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Photograph courtesy Contemporary Arts Center
The cries of nostalgic city dwellers have been heard: the Contemporary Arts Center’s Metrobot is returning to the streets of Cincinnati. After five years of accumulating dust and rust in deep storage, the 26-foot-tall, tech-heavy Nam June Paik sculpture will soon take up residence on Walnut near Sixth Street.
Originally constructed in 1988, the relic is getting a facelift for its September 10 unveiling: It’s currently being sandblasted, acid-washed, and otherwise aesthetically prepped for its big debut, says Tom Strohmaier, of Strohmaier Design Group, which is renovating Metrobot. The finished product will be structurally identical but with modern inner-workings. The new-and-improved ’bot will also have a graffiti-resistant coating (“street art” was a perpetual issue with the old ’bot), and energy-efficient LED lighting will replace the old fluorescent bulbs, adds Strohmaier.
For those worried about the sculpture’s usefulness, fear not: the old pay phone is being restored (calls will cost a dime). And the CAC will utilize Metrobot’s arm-supported state-of-the-art message board to beam whimsical messages nearly 24/7. If nothing else, it’ll make a cool backdrop for the selfie-savvy and landmark-happy tourists alike.
Originally published in the September 2014 issue