Photo credit: Matt Hulme
BLINK®, illuminated by tens of thousands of donors who give to ArtsWave, is back. Organized by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, working with partners AGAR, ArtWorks, Brave Berlin and the Haile Foundation, the light, projection mapping and art festival returns October 13-16, 2022, under the leadership of a new executive director.
The Chamber and ArtsWave announced BLINK's return in front of BLINK 2019 artist Herakut's mural by the Elm & Liberty Street streetcar stop. A new BLINK-themed Cincinnati Bell Connector streetcar wrap was unveiled during the announcement. This wrap was designed by ArtsWave, working in partnership with Cincinnati Bell and the City of Cincinnati, and features vibrant images from both previous BLINK celebrations. Now it becomes a permanent fixture on the streetcar route, joining two other arts-centric designs: Brent Billingsley's "WE ARE ALL 'HUE-MAN'" and a wrap that celebrates Music Hall.
BLINK broke records when it premiered in 2017, which it surpassed in 2019. According to Jill Meyer, president & CEO of Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, 1.2 million people attended the event in 2019 — more than any other event in the Cincinnati region's history. A study commissioned by the Chamber measured nearly $87 million in economic impact based on direct spending, indirect spending and revenues for local businesses and individuals.
Justin Brookhart, BLINK's new executive director, sees impacts above and beyond the numbers. Coming to Cincinnati from Austin, TX, he calls BLINK a "nowhere else" experience that can help distinguish Cincinnati the same way South by Southwest® distinguishes Austin. He also notes that a massive, free public art event is a powerful tool for to help attract and retain talent to the region, as well as a time of year when people will come to the region to conduct business.
To foster those impacts, Brookhart aims to give BLINK a more enduring footprint, to make it clear to visitors that it's a core part of the region's identity, even if they're not in town for the festival. It's part of how the arts put Cincinnati on the map. Brookhart notes, "This is one of the things that defines Cincinnati: support for the arts. Over a million people care about a public art event in our region. There are very few things I've seen like that."
Brookhart also notes the potential to expand BLINK's physical footprint. The heart of the event will probably always revolve around the urban core. The many murals and unique facades of Over-the-Rhine and the Central Business District offer an essential piece of the puzzle, and walkable exploration is equally crucial. Yet, the neighborhoods throughout the region all contain unique potential that BLINK could unlock, leading to a richer experience. Whether that means preview experiences around the region or pop-up installations apart from the main festival remains to be seen. What's clear is that any changes will involve careful consideration and planning to ensure that BLINK remains true to its essence. Brookhart says, "I think you'll see a lot that is familiar in the map this year, but it would be a missed opportunity to not play around a little bit. It should feel new for those who have gone before, and exciting to people we're attracting to the city for the first time."
The timing of the BLINK announcement was fitting. The annual ArtsWave Campaign — the largest community campaign in the nation and a critical source of local cultural organizations — kicked off a week earlier, setting a goal to raise $11.5 million for the Cincinnati region's arts. As the returning illuminating sponsor of BLINK, ArtsWave will thank donors with special benefits to help them get the most out of the festival. Qualifying donors will be invited to a guided walking tour of murals and installations, receive tickets to one of the most popular exhibitions, and have access to the BLINK 2022 VIP Donor Lounge.
To learn more about ArtsWave’s BLINK benefits and make your gift, visit artswave.org/give.
BLINK is a trademark of the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr.,/U.S. Bank Foundation exclusively licensed by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber.