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Celebrating Cincinnati's Diversity Through Art: ArtWorks Dedicates Cuban Cultural Mural in OTR

CINCINNATI — According to the 2020 U.S. Census, Cincinnati has become more diverse, with 6.8% of its residents born outside the U.S., almost twice as many as in 2000. In celebration of inclusion, ArtWorks started a mural series in 2023 to celebrate the various cultures in the city. “Azucar!,” designed by renowned illustrator and artist Jorge Rodriguez Diez, is a mural reflecting the resilience of the Cuban spirit, and the city's commitment to embracing its multicultural identity.
The mural will be celebrated at a special ArtWorks dedication on Sunday, June 23 from 1–4 p.m. at 1405 Walnut Street in Over the Rhine. The public event will include salsa dancing and music, specialty food options and words from Diez and the young apprentices who painted the mural. The presentation will begin at 1:30 p.m.
The musical mural, “Azúcar!," pays tribute to the famous Afro-Cuban singer and pan-Latina icon, Celia Cruz, who died in 2003. Cruz’s notable exclamation ‘Azúcar!’ (Sugar!), was part of her larger-than-life personality that earned her the title of the Queen of Latin Music. The mural features two individuals playing bongo drums against a deep lavender background, with lines radiating outwards. The design reflects on Cuba's complex history while also questioning it. Using stylized graphics and images typical of Cuban culture, the artist, Diez, creates a connection with its viewer. His art is influenced by his experiences as a Cuban artist and immigrant. He currently resides in Miami and holds the position of Chief Curator and Executive Director at the Museum of Contemporary Art of the Americas.
The mural's completion marks a milestone in ArtWorks' mission to democratize art and foster inclusivity within Cincinnati's artistic landscape. It follows the completion of the “Love Wins” mural celebrating 50 years of LGTBQ+ Pride in Cincinnati and an Indian Mandala mural at Esoteric in Walnut Hills. Additional cultural murals will be completed this summer.
The mural was painted in fall 2023. Teaching Artists Laura Diaz Perez and Joy Li led 10 apprentices on the project (ages 14–21). Partners for the project include Urban Sites and Jens Rosenkrantz Jr. and M. Katherine Hurley as part of their "Bridges Not Walls" project, Lisa and Leonard Saia, and Dena Cranley.
“2023 was a year that launched a new focus for ArtWorks to celebrate cultures,” said ArtWorks CEO & Artistic Director Colleen Houston. “Through intentional community partnerships and programmatic design, we aim to celebrate our diverse community now and into the future.”
Nico Breen
Sanada Caldwell
Julisa Chinchilla
Kaleah Crump
Grey Garrison
Isabella Hren
Kayla Jackson
Cora Legere
Nyla Reed
Teo Uribe

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