By: Hollis Conners ~Features Editor~

Red and green lights are illuminating the streets of Over-the-Rhine (OTR) as various nonprofits participate in otrAGLOW, a window display competition that will light up the neighborhood for the third year in a row.

OtrAGLOW began with Urban Sites, a building developer in OTR that allowed residents and businesses to take part in a window display contest. Eventually, more organizations like the Art Academy and OTR Chamber became involved, and a “nonprofit” category was added.2

Sean Rhiney, Xavier’s Director of the Eigel Center for Community Engaged Learning, was one of the judges. “As the neighborhood was growing and changing, we wanted to recognize and celebrate the many nonprofits that call OTR home,” Rhiney said. Local high school and college students can get involved by “adopting” a nonprofit storefront. They can collaborate with the nonprofit to build their window display. The four nonprofits involved this year are Contact
Center, Tender Mercies, Venice on Vine and OTR Community Housing (OTRCH).

“It’s an engaging way for students to better understand the nonprofit’s mission, role in the community and a chance to engage with those they serve,” Rhiney said. Xavier juniors Rachel Piepsny and Allie Weiss are participating through the Community Engaged Fellowship and adopted OTRCH.

“Because they (are centered around) affordable housing, the window display we came up with is centered around looking like housing and historic buildings from the area,” Piepsny said.

“We spent (the night of Dec. 1) cutting out almost 100 detailed miniature houses, duplexes, apartments and other buildings. It has been a lot of hard work in a short amount of time, but I would recommend it to anyone who likes to get creative,” Piepsny said.1

Any business owner, resident or a nonprofit can register his or her window. The only requirements are that the displays have a holiday theme and a non flammable source of light. OtrAGLOW encourages that the displays celebrate OTR’s culture and history. The windows are lit between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. every night from Dec 5 to 11. “We are both very involved with, are active in surrounding communities and love these type of projects,” Weiss said.3

Neighborhood judges score the windows, but there is popular voting online. Awards are given at Light Up OTR, which will be held on Dec. 12 in Washington Park. The location makes it easy for residents to walk a path to see the window displays. “Because it was communityconceived and is resident-led, otrAGLOW creates an opportunity to connect residents to one another and their community and helps to shape the ongoing dialogue with visitors to the neighborhood about the neighborhood’s history and transformation,” Rhiney said.

“And I think it’s important for our students to talk to nonprofit leaders who participate in otrAGLOW and the clients they serve—many of whom have been in the neighborhood for decades—about how they maintain and fulfill their mission during this time of change for our oldest neighborhood,” Rhiney said.