In 2007, former Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory did a city exchange in Philadelphia. He got a firsthand look at their citywide mural program, which has completed over 3,000 murals around the city over the past 30 years.
Inspired and impressed, Mallory returned to Cincinnati and challenged the local community art organization ArtWorks to create a mural in each of Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods.
Artworks got to work right away by hiring a collection of youth and professional artists who completed 9 murals in 2007 alone in neighborhoods including Walnut Hills, Northside, Roselawn, Downtown, and several others.
To date, ArtWorks has completed 147 murals in 42 Cincinnati neighborhoods and 7 nearby cities. These murals add a layer of character to the Queen City and brighten up the neighborhoods in many ways.
Our Favorite Cincinnati Murals
There are murals all over the city, but the most dense collection of them can be found in Downtown and Over-The-Rhine, which seem to have a different mural on nearly every block. ArtWorks has actually created a helpful PDF map that shows the location and name of every mural in the Downtown and OTR area, so you can take a self-guide tour of the murals whenever you’d like.
ArtWorks also offers guided mural tours where they lead you through the city and explain the backstory of each mural, which typically involves some interesting history lessons about Cincinnati.
As mentioned earlier, there are 147 murals around the city but we think a few of them really stand out. Here are our 12 favorite murals:
1. Visionary Reality Threshold
Location: 1005 Walnut Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202
Designed by New York City-based contemporary artist Saya Woolfalk, this mural is one of the most colorful in the city and it’s one that you can stare at with endless fascination because it has so many intricate details. The kaleidoscope-type visuals throughout the mural give off a trippy vibe and the wide variety of colors, shapes, and patterns make it especially fun to admire.
2. Connected Through the Generations
Location: 225 W. Court Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202
In celebration of their 150th anniversary, YWCA Greater Cincinnati teamed up with ArtWorks to create this massive mural that celebrates the YWCA’s mission to eliminate racism, promote peace, and empower women. The characters in the mural are shown working together to pursue equality and inclusion for everyone. Of all of the murals in Cincinnati, this one preaches one of the most uplifting messages.
3. Crazy Cat, Crazy Quilt
Location: 1107 Walnut St. Cincinnati, OH 45202
Crazy Cat, Crazy Quilt is a mural that serves as a tribute to the late Edie Harper, a Cincinnati-based artist known for creating a wide variety of art mostly focused around landscapes, animals, and Midwestern life. The cat shown in the mural is a colorful depiction of Edie’s favorite cat Katrinka.
4. Cincinnati Toy Heritage
Location: 23 West Court Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202
One of the most playful murals in Cincinnati can be found on West Court Street. This mural is a tribute to the legacy of Kenner Toys, a Cincinnati-based toy company that designed a variety of popular toys. Some of the characters include Care Bear, the Easy Bake Oven, C3PO, Strawberry Shortcake, and several others.
5. Tom Wesselmann, Still Life #60
This mural honors Cincinnati-based artist Tom Wesselmann and features sunglasses, a ring, lipstick, and an open pack of matches. The mural is quite simple but it seriously grabs your attention when you’re driving by or walking down the street because it appears so lifelike.
Location: 811 Main Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202
6. Ice Cream Daydream
Location: 33 East 12th Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202
Another playful and fun mural that we love holds the name “Ice Cream Daydream” and depicts a bright and colorful scene with a woman’s face in the center along with a garden near the bottom and a fish swimming along the side. This is one of those murals where you start to notice more details the longer you stare at it.
7. Lookin’ Good
Location: 1120 Jackson Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202
Right next door to the Ice Cream Daydream mural is another one that says “Lookin’ Good” which features a smiling sun with sunglasses on one side and a huge thumbs up on the other. This mural looks particularly cool during BLINK – the Cincinnati light based art festival.
8. Homecoming (Blue Birds)
Location: 119 East Court Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202
This simple mural depicts a piece of work originally created by Cincinnati-based artist and nature lover Charlie Harper. It features two bluebirds returning home from some type of journey and incorporates the minimal and geometric style that Charlie was known for.
9. Energy and Grace
Location: 16 E. 12th Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202
One of the tallest murals in Cincinnati is known as “Energy and Grace” and features an original piece of work created by one of the professors at ArtWorks – native Cincinnatian and well-known abstract artist Kim Krause. The mural is set on a massive light blue backdrop and depicts several abstract objects in elegant motion, hence the name “Energy and Grace.” This is another one of those murals that immediately captures your attention when you pass it and practically begs you to pull into the parking lot for a few minutes to admire it.
10. Martha, The Last Passenger Pigeon
Location: 15 E. Eighth St, Cincinnati, OH 45202
A mural with one of the most interesting backstories is Martha, The Last Passenger Pigeon. This mural features a passenger pigeon named Martha, the last passenger pigeon to ever live who passed away at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914. ArtWorks teamed up with the Cincinnati Nature Center to create this mural, which depicts Martha and her flock soaring over the historic Bird Run at the Cincinnati Zoo. The mural serves as a tribute to the importance of wildlife conservation.
11. Self-Portrait, Elizabeth Nourse
Location: 8th Street & Walnut Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
One of the tallest murals in the city celebrates the life and career of Elizabeth Nourse, a Cincinnati native who graduated from the McMicken School of Design, now known as the Art Academy of Cincinnati. This mural depicts a self-portrait she made in 1892 in which she’s looking directly at the observer, which was a rare gesture at the time because it depicts strength and dominance, two characteristics that were rarely attributed to women at the time.
12. Union Terminal Spaceship
One of the most colorful and abstract murals is one that we couldn’t find much information about online, but it appears to depict the Union Terminal as a spaceship beaming down light onto some sort of clock. This mural is one of the funkiest in the city and it has a lot going on in it. There’s a Cincinnati Reds mascot near the center, a man with his hand raised with gears coming out of his chest, and plenty of vibrant colors throughout.
Explore the Murals
ArtWorks has a complete list of every Cincinnati mural that includes the year it was completed, the story behind it, and the exact location.
Feel free to explore their printable map of murals in Downtown and OTR if you’re interested in exploring the murals in the area yourself.