9 mostly free (and flip-flop friendly) arts events to put some sizzle in your summer

Art, music, sculpture — even stand-up comedy
Posted at 11:00 AM, Jun 14, 2016

The flip-flops have been purchased in every color of the rainbow. Yes, it’s nearly summertime, and Cincinnatians are ready.

That means Kings Island, the zoo and Reds games. Sunlite Pool, your subdivision’s pool, heck, the backyard pool of the neighbors you’re trying to get to know well enough to be invited. And church festivals, naturally — lots and lots of church festivals.

But, wait, how about a little culture? For those willing to drag themselves away from their grills and beer coolers long enough, a whole world of amazing art events awaits. Here are nine that will help put some sizzle in your summer — but not your wallet. They’re fun, almost all are free — a couple, as noted, are pretty darn cheap — and, for the most part, flip-flop-friendly.

Popp=d Art founders, from left, Janet Creekmore, Melissa Mitchell and Ben Jason Neal with the mobile gallery before they restored it.

Popp=d Art's 1963 Rainbow Caravan camper after restoration.

Taking art out for a spin

The Popp=d Art mobile art gallery will be tooling around the city all summer, popping up to bring art to the people. Funded by a project grant from People’s Liberty, Popp=d Art will bring unique art and design in a recently restored, vintage 1963 Rainbow Caravan camper. "We're taking a gallery into neighborhoods, especially ones where there aren't any galleries or museums," said Janet Creekmore, an artist and one of the three Popp=d Art founders. "It's a non-intimidating, fun approach. And all our artists are up-and-coming, outsider artists, so this is a way to expose people to them." First stop: City Flea, in Over-the-Rhine’s Washington Park, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 18. Other mobile art moments: Riddle Road Market in University Heights on July 22; Kennedy Heights Art Center on Aug. 5; and Pyramid Hill in Hamilton on Aug. 19. See for details.

All the world’s a stage

From Batesville to Oxford, West Chester to Burlington, the Cincinnati Shakespeare Co. will make the entire Greater Cincinnati region its stage this summer. The theater company’s free Shakespeare in the Park series will present “Macbeth,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Romeo & Juliet” at more than 30 parks from July 29 to Sept. 1. See for details.

Music lovers of all ages turn out in droves for Kentucky Symphony Orchestra concerts at Devou Park in the summertime.

Violins, cellos … and a kicked-back vibe

Think a performance by a symphony is too stuffy for summer? Not Kentucky Symphony Orchestra’s Summer Series in Devou Park. “It’s not intimidating at all,” said music director James Cassidy. “Kids are rolling down the hills, you can bring a picnic, and people are dancing all over.” In its 22nd year, the series typically attracts more than 5,000 people per show to the historic Devou bandshell. This year: Pop Fitty (5 Decades of Pop — From The Beatles to Bruno Mars) on July 9; Catching the Sun, featuring feel-good jazz from the 1970s and '80s (think Chick Corea, Chuck Mangione) on Aug. 6; and Straussing Out, a Viennese New Year-style celebration with music by the family von Strauss, on Sept. 3. All shows are at 7:30 p.m. Suggested donation of $5. See for details.

What do you mean I’m funny!?

As if joking around with those clowns you call friends isn’t enough fun, there are two other ways to get your laugh on this summer. Punch House Comedy at Myrtle’s Punch House in Walnut Hills, produced by John Schroeck and Josh O’Neill, offers free stand-up comedy at 8 p.m. every fourth Thursday — including June 23 and July 28 — during the "Meanwhile at Myrtle’s" events. Visit

‘Man, wait till you hear this band!’

The ninth annual edition of the eclectic Northside Music Festival promises to be every bit as cool as its predecessors, which have featured performers ranging from Wussy to Soledad Brothers. This year, the free festival June 24-25 at Northside Tavern will feature rapper “Open” Mike Eagle, along with a curated mix of local and regional bands on three stages. Visit

Showcasing the personal in art

The fifth Biennial Fitton Center Member Showcase explores the talent and creativity of local artists of all skill levels. Highlighting personal and family bonds expressed through making art, the exhibit gives members of the Fitton Center for Creative Arts in Hamilton a chance to show off their skills and wide range of artistic styles. The free show runs through July 8. See

Filling the evening sky with song

Can there be a better way to spend a summer Saturday night than sitting outdoors in one of the city's most vibrant and scenic spots, with the historic Music Hall as a backdrop, listening to gorgeous songs? Add in a selection of food trucks and craft beers from vendors, and you've got yourself an evening. Cincinnati Opera celebrates its 96th season starting at 7 p.m. June 26, with a free night of opera and musical selections performed in Washington Park by favorite performers from the opera company, the Cincinnati Opera Chorus and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. See for more.

Free live music on Fountain Square includes reggae performers every Wednesday this summer, sponsored by 3CDC.

There’s a song in the air

3CDC presents several ways to keep people dancing all summer long with free events at Washington Park in Over-the-Rhine, as well as on Fountain Square. Bandstand Bluegrass features free bluegrass, roots and Americana music at 7 p.m. Thursdays through Sept. 1 at the Washington Park bandstand, with performers from Whiskey Bent Valley Boys to Rabbit Hash String Band. And Fountain Square events include Salsa on the Square every Thursday from 7-10 p.m., with hot bands and free instruction, while Wednesdays mean free reggae from performers including Gizzae and Ras Bonghi Allstars. For more info and schedules, see and

Sculpting a great weekend

Closing out a summer of arts offerings is the 14th annual Pyramid Hill Art Fair, which will bring more than 60 artists together Sept. 24-25 for a juried show and sale of handmade goods. But this show doesn’t take place in a school building or arts center; it’s nestled among the gardens and wooded expanses of the 265-acre park and outdoor museum, which features large-scale sculptures and monumental art. See

OK, for those who like a nice, round list of 10 ... here’s a bonus opportunity:

Nod your head if you think it’s cool

Are you seriously going to sit there and contend that bobbleheads aren’t legit artistic expressions? What could be a greater display of pop art than the exhibit at Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum, which features more than 500 bobbleheads dating to the introduction of the collectible in the early 1960s? The collection also includes every one of the 90 Reds bobbleheads issued as a ballpark promotion since the first giveaway in 2001. $10 admission; see for exhibit times.