Powerhouse Factories: Rock poster empire teams up with CAC, 21c for 1st museum show ahead of MPMF

'Flooded' exhibit opens Friday at 10 p.m. at 21c

CINCINNATI -- Powerhouse Factories, a local branding/design agency known for its signature rock posters, is spreading the MidPoint Music Festival spirit a bit early this year.

For the first time since its inception, Powerhouse Factories (PHF) is part of its first a museum exhibit that depicts the coalition between music and art. In collaboration with the Contemporary Arts Center and the 21c Museum Hotel, "Flooded " will showcase poster art from local and regional artists.

Over the years, PHF has created anywhere from 600-700 music posters for a variety of music genres, including local and national acts. From Bruce Springsteen to The Black Keys, rock posters still remain an important aspect to the PHF brand.

"We used to say since the record jacket went away, the poster is the visual representation for the music now," said co-founder Pat Jones.

Jones, along with three college friends, started PHF in 2003 with the intention of creating a space that served as a print shop, art gallery and design studio in one. Jones said they wanted to create a job that fostered creativity without limiting personalities.

"We wanted to keep doing it... We wanted to find a way to continue to do stuff they like and find a way to get paid for it."

And eventually they did. The group opened its first print shop in Covington then moved its headquarters to Newport where the brand expanded. A second PHF location was added in Mount Adams to house the staff of 29.

When PHF was first created they experimented with a "guerilla" art style similar to the works of Shepherd Fairey and Barry McGee, widely-known street artists who were featured in the 2008 documentary "Beautiful Losers." Jones refers to the artists as their "heroes."

"We got to a point where we could actually work with those guys. We did a lot of work with the 'Beautiful Losers' back in the day when that was around. We did their box-set for them with Iconoclast," said Jones.

As a former musician, Jones says the assimilation of music and art is a natural progression for most of his contemporaries.

"The art community from a gallery and fine art perspective is...fostering contemporary art which by definition in its nature is pushing the limitations of art and the world. So musicians are very much in a similar place. Not only from making their music, but how they get their music out and connect to their fans. All that has changed and is constantly changing."

With that sentiment in mind, Powerhouse jumped at the opportunity to help curate an exhibit that depicts the ever-growing relationship between art and music.

Eli Meiners of 21c and Josh Mattie of CAC approached Ben Nunery at Powerhouse to join forces on "Flooded" which opens this Friday.

"The exhibition is trying to raise up the qualities of printmaking to show that... there’s this craft to it --- it’s kind of a budget rudimentary process. There’s so many (methods) with transparency and metallics and different  substrates and different processes. Trying to focus on that and bring it to life on the page a little bit," said Jones.

The exhibit will also be part performance. PHF has scheduled several "secret" shows to take place in or near the 21c at various times starting Monday through next Friday.

The public will be notified of the shows through PHF's social media accounts. Jones says guests can expect to see both local and national artists, including a special performance at Friday's opening.

“We’re doing a lot of cool work. The people that work for us, I think, feel really happy about it, which is awesome. We’re trying to find new ways to find new stuff to do that makes sense with what Powerhouse is. It is creativity, it is design and brand work, it’s also purveyors of culture. It’s not like I want to start being a show promoter but I want to start figuring out new ways to tie that together. Let’s get music out, let’s get art out, let’s get better food out."

The pop-up shows will also serve as precursors to the MidPoint Music Festival which is slated to take place Sept. 26-28. This is the 12th year of the event, which showcases music from more than 180 artists from around the world at venues throughout downtown Cincinnati and Over-the-Rhine.

PHF has played a role in the festival for the past four years in collaboration with MPMF's co-founder Dan McCabe. This year PHF will have its own poster expo where festival goers can purchase band posters and a screen printing station where people can make their own prints.

Jones says the PHF team was given the "blessing" from McCabe to kick off the MPMF spirit with their museum exhibit by showcasing bands ahead of the festival.

"We talked about Cincinnati art and how we can pull it all together. That’s sort of what spawned what we’re doing with MidPoint this year.

The thing was, how can we connect these people that are doing these things in culinary --- all these awesome new restaurants that we know? How can we connect this stuff with 21c? It’s kind of the idea behind it and what we’re tying to accomplish."

Despite a focused on rock 'n' roll culture, PHF also has clientele that ranges from other design firms to Procter & Gamble. As culture experts, Jones says it's important to be aware of what's going on in the global community.

"Culture doesn’t always have to be rock posters and art shows. It can be anything that people are interested in and want to spend time with. This can be everything from fashion to technology to social good. We love knowing everything that is going on and how it's connected."

"Flooded" opens this Friday at 10 p.m at the First Floor Gallery at 21c Museum Hotel. Jones says a surprise "national" act is slated to play a secret show at the gallery opening.

For more information on Powerhouse Factories visit http://www.phfdesign.com/ .

Photography by Emily Maxwell, WCPO Photojournalist

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