful message of connection, understanding, and empathy. I stood there, reflected on how deep down we are all connected, and then I fixed my hair. Just kidding. In a messy world these days, I needed this exhibit.
Signs around the exhibit ask, “Do you ever feel uncomfortable in a museum or do you feel like you just don’t get the art?” Yes. Yes. And, YES!! If you say no, clearly you are lying. The UnMuseum is truly about relating to art and finding something for everyone.
'Do you ever feel uncomfortable in a museum or do you feel like you just don't get the art?' If yes, check out the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center and the UnMuseum. #cincinnati #travelwriter #artmuseum Click To Tweet
And don’t miss:
I am sure I missed the sign, and I almost missed the room. Right when you enter, hidden in the back is a light and sound room. Grab the two flashlights and aim them at the ceiling. Watch the heavens come to life with music and color. A little worried about head lice, I still plopped in the middle of the floor on my back to light gaze. Way too much fun. Like libraries, museums are no longer quiet places, and I love it.
My favorite exhibition heading out on October 2, 2018:
Shark Girl by Casey Riordan Millard
Shark Girl is a symbol of Millard’s fear of sharks. As the exhibit notes, when we have a paralyzing fear, sometimes we cannot think of anything else. The fear overtakes us. What would your head look like? I’d definitely have a monkey sitting on my head—full story here.
The dark cloud also represents a bad day that we just cannot avoid. The exhibit asks how we can escape versus handle that Eeyore-like feeling. I also like to look at Shark Girl as a judgment. Unlike the whole “you look fine to me” BS surrounding chronic illness, Shark Girl’s anxiety is in your face.
What Else Is Going On At The Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center
While we saw the Karl Blossfeldt, Francis Bruguière, Thomas Ruff, No Two Alike exhibit on the second floor (September 21, 2018 through January 13, 2019), I wasn’t exactly in love with the photography. Close-ups of plants are just not my thing.
What I do love is that the museum constantly changes out artwork, offers yoga, has a black box theater, and of course, offers a plethora of programs.
For a few hours, you and the family can play upstairs, get your art on, and truly immerse yourself in art in a new way. Just bring some hand sanitizer.
If you are looking for other museums to visit in Cincinnati, Ohio, check out the American Sign Museum.
Before visiting, always make sure to check the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center website here for the most up-to-date information.
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