Cincinnati is home to a spectacular collection of murals. Many of them are part of former mayor Mark Mallory’s mural program, ArtWorks. He commissioned a team of youth apprentices and artists to beautify empty wall space with art in the form of murals. At this time, ArtWorks has completed 36 murals. By the time the project reaches completion, each of the 52 neighborhoods of Cincinnati will be home to a mural!
Private businesses also sponsor murals. The Kroger Company, which is based in Cincinnati, celebrated their 100th year in business in 1983. To mark the occasion, Kroger hired Richard Haas to create a mural honoring the city’s namesake, Cincinnatus, on the front of their downtown headquarters building. The ArtWorks program completed restoration work on the mural this past year.
I had no idea the city of Cincinnati was named in honor of the Roman dictator Cincinnatus until my mom told me after we moved. The first time I saw this marvelous mural, Michael and I were driving home from an evening at the Christkindlmarkt on Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati. The delicious gluwein I had indulged in at the German market may have contributed to some of the awe I felt as I gazed out my car window at the illuminated mural. However, I revisited Cincinnatus on a cool, crisp afternoon a few days ago and found myself just as impressed. While I was snapping some pictures, a passerby approached me and said, “Amazing, isn’t it? It’s one of my favorites.” It truly is an amazing mural to take in. The mural encompasses the entire front side of the 8-story building. I felt like I could just walk up the steps and stand beside Cincinnatus.
After visiting the mural, I decided to do a little research and learn about Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus (519-430 BC). Several other cities are named after him, including Cincinnatus, New York, and Cincinnato, Italy. He is admired and revered as a Roman hero because during the times he was called upon to serve as dictator, he rose up to serve when he was needed, but then slipped quietly back to private life on his farm after the battles or wars were over. He could have chosen to assume even greater power as a statesman but instead decided to withdraw from power, putting his personal interests aside and doing what was best for the Roman people. This makes him a model of civic virtue. Cincinnatus is often compared to George Washington. Washington chose to return to private life on his farm at Mt. Vernon after the American Revolution instead of becoming a near-monarch of the new republic, as some of his compatriots wished.
The mural on the Kroger building represents the virtues people hope to see in their city and in the leaders chosen to represent them.
The Cincinnatus mural is located downtown at the intersection of Central Parkway and Vine Street, just a few blocks down from the Horseshoe Casino. If you go to see it, I would recommend arriving in the morning. I visited it in the afternoon, and the sun was almost behind the building, making it appear fairly dark in the pictures. When Cincinnatus is illuminated by lighting at night or by the morning sun, it adds an almost mythical golden glow to the mural. I was there on a Sunday and had no trouble finding a meter to park at right next to the building. Standing at the foot of the mural and gazing up at Cincinnatus is well worth the stop.