Wave Pool Uses Art to Connect a Community

Even in a time of social distancing and isolation, Wave Pool finds a way to tap the power of creativity to bring people together.

Wave Pool, Camp Washington’s “contemporary art fulfillment center,” regularly uses experimental art to connect people and tackle impossible-seeming problems. So how do you connect people in a time of social distancing and isolation? The empathy art evokes is a form of connection, notes Cal Cullen, cofounder and executive director of Wave Pool. “It becomes a way for people of all ages and all experiences to share and to feel their humanity in a really instinctual way.”

Illustration by Jason Solo

Maintaining those art-inspired connections can be made easier, for a nimble organization like Wave Pool, with a lengthy list of partnerships with other artists and organizations. As work dried up for many artists and creatives, the Contemporary Arts Center and Wave Pool together provided $42,500 (so far) in mini-grants to local artists through the Cincinnati Artist Relief Assistance Fund.

As well, Wave Pool launched a series of artist-led social connection projects in partnership with The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation, and inspired by former People’s Liberty CEO Eric Avner. The projects ranged from Jeffrey Miller’s Pink Flamingo Rescue (an adopt-a-flock model with a hundred plastic flamingos rotated across yards) to Katie Vogel’s Soup and Bread Cincy, which offered weekly virtual dinner meet-ups with dishes made from pantry staples and mid-dinner sets featuring local musicians. Another project, Douglas Borntrager’s Projection Connections, is a traveling light projection installation created in partnership with Know Theatre and other artists. For the first 12 weeks after closing its gallery doors mid-March, in a partnership with Freestore Food Bank, Wave Pool distributed more than 14,000 pounds of fresh produce and canned goods in Camp Delivery boxes to doorsteps around Camp Washington, along with a piece of artwork “to keep people’s spirits up and to feel connected,” says Cullen. During shutdown, a partnership with The Welcome Project transitioned community dinners to $20 “Welcome Table” meal kits with recipes by immigrant and refugee chefs and boxes featuring art by local artists.

All of it demonstrates how, even at a distance, artists and creatives can collaborate and make work that can move us—and keep us together.

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