“So, go out and do something for a weekend on a budget of $50.”
When it comes to things like buying clothes or electronics or houses or cars, I am all about the deal. Full-priced clothing? Never. My laptop? A refurb. Car? Certified used. I don’t pay full price.
When it comes to food and activities, though, beyond things like event tickets, I don’t look for a deal. So when I was challenged with weekend activities for under $50, it took me a minute to figure out exactly what I’d do - and how I’d tie it in with food.
The easiest, most interesting way for me? Engage with the arts.
Cincinnati, in case you didn’t know, has a huge arts scene. From a nationally-known art museum to different neighborhood gallery events throughout the month, there’s something for everyone, and a lot of it is free or inexpensive.
First stop? Final Friday in Over-the-Rhine. While this was not part of my official #LivinInTheCin adventure due to time constraints, if you want an art-filled, under-$50-for-two weekend, this is the place to go. Stroll up and down Main Street, grab some cheese and wine at any of the galleries or other businesses that open their doors on Final Friday, and grab a couple of slices for dinner at Lucy Blue. Price? $6 (for the pizza).
On Saturday morning, get up and head to Holtman’s Donuts and ask, politely, if they have any warm glazed donuts. Warm or cold, these delicious, sweet homemade confections are worth the $1.25 each.
Your next stop? The Cincinnati Art Museum. Due to generous gifts, including one from The Richard and Lois Rosenthal Foundation, admission to the museum as well as special events are free! It does cost $4 for parking, but if you purchase $10 worth of food or gifts, that fee is waived.
The CAM has something for everyone. When we went, we focused on its best-known pieces of art, housed in the Schmidlapp Gallery. It’s a diverse collection: Andy Warhol’s soup cans; Eve Disconsolate by Hiram Powers (one of my very favorite sculptures; versions of it can be seen in museums around the world, including the Smithsonian); Frank Duveneck’s Whistling Boy; Greek and Roman statuary: a Tiffany and Company Loving Cup, among others. Just going through this area is a great introduction to all that the museum has to offer.
Then, decide what else you’d like to see: African art? Modern art? Renaissance paintings? We chose to see their latest exhibition on Fashion and Contemporary craft, which features some very interesting, unlikely pieces of art that are recent additions to the collection, such as spiraling, alligator-inspired shoes by Zaha Hadid (best known here for her design of the Contemporary Arts Center) and beautiful clothing made out of pleated, laminated fabric created by Hishinuma and famed designer Issey Miyake. For anyone who’s into fashion or contemporary art, this is the exhibition you must see.
Since this is #LivinInTheCin, you really shouldn’t miss an exhibit that might be easy to miss, very close to the cafe. The artist is Courttney Cooper, a local man, who created intricate, detailed maps of the city on pieces of discarded paper with a Bic pen, based on his own knowledge of the city and maps from phone books. It is both surprisingly accurate and moving: it is accurate down to the construction work being done in various areas, and also includes commentary based on the seasons. Each piece is well-worn, having been folded and unfolded enough to give the paper a fabriclike textures. It really must be seen to be believed,
Hungry? Good. Head into the Terrace Cafe for lunch. A lunch for two will run around $20: they have a wide variety of sandwiches and salads. I loved their butternut squash hummus and the delicious Asian salad, with a perfectly cooked chicken breast on top, all eaten within view of the lovely Museum terrace. Lunch will easily cover the $10 minimum for parking, and you’ll be full enough to brave your next stop!
Head south towards downtown, where you’ll find, nestled in Lytle Park, the Taft Museum of Art. This historic home now houses an interesting collection of locally- and nationally-known art, including art from the Sinton-Taft collections and Nicholas Longworth’s collection.
Charles Phelps Taft, brother of William Howard Taft, was the publisher of the Cincinnati Times-Star, later the Post. Anna Sinton Taft funded what is now ArtsWave, and has left a legacy including their home and art collection, both donated to the city after their deaths.
The art here is a fantastic walk through both Cincinnati and world history: in the foyer, check out the paintings by Robert Duncanson, an African-American painter hired by Nicholas Longworth (another influential Cincinnatian: former Speaker of the House of Representatives, arts supporter and son-in-law of Teddy Roosevelt). You’ll see Dutch masters, including Rembrandt van Rijn, works by Goya, Sargent, and Farny. You’ll also see work by Frank Duveneck, arguably the most famous Cincinnati artist, including his painting “The Cobbler’s Apprentice,” which was recently turned into a mural near Great American Ballpark by ArtWorks. My very favorite painting is “A World of their Own” by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, which depicts two lovers on the beach. The best thing about the Taft? You’re likely familiar with their collection, through their public art projects and advertising. It’s even better to see everything in person.
So, for Friday and most of a Saturday…
Final Friday: Free
Pizza at Lucy Blue’s: $6
Doughnuts at Holtmann’s: $2.50
Admission and parking at the Cincinnati Art Museum: $0
Lunch at the Terrace Cafe: $20
Admission to the Taft Museum of Art: $18 (The Better Half is a teacher so he received a discount. Admission is free if you visit on a Sunday.)
Grand total? $46.50 Not bad for two people. Cincinnati has such a vibrant - and affordable - arts community that shouldn’t be missed.
Want more opportunities to experience art? Check out ArtsWave to see what is new and interesting in Cincinnati.