Xavier students participate in OTR celebration

CINCINNATI — OTRAGLOW, an annual community celebration of lighted window displays in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, got an extra boost this week from Xavier students.

This friendly holiday competition hosts over 30 entries in three categories: business, residential and nonprofit, that each creates a holiday and Over-the-Rhine themed window display in their office storefront or home.

The event is designed to celebrate the holiday season and Over-the-Rhine’s rich and diverse history. Official judging began Dec. 1 and ended Dec. 6 with an awards ceremony honoring the top picks in each category and one grand prize winner.

Eigel Center Director Sean Rhiney serves as one of the event’s organizers in partnership with the Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce, Urban Sites and the Art Academy of Cincinnati. Rhiney, Art Academy director of Student Services, Galen Crawford and Mayerson High School Service Learning Director Clare Blankemeyer were able to leverage the event by partnering their students with neighborhood nonprofits.

Rhiney notes that “many of the neighborhood’s nonprofits allocate most of their resources to working with clients during this busy season of need. We recognized this as an opportunity for our students to share their time and talent, build community, learn the nonprofit’s story and celebrate the holiday season in solidarity.” Xavier, the Art Academy and Mayerson adopted four nonprofit storefronts and collaborated on the theme and design with their partners.

Xavier University answered the call by designing and decorating two storefronts.

Art faculty member Jonathan Gibson and students from his 2D Design class were matched with Art Beyond Boundaries, a Main Street gallery where local and regional artists with disabilities display, market and sell their artwork. Gibson says his team worked with Art Beyond Boundaries to generate a set of colors inspired by Over-the-Rhine and Christmas.

“We used paper garlands that combine rugged greens, brick reds and shimmering golds in a way that shows both the unity and diversity of this community. The colored lights in the window of the gallery windows slowly change how the colors are perceived,” Gibson said.

Rhiney says that Xavier’s Community Engaged Fellows also got into the competition by adopting the office storefront of nonprofit housing advocate, Overthe- Rhine Community Housing (OTRCH), at 114 W. 14th St. Senior Community Engaged Fellow Emily Boutilier, a BFA in art education candidate, designed a theme that was executed by CEF seniors Meghan Marth and Kelly Schmidt along with OTRCH resident engagement coordinator, Sophia Cunningham.

The window is titled “Welcome Home: A Light In the Window.” Boutilier said the window’s theme evolved out of OTRCH’s ongoing mission to connect residents with affordable housing options.

“What most inspired me about OTR Community Housing is their determination to make Over-the- Rhine a welcoming, engaged and inclusive community. They accomplish this by developing and managing resident-centered, affordable housing in Over-the-Rhine. When I thought of what makes a home welcoming, especially during the holidays and winter months, I thought of a ‘light in the window.’ An illuminated window signals to those looking in from the outside that a person, couple or family calls that place home, and that their home is warm and inviting.” For more information, please contact Sean Rhiney, director of the Eigel Center for Community- Engaged Learning at rhineys@ xavier.edu.

Courtesy of Sean Rhiney