Indulge in Cincinnati's arts scene -- for free

Posted at 7:06 AM, Feb 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-24 07:06:20-05

This weekend immerse yourself in our local arts scene -- for free.

For the 30th year, Macy’s Arts Sampler, presented Saturday and Sunday by ArtsWave, offers way more opportunities than you could possibly squeeze into two days.

The annual festival will showcase the talents and offerings of 87 arts organizations and let thousands of Greater Cincinnati families experience arts activities and performances for free in their own neighborhoods and beyond.

“The arts are a vibrant part of our culture in Cincinnati,” said Jenna McHugh, Macy’s vice president for corporate giving. “We encourage everyone to enjoy the festival and celebrate our region’s amazing arts.”

Saturday’s schedule, called “Art All Around,” is a day of activities at more than 30 venues throughout Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Free activities are planned at the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Contemporary Arts Center and the Taft Museum of Art, local theaters, the Art Academy of Cincinnati and the MYCincinnati Firehouse in Price Hill. Community arts centers in Hamilton, Oxford, Kennedy Heights, Clifton and Wyoming will welcome arts fans, as will libraries in Northern Kentucky, West Chester and, of course, Downtown. On Sunday, the action shifts to Music Hall in Over-the-Rhine, offering free performances and hands-on activities for all ages, culminating in a multi-faceted musical and dance performance.

Macy’s Arts Sampler is a reminder of the many arts organizations that benefit from the ArtsWave Community Campaign. Fundraising for 2016 is underway, with community volunteers seeking to achieve a record goal of $12.4 million.

For a taste of what this makes possible, here are nine destinations to consider:

New West Side venues: The Warsaw Federal Incline Theater (801 Matson Place in Price Hill) opened last June and entertained sold-out houses all summer. It's presently offering the hilarious (and very adult) musical "Avenue Q," which features puppets (also very adult). From noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, there will be sneak peeks of the show and puppetry workshops. Nearby in Price Hill you can visit the newly opened MYCincinnati Firehouse (3120 Warsaw Ave.) for performances by the MYCincinnati Youth Orchestra, Cincinnati Boychoir, MamLuft&Co. Dance and Queen City Chamber Opera from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Appalachian music in Kentucky: The eclectic Behringer-Crawford Museum (1600 Montague Road, Covington) will be open all day Saturday, free of charge. At 1:30 p.m. the Rabbit Hash String Band will entertain with a concert of Appalachian music.

Arts and crafts at the library: If you live in Butler County, drop by West Chester’s MidPointe Library (9363 Centre Pointe Drive) between noon and 4 p.m. for music by the West Chester Symphony Orchestra, a steel drum band and West Chester Silver Strings, a youth orchestra that has prepared a concert of music from around the world.

Get involved at the Fitton Center: Another venue north of Greater Cincinnati is Hamilton’s Fitton Center for the Creative Arts (101 S. Monument Ave.). Between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday find hands-on activities including a drum jam, clay sculpting and music making. You can even learn some dance steps from the Miami Valley Ballet Theatre.

All over Downtown Cincinnati: Saturday offers a little bit of everything in venues throughout Over-the-Rhine and nearby. You’ll find belly dancing at the Art Academy of Cincinnati (1212 Jackson St.) and “science of theater” workshops at Ensemble Theater Cincinnati (1127 Vine St.). Or head to the Public Library (800 Vine St.) for a writing workshop or a jazz performance. If you still have time and energy, a visit to Elementz (1100 Race St.) will provide a hip-hop sampler.

Feel the music in Kennedy Heights: Activities at the Kennedy Heights Presbyterian Church (6312 Kennedy Ave.) between 10 a.m. and noon Saturday are aimed at toddlers. The Linton Chamber Music Peanut Butter & Jam! Series will take kids on a musical adventure exploring feelings as portrayed by instruments like the violin, cello and piano.

Pajama Party at the CAC: The Contemporary Arts Center (44 E. Sixth St., Downtown) offers hands-on art projects in its kid-friendly “UnMuseum” from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. A special feature of the day is a pajama party, working with artist Do Ho Suh to build pillow forts and blanket teepees. Kids can show up in their PJs between noon and 3 p.m. to play and stick around for pancakes.

Madcap Puppets at Cincinnati Art Museum: Madcap Puppets know how to entertain kids. They’ll perform at noon and 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Cincinnati Art Museum in Eden Park. Cincinnati Ballet’s dance academy also will show off, as will the Keshvar Project, a Middle Eastern dance troupe.

Music Hall on Sunday: If you only have Sunday available, historic Cincinnati Music Hall is the place to be for free events starting at 11 a.m. The grand old building will be stuffed with performances and activities from dancing in the Main Lobby and crafts in the Ballroom to talented young musicians and actors in Corbett Tower. If you’re interested in seeing the 1878 building before 18 months of renovations begin in May, take a backstage tour. The weekend’s finale is set for 3 p.m. Sunday, a collaborative concert, "Be the Hero!," featuring the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Ballet, the May Festival Chorus and Cincinnati Opera. This family-friendly event will include a ballet danced to music from "Star Wars"and a sing-along to tunes from the animated film "Frozen." Kids are encouraged to come dressed as their favorite heroes for the concert.

ArtsWave is America’s oldest and largest public arts fund. Get the whole Arts Sampler schedule at or download the 2016 Sampler app.