The Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) in Cincinnati today announced plans to redesign the sixth floor of its landmark Zaha Hadid–designed building and open a new Creativity Center. The Center, an environmentally conscious hub for creative learning, will amplify the CAC’s commitment to fostering innovation and curiosity in audiences of all ages. The Creativity Center project will transform the sixth floor of the Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art—currently an interactive gallery and education space formerly known as the UnMuseum®—into a dynamic intergenerational learning space centered around creativity and exploration connected to the art and ideas of our time. The CAC has partnered with Chicago-based architecture firm Mir Collective to realize this bold new paradigm for learning within the museum space, which will merge interactive galleries, ample making spaces, and community-centric gathering and gallery areas—with a focus on environmental sustainability. Initial construction work on the Creativity Center began in October 2021 and the project is slated for completion in late summer 2022.
“As a non-collecting institution, the core of our work at the CAC revolves around the creative process of artists, performers, and makers around the globe and local artists from our region,” said Marcus Margerum, the CAC’s Interim Alice & Harris Weston Director. “The Creativity Center not only gives us more room to expand the work we’re currently doing with visual and performing arts programming, artist residencies, learning and community-based initiatives, and hands-on intergenerational engagement, but also to reinvent the notion of the contemporary arts institution as a robust resource for creativity. We are excited to partner with Mir Collective on this groundbreaking project, as their creative approach to community engagement, sustainability, and inclusivity aligns closely with our own mission and values as an institution.”
“Even throughout the pandemic-induced challenges of the past two years, the CAC has remained committed to championing creativity in our communities, offering virtual programs, distributing art-making kits for at-home use, and supporting local artists through grants and residencies,” said Gale Beckett, President of the CAC’s Board of Trustees. “Through the Creativity Center, the CAC hopes to instill in future generations the capacity to be hyper-creative and hyper-entrepreneurial, empathetic and curious, while remaining environmentally conscious.”
In 2003, the CAC moved into the seven-story Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, the first U.S. project designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Zaha Hadid. Hadid’s original design, an “urban carpet” that dynamically draws visitors from the sidewalks of one of the city’s busiest intersections into the building and up through the galleries, was visionary in establishing a critical connection to the center of urban life in Cincinnati.
Since its opening, the sixth floor of the Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art has housed the Sara M. and Patricia A. Vance UnMuseum® and provided space for children, family programs, and tours. The redesigned sixth floor will continue to host the UnMuseum® and will also expand to incorporate a large studio and a network of pavilions for exploration and gathering. Mir Collective’s design opens up the floor to Hadid’s “urban carpet,” creating a brighter, more inviting space that is integrated physically and programmatically with the city and its communities.
With 10,000 square feet of flexible space, the new Creativity Center will provide a vibrant spatial canvas for visitors to engage with art, connect with others, and use creative experimentation as a means to explore the increasingly complex issues of humanity, including environmental sustainability, global awareness, identity, health and wellbeing, and innovation. The Center will allow the CAC to further extend its mission of encouraging artists and visitors alike to tap into the boundless possibilities of their own creativity, placing an even greater emphasis on the creative process as a critical tool for learning, skill development, problem solving, and fostering empathy and understanding for all ages. The Creativity Center also makes possible new initiatives like a sensory-friendly program and the expansion of current initiatives, such as the CAC’s Co-LAB program, which supports selected local artists with financial, marketing, and mentoring support. The Co-LAB program was initially launched by the CAC in 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, to create opportunities for local artists and organizations to work with the CAC to realize community-oriented projects, and the Creativity Center will offer space to these artists to develop new projects and share their work with the community through programming and events. The CAC expects to leverage the Creativity Center to extend the impact of other ongoing efforts to encourage creativity, learning, and engagement during the pandemic (e.g. the distribution of 4,500 art-making kits through libraries, food pantries, and public schools; the organization of over 100 virtual programs for children, teens, and educators; and the support of nearly 100 local artists through COVID-relief grants provided in partnership with Wave Pool, another local contemporary art organization).
At the core of the Creativity Center project is the CAC’s continued commitment to environmental sustainability, reflected in the addition of a zero-waste, upcycling art lab, and the use of sustainable and repurposed materials in the construction of the pavilions and other design elements. Art-making activities that take place in the Creativity Center will focus on the use of natural materials, many of which will be sourced through the CAC’s ongoing partnerships with the Cincinnati Parks and others. These elements, along with other ongoing programs, bolster the CAC’s commitment to recycling, composting, using non-toxic materials, and achieving a 50% reduction of energy use, water consumption, and transportation emissions by the year 2030. The project will also support the CAC’s pursuit of LEED certification for Operations and Maintenance (O+M) for its entire building.
Key elements of the Creativity Center include:
- A zero-waste art lab where recycling, upcycling, and other forms of zero-waste and net-positive waste systems will be explored
- A large studio hosting intergenerational creative programs that deploy a full suite of analog and digital tools for making and creative experimentation
- The updated UnMuseum® interactive gallery, with projects by local and national artists that engage visitors in a hands-on exploration of the complexities of our world
- An archipelago of pod-like pavilions, offering a series of work niches for welcoming creative exploration opportunities and small gathering or comfortable observation of the studio activities
- An experimental “town square”-type space for art-inspired discourse with city skyline views through CAC- and community-curated programming
- An ever-changing community gallery with increased visual connection to the urban carpet and galleries below, dedicated to celebrating the creativity of CAC visitors of all ages by inviting them to display their own work
This project is the second major update to the CAC’s building since its 2003 opening, following a renovation of the lobby in 2015 that transformed it into a more welcoming, artistic, and hospitable space at the street level. Together, the lobby renovation, the implementation of free admission in 2016, and the CAC’s renewed commitments to sustainability and community engagement have tripled attendance numbers to nearly 160,000 per year, generating an even stronger demand for space and programs that the Creativity Center aims to fill.
Fundraising is underway for the $4.9 million project, which includes construction costs and ongoing support. Of the $4.6 million of private and public funding that has been raised to date, generous gifts have come from Rosemary and Mark Schlachter, Alice Weston, Marilyn Scripps, Lynne Meyers Gordon, the Kroger Company, the Jacob G. Schmidlapp Trusts, Fifth Third Foundation, the Kettering Foundation, the Thomas J. Emery Memorial Fund, and from the State of Ohio and the City of Cincinnati.