Art and Signage on Cincinnati’s Public Stairways to Improve Public Health and Neighborhood Connection.

Problem Statement + Overarching Vision

Cincinnati is a city of distinct neighborhoods, many of which retain strong boundaries in part due to the topography of hills. Neighborhoods in and of themselves are often walkable, but rarely do pedestrians traverse between them. Over 400 stairways were constructed during the late 19th century to address this problem and to connect the city’s neighborhoods and their parks. Today, however, many of these stairways lie in disuse and disrepair due to perceptions that they attract crime, and to driving as habit. This results in segregation and in missed opportunities to improve and maintain physical health and a more socially connected and equitable city through walking. Transformation of Cincinnati’spedestrian transportation system is our goal.

Pilot Project + Solution to Problem

Step Up to Art is harnessing community input and involvement in the creation of public art on the Ohio Avenue Steps between the neighborhoods of Mount Auburn and Clifton Heights. Over the course of two focus groups, residents of both neighborhoods (1) expressed how the stairs could be improved and (2) selected an artistic team from four options who they believed would best represent their vision for the stairway. Step Up to Art is also creating and implementing signage on the Ohio Avenue Steps that will convey information about the artists’ history and the artwork itself. This public space, reimagined through art, will promote neighborhood identity. It will also encourage walking and physical activity, which will improve public health. We hope the Ohio Avenue Steps will serve as a pilot project for the improvement of other stairways that are part of the city’s pedestrian transportation network, and that the implementation of art on these stairs will enhance Cincinnati’s existing outdoor museum of murals. This will increase connectivity between neighborhoods of various socio-economic demographics, and create new public spaces, which, in turn, will help us to shape a more integrated and equitable future for our city.

© University of Cincinnati, DAAP