Visitors with an interactive light projection from BLINK® 2019
Photo credit: Bergette Photography

As BLINK®, illuminated by ArtsWave, returns this October, it serves as a case study in industry collaboration, pairing international and local artists together to thematically showcase the Cincinnati region through its arts. This collaborative mindset is shaping the festival's content focus and decisions while taking the event to new heights in putting Cincinnati on the map.

The first wave of BLINK artists, 23 in total, drew international attention to the region. According to the Cincinnati USA Regional chamber, the announcement garnered nearly 38 million media impressions worldwide. In a recent feature about the artists, Juxtapoz Magazine lauded the "unbelievable amount of sheer talent and dedication poised to flood the Cincinnati streets."

The artist announcement also illustrates how the event will take the collaborative mindset to the next level. "We are bringing in some of the best artists in the world, and we also want to give the biggest opportunity to our local artists to be on the world stage," notes Andrew Salzbrun, managing partner of AGAR and one of the three executive partners of BLINK.

As one example, Australia-based artist Wendy Yu needed to find local dancers for a light-based community performance. Meanwhile, Hip Hop-based cultural arts center Elementz wanted to find an active role in the experience for their many talented dancers. BLINK's executive director, Justin Brookhart, connected Yu with Damien Hoskins, general manager of Elementz. "We're very excited about bringing these two worlds together," notes Hoskins. "We're being intentional in doing the kind of work that bridges cultural divides, and I think this does that on an international as well as local level."

BLINK organizers also connected Portuguese muralist AddFuel with Rookwood Pottery, combining an artist whose work is informed by historic tile patterns and a local company with a 140+ year tradition in that art form. Meanwhile, London-based interdisciplinary artist Shantell Martin and Boston's MASARY Studios will each collaborate on projects with youth apprentices from ArtWorks.

This year's BLINK parade, organized by ish, steps up inclusion efforts with its theme, "Together: a constellation of shared cultures and unique identities; we illuminate joy through creative expression." Israeli art collective OGE Design Group will bring that theme to life with their installation, "Together," featuring projected images by local photographers of butterflies and birds.

In addition to these partnerships, organizations across the Cincinnati region will become "Proud Friends of BLINK," creating complementary events and installations that supplement and augment the BLINK experience. These projects — called "Local Illuminations" — are not officially part of BLINK, although they dovetail the event's theme: "Where the community comes together to play."

"Local Illuminations" is the latest example of a sector-wide collaborative marketing effort for the arts. The initiative is built on the framework of ArtsWave's Blueprint for Collective Action for the Arts Sector, which guides the organization's community investments and strategic initiatives. "Local Illuminations" will also serve as a pilot project for "ArtsWave Chat," a new tool for the Cincinnati region's arts sector to facilitate communication, information sharing and collaboration.

As a free public art experience, BLINK is built on the promise of a more vibrant regional economy and connected community through the arts. Even months ahead of the event, strong collaborations and international attention show how the arts can build connections. As sculptor, installation artist and BLINK participant Mallory Feltz notes, "BLINK is open to everyone. It's important for art to share creativity, discovery, joy and wonder, and that's the beauty of BLINK. That's what it does for everyone."


BLINK is a trademark of the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr.,/U.S. Bank Foundation exclusively licensed by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber.