Newport, how do you feel about public art?

City leaders want to know and have made a public survey available online so residents can express themselves about artistic expression. You can take the survey here.

“This survey will let us know what people like and what they don’t like in terms of public art, whether people want to see more public art in the city, and if so, what type of art they’d like to see in the future,” says Newport Assistant City Manager Larisa Sims.

In 2020, Newport celebrated its 225th anniversary by beginning a series of murals depicting the city’s history since it was established in 1795.

The first installation, called “Education Empowers,” honored Southgate Street School and the Black students who attended it. The school opened after the Civil War to educate the sons and daughters of slaves.

That mural was the product of community voices, as residents and civic leaders provided their input as Northern Kentucky University students began designing public art projects to celebrate the history of the school. Two former Southgate students, one in her 70s and one in his 80s, visited NKU’s art studio and told their stories to the students in two art classes, who in turn designed public art projects for Newport. One of those NKU students, Gina Erardi, was the chief artist for the first mural panel.

Public art can create community identity, attract visitors, and beautify neighborhoods. It can also create controversy. The second set of mural panels depicted the founding of Newport by James Taylor, a general during the War of 1812 and a slave owner who died in 1848. The depiction and honoring of Taylor drew criticism, prompting the city to say that it “is not commemorating his slave ownership," but that "General Taylor and his wife are being memorialized for their contributions to the founding of Newport."

Sims says the new survey is “an opening dialogue with our residents, businesses, and visitors about what types of public art they want to see in our city, whether its future floodwall murals or other types of public art.”

Newport’s public art project is a collaboration of the city, Southbank Partners, ArtsWave, Northern Kentucky University’s Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement and NKU’s School of the Arts, the Newport Foundation, and the Newport History Museum @ The Southgate Street School.




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Read more articles by David Holthaus.

David Holthaus is the managing editor of NKY Thrives, an award-winning journalist, and a Cincinnati native. When not writing or editing, he's likely to be bicycling, hiking, reading or watching classic movies.