By this point, we all know that OTR stands for Over-the-Rhine. And when we think of Over-the-Rhine, it probably conjures images of Krueger’s rooftop, Washington Park, and dance parties at Japp’s (RIP).
But how about OTA… does that evoke anything in you? If not, it will. That is, it will soon enough.
OTA stands for On the Ave, with the “Ave.” being Central Ave., the dividing line between OTR and the West End. And within the West End, one can find the Brighton District. The area is a work-in-progress. If I’m being totally candid, you might drive through and wonder if you’re in a deserted wasteland. But I’m here to assure you it’s not a wasteland. Rather, it’s a vibrant community on the rise.
And if the owners behind Arts’ on the Ave (a new bar in the former Rake’s End space) have anything to say about it, the entire block will be transformed within the next 3-5 years. No, don’t expect a Starbucks anytime soon or—for that matter—ever. But you can expect a locally-owned coffee shop, affordable housing, a boutique, and a restaurant. (And more.)
For now, though, you’ll have to make do with Arts’ on the Ave. It’s located next to the Hartke Hardware store, which if you don’t know the Hartke store itself, you’re probably familiar with the store’s signature heart sign hanging from the third floor.
In researching this piece, basic google searches of “brighton district cincinnati” turned up results of City Beat and SoapBox articles from 2010 and 2011 highlighting the arts-heavy focus of Brighton. It’s the kind of place where a struggling artist resides in a wonky studio apartment working tirelessly to catch a break. It’s the kind of place where the grind, equal parts grit & grime, leave a light film coat of hustle on your shiny new Vans. But you don’t mind. In fact, you like it—the kinda inspiration you can't absorb from a podcast or your latest Kindle read.
And with this newest addition, Arts’ invites you to a front row seat of old and new, hardship and success right before your very eyes. It’s this juxtaposition that makes it all the more unique and worthy of your attention. Because alongside Charley Harper’s print “Owl on the Prowl,” that literally hangs from the ceiling above the bar, there’s also art by a bunch of no-names. And they all deserve to be viewed equally.
In case you did want a shortlist of some of the bar’s prized possessions, I am happy to oblige. Because how many watering holes can tout owning a Picasso lithograph from his Portrait Imageries Series and a lithograph by Salvador Dali? Of local significance, there’s a Leslie Shiels piece titled “Ignorance of Art” which is modeled after the gargoyle of the same name at Hughes High School. There’s even art in the bar surface, including a brush by internationally-known artist Thomas Wassermann. Yeah, pretty cool.
Besides the physical art that is all over the space, Arts’ plans to create magical moments of art in the present, whether that be in the form of live music, jazz trio performances, and poetry readings, etc. Now considering Arts’ has only been open for a few weeks, it still claims that hidden-gem badge. But I don’t anticipate it’ll be hidden for long. Something special is brewing in Brighton. Take notice.
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Arts’ on the Ave is located at 2141 Central Ave., Cincinnati, Ohio 45214.