'HomeGroan' artists tell their Cincinnati stories through their work

CINCINNATI -- It’s hard to spend a considerable amount of time in a place and not be affected by it in one way or another.

When it comes to Cincinnati, that reality seems is heightened by city’s ever-changing socio-political dynamic.

Conservatism. Hipsters. Boring suburbia. Scary downtown. A push for and against a streetcar. A love-hate relationship with chili-covered hot dogs. Marriage at 21. Divorce at 25. The gosh-darn Bengals.

Some of us love it. Some of us tolerate it. Some of us hate it and decide to move away. A few of those who escape to areas outside the city’s expansive limits end up moving home when they realize the grass wasn't that much greener elsewhere.

Whether we like it or not, Cincinnati is a part of everyone who has ever called it home.

That sentiment is explored in a new art exhibit that opens at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Harvest Art Gallery in Over-the-Rhine.

The brainchild of Cincinnati native Katie Dreyer, HomeGroan is a group show that celebrates the lingering interaction between local and national artists inspired by their time in the Queen City.

“The pun is really kind of a play on that playful ‘groan’ everyone gets when they have to tell someone ‘Oh, I’m from Cincinnati,’ which is immediately followed by the question, ‘Where did you go to high school?’” said Deyer, a 24-year-old University of Cincinnati grad. This is the first show she’s curating in the city.

A self-described “bounce-back Cincinnatian,” Dreyer returned to the city about a year ago after spending time in Los Angeles. During the time away from her hometown, she had a chance to experience life by exploring the world. But she also realized Cincinnati has a lot to offer and wanted to be part of conveying that message to people outside the oft-insular Tri-State communities.

She thought there was no better way of doing that than through art.

“Once I realized a had chance to organize all these really creative people from around the city who hadn’t had a chance to show their work (in Cincinnati) yet ... I knew I had to host a show,” said Dreyer who works as a museum docent at the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) and the 21 c Hotel Museum , and serves as an intern at OTR mainstay 1305 Gallery .

“Coming home (from Los Angeles) I wanted to be proud of my city – and there’s a lot to be proud of – but I don’t know that the world has caught onto that yet,” she said. "I want to help change that."

Dreyer went to a handful of locally cultivated artists with a simple prompt: show me work that reminds you of living in Cincinnati. What the 11 different artists on display came up with was a collection of 30-plus pieces of work that range from paintings to sculptures to site-specific installation work.

The list of artists includes:

Each of the artists in the show either grew up in Cincinnati or were locally trained.

While not all the works included in the exhibit reflect Cincinnati-specific iconography such as famous faces and city landmarks, each reflects the effect the city had on the people who created them, Dreyer said.

Many of the artists took an esoteric approach to highlight more of how the city impacts the people who call it home rather than highlighting the city itself.

One such example is the show's soundscape, a dangling collection of speakers and wires that reverberate melodies off the walls and throughout the showroom. Dreyer said the piece is representative of Cincinnati’s “rich musical history, such as historic King Records.”

In addition to physical works of art, the opening will feature a live musical performance by Baby Money , a project fronted by Chicago transplant Pamela Maurer. Baby Money is a solo project that combines Maurer’s “homemade” Cincinnati sound with those of friends from around the country, according to her artist page .

The act will perform in the back of the display room at the Harvest Gallery, a unique nonprofit exhibition gallery and studio space in OTR. The purpose of the gallery is to help cultivate and promote up-and-coming young artists.

Much like the artists in the HomeGroan show, the Harvest space itself has a uniquely Cincinnati history. The building formerly functioned as a firehouse but was abandoned for years before it was purchased and transformed into the multi-purpose art gallery and studio space by several young artists.

“(Harvest) lends itself to the sort of OTR and Cincinnati idealism that’s taking place right now,” Dreyer said. “It sort of suggests you shouldn't look at the surface or what something was at one time. Look at the inside and see it for what it is or could be”

The character of the space isn’t solely found in the construction of the building, which still features a closeable hole between the second and third floors through which horse hay was lowered. The location of the venue also makes it unique

among other popular galleries in the area.

Located at 216 West 15th Street, Harvest is off the beaten path for many local art fans. Most of the higher profile art openings take place downtown or in areas such as Pendleton or along stretches of the revamped Vine and Main streets.

Dreyer thinks the location of the venue adds to the general theme of her show.

"It’s just a great space that not a lot of people get to see because of where it is. People assume certain things about that part of town,” Dreyer said. “Hopefully this space, in part because of this show, will open up a whole new part of this area. It’ll be a good step forward for the city.”

The exhibit opening runs 6 p.m. to 9 p.m, Thursday. In addition to live music, refreshments and beverages will be available.

If you're unable to make it to Thursday's opening, you can see the exhibit on a by-appointment basis by contacting Dreyer at the following email address: dreyer.katie.e@gmail.com .

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