Trip Peek #54
Trip #74
Easter Weekend 2009

This picture is from my Easter Weekend 2009 trip. I found the VW Rabbit in appropriate holiday garb on the second day of the three day outing. The trip was something of a catch-all with some old roads, a stop at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, and a stop at Pymatuning Reservoir spillway “Where the Ducks Walk on the Fish”. A highlight of the trip, and one reason for its direction, was a Patrick Sweany concert with his father, “Hot Tub” Sweany. accompanying him on washtub bass.


Trip Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the associated trip journal.

Trip Peek #51
Trip #18
Big E, DC, and the Cardinal

This picture is from my 2004 Big E, DC, and the Cardinal trip. The trip appears in my top ten “Decent” list and it certainly deserves to be there. The Big E in the title is the USS Enterprise, the world’s first nuclear powered aircraft carrier. My youngest son was serving aboard the huge carrier at the time and I was privileged to be part of a three day Tiger Cruise as she moved from Florida to her home port at Newport News, Virginia. With no military experience of my own, those few days sleeping and eating with my son’s crew mates was quite educational even though it was a spruced-up danger-free family-style version of life at sea. All airplanes were removed from the carrier before we civilians came on board but a few returned to provide landing and take-off demonstrations. The photo shows a S-3B Viking being launched.

After a couple of days in Newport News with my son and his family, I took a train to Washington, DC, and checked out a few museums and monuments. The Amtrak train that runs between Chicago and New York City is named the Cardinal. It provides Cincinnati’s only passenger rail connection and it carried me home at the end of the trip.


Trip Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the associated trip journal.

Vikings: Beyond the Legend

After a couple of aborted attempts, I finally made it to the Vikings: Beyond the Legend exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum Center. A multi-year rehabilitation of Union Terminal, the Museum Center’s home, has begun and has closed all museum areas except for the Children’s Museum, the space used for traveling exhibits such as this, and the ticket and information counter seen at right. The counter is actually the front part of the large ticket and information facility in the center of the terminal’s large rotunda. A portion of the rotunda has been enclosed to provide the pictured entrance area. That impressive rotunda with its huge murals is just on the other side of those walls. The Children’s Museum and the traveling exhibit space are both on the lower level which is what allows them to remain open. A window has been installed along the path to the lower level which allows visitors to peek into some of the emptied and stripped museum space awaiting attention.

The exhibit of more than 500 artifacts opened in November and will remain through April. It is the largest collection of Viking artifacts to ever visit North America and Cincinnati is its first stop. It also has the distinction of being the largest exhibit, in terms of physical size, to appear at the Cincinnati Museum Center. For most, the word Viking conjures up an image of a large rough looking fellow with a huge ax or sword who is constantly pillaging and burning with a little time off to guzzle mead. As the subtitle “Beyond the Legend” implies, the exhibit is intended to give attendees a somewhat more rounded view. That intention is reinforced with the advertising slogan “The horns are fake. The beards are real.”

Vikings were not a race or even a nation. In fact, they didn’t use the word to identify themselves but to identify something they did. To go viking meant to go on an adventure. Sometimes they did go viking in order to pillage and burn but often it was to trade or explore. The exhibit includes plenty of items from their peaceful farms and villages and there are many examples of fine craftsmanship and artistry. Of course not all of items found in the Viking’s Scandinavian homelands were made there. Many were obtained through trading or raiding.

Apparently raiding still forms a major portion of my personal Viking image. I looked over reproductions of clothing and was actually quite impressed by the many examples of artistic metal work but when I got home and looked at the pictures I’d taken, I found mostly weapons or heavy tools. It’s possible that they were just the most photogenic but it seems at least as likely that they simply fit my preconceived notion of the Viking world.

But perhaps even more than the beards and swords, my concept of Vikings is fueled by the visual of a sleek longship floating gracefully through a fjord. The Vikings: Beyond the Legend exhibit includes four ships. A glimpse of the 21 foot long Karl, a reconstruction, can be seen at the left side of the dim photo marking this article’s second paragraph. The first picture here is of part of a ghost ship defined by metal rivets suspended where they would have held the long ago rotted planks of a hull in place. The second is of the 26 foot Krampmacken. In the 1980s, this reconstructed merchant ship sailed from the island of Gotland to Istanbul. The last picture shows the reason this is physically the largest exhibit mounted by the Cincinnati Museum Center. At 122 feet long, the Roskilde 6 is the longest Viking ship ever discovered. The ship is outlined by a modern skeleton that holds approximately 25% of the thousand year old hull in place. This is the first time it has been displayed outside of Europe.

These are reproductions of three of the more than 3,200 rune stones have been found throughout Scandnavia. Scholars consider the Viking Age to be bounded by their destruction of the abbey at Lindisfarne in 783 CE and their defeat at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066. During that time Christianity made major progress in replacing the worship of a collection of gods headed by Odin. While the rune stones were typically erected to commemorate some significant event, many include Christian components and some think they may have at least partially been advertisements for the newer religion.

A Full Day of PT
(Public Transportation)

afdopt01On Tuesday, I climbed aboard a Cincinnati city bus for probably the first time, other than some event specific shuttles, since 1970. Prior to taking a job in South Lebanon near the end of 1970, I worked downtown and often rode the bus from Pleasant Ridge and, before that, Clifton. I don’t believe bus service extended much beyond Pleasant Ridge in 1970. Probably Kenwood. Possibly Montgomery. Now buses run all the way to Kings Island, just a couple miles short of that South Lebanon job, but they don’t run often. Their purpose is to connect people with jobs so there is a flurry at the start of the work day and another at the end. Little in between and even less on weekends. I’ve long thought of heading downtown on a bus but the sparse schedule put me off. Boarding a bus in the morning essentially means being gone for the rest of the day. That’s not really a problem, of course. It happens often. Committing to it in advance and knowing that there will be no car a shortish walk away is somewhat different, however.

afdopt02afdopt03I decided to go for the first run of the day. The route starts about a block from my home and, as can be seen in the up top photo, the bus arrived and I was on board — alone — a little before the 6:07 departure. There are two other pickup points, both a little to the north, before the bus hits the southbound expressway for downtown. Four passengers were added at the first one and sixteen at the second. The second was at Kings Island where I tryed to take a picture of the distant sign in the dark. Once on I-71, everyone, except the driver and a lady knitting, had their eyes on their phone or an e-reader.

afdopt05afdopt04Total ride time was almost exactly one hour and I arrived downtown just a few minutes past 7:00. I spent a little time on Fountain Square which is in minor disarray as the skating rink is put in place for the winter. The moon, just two days past full, plays the part of a halo for the fountain. It has been drained of water but still looks good and will look even better before the day ends.

afdopt06afdopt07I boarded the day’s second form of public transport next to Fountain Square. When I rode the Cincinnati Bell Connector during its inaugural weekend, it was always full. Today, it carried just one passenger when I boarded at Fountain Square. It was a handicapped lady and I got to watch her drive her electric scooter directly from the car to the platform when she exited a few stops before I did. Pretty slick.

afdopt10afdopt09afdopt08I had thought to have breakfast at the recently reopened (after a fire) Tucker’s but discovered that they are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. I substituted the even older (1936 vs. 1946) Dunlap Cafe. It’s just a block away from the northernmost streetcar stop at Rhinegeist Brewery. Besides good and cheap eats, the Dunlap has an impressive beer can collection that includes several from Olde Frothingslosh. In the past, I hadn’t paid much attention to the little park across the street but the benches caught my eye today. I’m guessing that nearby residents are responsible for the tiles.

afdopt11afdopt12I will be traveling on November 8 so, for the second time in my life, I won’t be physically going to the polls on election day. I figured out which streetcar stop was closest to the Board of Elections location and set off on the next train to drop off my absentee ballot. A small-world moment occurred along the way. At an intermediate stop, friend, blogger (Queen City Discovery), and author (Fading Ads of Cincinnati) Ronny Salerno stepped aboard and we got to chat until he stepped off one stop before mine. At the ballot drop box, a lady in front of me posed for a selfie with her ballot in hand and the box as background then offered to take my picture dropping the envelope. I thanked her for the offer but opted for just a shot of my hand and ballot.

afdopt14afdopt13There is also something of a coincidence involved here. After dropping off my ballot, I walked back toward the center of town with no real destination in mind. I reached this park, Cincinnati’s oldest, by chance and the coincidence is that I recently read a blog post about the man who donated it to the city. Until a few years ago, I sort of assumed this was Garfield Park because of the statue of our twentieth president. It’s real name is Piatt Park. I’m sure that reading Cincinnati’s Richest Man Died In Debtor’s Prison a week or so ago has a lot to do with my taking and posting these pictures.  A statue of our ninth president, William Henry Harrison, stands at the other end of the park. Combined, the two presidents honored here served less than eight months. Harrison 32 days, Garfield 200 days.

afdopt15afdopt16Fire on the fountain. Apparently if you need to clean something big and bronze, a torch and a brush is the way to go. The workmen told me that the 145 year old Tyler Davidson Fountain (a.k.a. The Genius of Water) gets this treatment twice each year. Good ventilation, I suspect, is also important.

afdopt19afdopt18afdopt17On impulse, I ducked into the Carew Tower and rode the elevator to the observation deck for a different view of the torch & brush guys. When I was last here, in November of 2014, the ice rink was in place and in use. Today workers were still assembling it. 84.51° is both the name and longitude of the marketing company that was spun off from became a subsidiary of (see first comment below) grocery giant Kroger last year. The third picture is of the mid-demolition Pogue’s Garage which, by coincidence, I recently read about in an article whose author, by coincidence, I ran into earlier in the day.

afdopt20afdopt21afdopt22Visiting the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center was something I’d tentatively planned to do and walking down to it from the Carew Tower worked into my day quite nicely. One reason for wanting to visit today was the center’s participation in the current Foto Focus Cincinnati. I very much enjoyed the Foto Focus exhibits but took no pictures of them. The river beyond the center’s Eternal Flame was once the boundary between slavery and freedom. Construction of the suspension bridge that crosses it was interrupted by the Civil War. The third pictures shows one of the displays reminding visitors that forms of slavery still exist in the world today.

afdopt25afdopt24afdopt23The day’s third flavor of mass transit picked me up just outside the Freedom Center. Operated by the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky, the Southbank Shuttle connects Newport and Covington, Kentucky, with Cincinnati’s riverfront. I rode it to near the Beer Sellar on Newport’s Riverboat Row but found it not yet open. I ended up sipping a beer on Hooters’ deck.

afdopt26afdopt27There are several new Cincinnati restaurants I’ve yet to try and today it was The Eagle‘s turn. The Southbank Shuttle took me to Fountain Square and the Cincinnati Bell Connector took be to within a couple blocks of The Eagle. It’s a place known for its fried chicken and it did not disappoint. It was accompanied by “spicy hot honey” that reminded me of how, just a few blocks away, The Genius of Water was being cleaned. I’m an admitted wimp and I know that what I thought fiery others would think just right or even mild but it was not for me. Properly warned, I sampled the honey with small drizzles on a couple of bites then put it aside and enjoyed the chicken and the spicy — but not spicy hot — cheese grits.

afdopt28Had I walked directly to to the streetcar station after eating, I could have boarded almost immediately. Instead, I watched a train stop and continue as I strolled through Washington Park. I strolled on and caught the next one after only a few minutes. Time to the next car is normally displayed at each station but that wasn’t the case at this particular station at this particular time. The wait was around ten minutes. At my three previous boardings, displayed times had been 8, 6, and 12 minutes. The first ride of the day was the only time I entered a nearly empty car. The others were maybe a third to half full. I snapped the photo, showing that my ride home was four minutes away, about a dozen minutes after I arrived at the stop near Fountain Square. The ride back to a block from my home would cost $4.25. I’d used a free ride pass (received when I signed up for Cincy EZRide) for the ride into town. EZRide supports the purchase and use of Metro Bus and Cincinnati Bell Connector tickets from both Apple and Android smart phones. I purchased and activated my $2 all day Connector pass with it although I was never called on to show the pass. Each Southbank Shuttle ride costs $1. Even without an introductory free ride I can go from my home near Kings Island to the northern bits of Over the Rhine to Riverboat Row on the south side of the Ohio River and back home again for $12.50 ($4.25+$2+$1+$1+$4.25). The last route 71 bus leaves the Fountain Square area at 5:30 so it won’t work for a normal time dinner or an evening event but it’s a very sensible way to spend a day in the big city.

ACDs Seen

acds01Three of America’s most revered marques of the early twentieth century were manufactured in Auburn, Indiana, and the town celebrates that fact every year. The 2016 Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival is the sixtieth. It has been going on for over a week but is almost over with the wrap-up taking place today. I have thought of attending the festival for a long time but a recent Dennis Horvath blog post reminded me of just how big the event is and got me to seriously thinking about finally making it there this year. Tentative plans for other Labor Day Weekend activities kept attendance from being a certainty but both schedule and skies were clear when the weekend actually got here so Friday morning I headed toward northern Indiana.

acds02acds03acds04I reached Auburn during staging for the Factory Test Route Tour. The pair of Cords pictured at the top of this post formed the front row and another Cord sat in the rear. I walked to just beyond the police motorcycle escort then watched the group set off to follow the twenty-eight mile course that the Auburn Automobile Company once used to test new cars.

acds07acds06acds05Of course the tour’s start point was the company’s headquarters which is now the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum. Window shoppers can easily identify at least some of the cars.

acds08acds09This was my second visit to the museum where the building, the cars, and the presentation combine to make this one of the finest automobile museums I’ve ever seen. Over a hundred cars fill the museum and, while they are mostly Auburns, Cords, and Duesenbergs, other interesting and significant cars are also displayed. Office areas with various exhibits are also part of the museum.

acds12acds11acds10Being right next to a world class museum no doubt helps with traffic but it does expose you to some tough comparisons. My first impression of the National Automotive and Truck Museum was not helped by the fact that cars for the auctions that are an important aspect of the festival filled a significant portion of the museum. This meant that many museum vehicles were relocate and displays compressed. On the other hand, the museum’s truck collection does include some truly interesting vehicles.

acds13acds14A downtown Classic Car Cruise-In ended my first day ever at the ACD festival. There were plenty of beautiful and interesting classics parked along the streets but, after seeing all those pre-war ACDs, hot-rods, muscle cars, and ’50s & ’60s classics didn’t hold quite the attraction they might otherwise. The vehicle I found most interesting was a Corvair camper. It is not a converted van but a factory built shell mounted on a pick-up bed.

acds17acds16acds15Saturday started with a pancake breakfast at the National Military History Center. There are actually two museums here and today ten bucks got you breakfast plus admission to both.

acds18acds19acds20The day’s main attraction for me was the Parade of Classics. The 1912 Auburn Town car in the first picture was featured in this year’s festival poster. I had expected downtown to be jam packed for the parade but, except for the courthouse lawn, the area wasn’t crowded at all. There’s an awful lot going on in town this week and the parade isn’t the only place these cars can be seen but that still surprised me.

acds23acds22acds21One of the places to see the cars is around the courthouse square where they all park immediately following the parade. The cars are roped off but you can still get mighty close and all those shiny ACDs are mighty pretty.

Let’s Race Some Cardboard

cbr24_00New Richmond’s 24th Annual Cardboard Board Regatta took place on Saturday. It would have made a great Sunday morning blog post but that slot was already taken by the Beatles concert anniversary (It Was Fifty Years Ago Today). I have done two posts on a single day before and it would have worked as a Sunday evening post but I just didn’t have the time to get it together. When I realized that wouldn’t be possible, I considered not doing any post at all but decided that photos of what the organizers describe as “corrugated chaos” deserve to be seen. With time available, a Monday evening post came together. I’ve posted previous regattas (tag = Cardboard Boat Regatta) so won’t say much about the event beyond reminding readers that all of these wonderful watercraft are made of nothing but cardboard, duct tape, paint, and creativity. More information can be found at the Cardboard Boat Museum website.

I won’t say much about the pictures, which I’m posting as a gallery, either. I will just draw attention to a couple of interest. Each year the pros at the museum build a boat that is raffled off as part of a turnkey race entry. Water Wars was this year’s raffle boat. The last photo shows the start of the race for the prestigious “Cardboard Cup”. Any boat that raced earlier and still survives may enter.

Trip Peek #38
Trip #100
Hail, Hail Rock w/o Rail

This picture is from my 2011 Hail, Hail Rock w/o Rail trip. Yes, that’s a pretty goofy name but I can explain. In May of 2011, I went to Saint Louis, Missouri, to see Chuck Berry and called the trip, Hail, Hail Rock ‘n’ Roll. My original plans for this trip were to ride a train to Washington, DC, to see two concerts. Calling it Hail, Hail Rock ‘n’ Rail seemed quite clever. But, less than two days before the scheduled departure, the train was canceled. I saved the trip by driving but, in the flurry of rearrangements, the best I could do for the title was replace “‘n'” with “w/o” which isn’t very clever at all. I saw Dirk Hamilton (pictured) and Josh Hisle (opening for Stephen Stills) in concert plus Fort McHenry, Ocean City, museums, diners, and colorful fall foliage. As I said in a trip postlude. “…everything was perfect for a train ride except the train.”

The trip was my 100th so I did a blog post to mark the occasion and reflect a bit on previous journeys. This Trip Peek is being posted following trip 135.


Trip Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the associated trip journal.

New Old Ohio

ov1890A couple of Ohio History Connection sites are reopening this weekend after pretty big makeovers. On Saturday I visited Ohio Village which moved from the 1860s to the 1890s since I last saw it. I’ll reach the Hayes Presidential Center, which reopens with new displays after a major renovation. Saturday’s journal has been posted.

The journal for the trip is here. This entry is to let blog subscribers know of the trip and to provide a place for comments.

Ohio Predictions

ghd2016_01If I’d had any confidence that I would actually attend a Groundhog Day event this year, I might have posted a canned article last week and saved the Happy Imbolc piece for today to be fleshed out with the latest news. But the truth is that I wasn’t sure I would make it to Buckeye Chuck‘s dawn pronouncement until just minutes before I was on the way. I was noncommittal when I went to bed on Monday. If I woke up in time and in the mood to go, I would, but I set no alarm clock and told myself that sleeping through the whole thing would be just fine. I awoke at 4:04, four minutes past what I had decided was the ideal departure time. There was slack in that ideal time but I waffled for a few minutes before finally deciding to go. I hit the shower and then the road and reached Marion, Ohio, right about 7:00. The photo of Buckeye Chuck in his cage was taken at 7:03.

ghd2016_02The gathering in Marion isn’t nearly as large as the one in Punxsutawney but it is respectable. Radio station WMRN has been offering localized groundhog predictions since the late 1970s when Charlie Evers started sharing those provided by groundhogs in the neighboring woods with listeners. That led to a naming contest that produced the name Buckeye Chuck and Evers was instrumental in getting the Ohio legislature to proclaim Buckeye Chuck the state’s official groundhog in 1979. The original Buckeye Chuck was present today, patiently posing for photos. Evers has moved on but is still a force in the area with a show on radio station WWGH.

ghd2016_04ghd2016_03A WMRN Groundhog Day tradition is providing free ground hog, in the form of Spam sandwiches, to everyone present. That’s Buckeye Chuck’s current partner and translator, Scott Shawver taking the first bite of his. I had my own which I consumed with less ceremony but possibly more enthusiasm.

ghd2016_05ghd2016_06Broadcasting from the stage near Buckeye Chuck went live at 7:15, just a few minutes before Shawver bit into that sandwich. Sunrise was at 7:41. The time in between was filled with the reading of a couple of proclamations, including one from Marion Mayor Scott Schertzer and assorted banter from Shawver and co-host Paul James. When they began wondering about who had come the farthest, I thought I might be in the running but the first question, “Anyone from out of state?”, turned up a couple from New Jersey. They visit a different groundhog each year. Last year it was General Beauregard Lee near Atlanta, Georgia, and they have been to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania “many times”. Clouds continued moving steadily on and by the time the sun popped over the horizon the sky was pretty much clear. Buckeye Chuck saw his shadow, an indicator that six more weeks of winter should be expected, instantly.

ghd2016_07The mildly disappointed crowd dispersed rather quickly although some took advantage of the daylight to get a better view or a better picture of Buckeye Chuck while Shawver and James wrapped up the program. I dawdled a bit before walking to the car. Deciding to drive to Marion was as far as my morning planning had progressed. Just before climbing into the car, I asked the only person standing nearby if he knew of a good place for breakfast. “No,” he said with a laugh, “I’m from Cleveland.”

ghd2016_08Scanning signs and storefronts as I drove back through Marion,I spotted a likely looking place near the center of town. I took the photo as I left. The street in front of Baires Restaurant was completely empty when I arrived. A guy at the counter and another in a booth were drinking coffee and chatting with each other when I entered. Service was somewhat slow but the lone woman on the business side of the counter seemed pretty busy in the cooking area so I didn’t think too much of it. The first person to enter after me was a fellow on a walker. As he worked his way into the seat next to me and against the wall, I asked, thinking it might be easier, if he would rather sit where I was. “This one’s got my name on it,” he laughed and he meant it. He pointed to a small brass plate on the back of the swivel stool marking it as his regular seat. The cook/waitress immediately appeared with his grapefruit which I had noticed her preparing earlier. My food arrived as I chatted with my new neighbor and learned that the restaurant normally opened at 8:30. It was not yet a quarter past when I entered and what I took to be slow service was more than I had a right to expect. Now that the place was officially open, a number of people entered with new folks greeted, usually by name, by those already there. As I paid my bill, I joked with the person I now realized was cook/waitress/owner about me busting in early and she grinned. “Oh, you’re alright.” In case there is any question, I had sausage & eggs.

ghd2016_10ghd2016_09One of the reasons I had been so nonchalant about possibly sleeping through Buckeye Chuck’s emergence was that I had a Plan B. The day’s big event at Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, where I’d watched a groundhog named Rosie make her prediction in 2013, was aimed toward a much younger crowd and was scheduled for a comfortable 10:00 AM. I hadn’t even thought about it after starting toward Marion but I got curious as I was about to select “Home” on the GPS, and tapped Boonshoft instead. When I did, I realized that, without the breakfast stop, I probably could have worked in both Chuck and Rosie. Since it made the time to home only slightly longer, I proceeded to the museum. The last load of attending school children were about to climb aboard their bus when I arrived. Rosie’s appearance had taken place more than forty minutes earlier but I coud see the official result. She agreed with Chuck.

Not many did. Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring as did all the other U.S. groundhogs on my short list consisting of Staten Island’s Charles G. Hogg, Illinois’ Woodstock Willie, and Georgia’s General Beauregard Lee. The only groundhog of note that I found agreeing with Chuck and Rosie lives in Canada but not all Canadians are of the same mind, either. In Ontario, Wiarton Willie sided with the Ohio rodents in predicting more winter while Shubenacadie Sam claims an early spring is on the way in Nova Scotia.


imbolc2016As stated in last week’s post, I had no plans to be awake at 4:30 AM Thursday. That was when Imbolc, the midpoint between Winter Solstice and Vernal Equinox, occurred this year. Neither did I have plans to assure that I was asleep at that time but that seemed the most likely and it is indeed what transpired. I didn’t miss it by too much, though. The picture at left was taken at 5:22, a mere fifty-two minutes past Imbolc. Admitedly I can’t prove it but I strongly suspect that the view from my bed was pretty much the same at the magic moment as it was less than an hour later.

The Art of the Brick

aotb01“Remember”, says Nathan Sawaya, “it all starts with one brick.” Sawaya is the artist responsible for all those LEGO® sculptures currently on display at Cincinnati’s Museum Center in “The Art of the Brick”. I failed to do my homework before visiting the exhibit on Monday though I actually think that might have helped as much as it hurt. Since I’m writing about it, I’m obviously not advocating that everyone attend with the level of ignorance I had but I can’t help but think my off target expectations caused me to be more impressed with some aspects of the exhibit than I would have been otherwise.

aotb02aotb03aotb04Museum mailings on the exhibit included “Make & Take” and “Harry Potter Building Part” promotions. Apparently those “fun & games” promises made more of an impression on me than the word “art” in the title. What I expected, I suppose, was a collection of technically impressive structures. My misconception was not immediately apparent as things started off with items that were either flat or fairly shallow base-relief. Most were copies of popular works which more or less supported the idea of “technically impressive”.

aotb07aotb06aotb05Next up were some fully 3-dimensional copies of some 2- dimensional works of art. These were followed by reproductions of some familiar 3-D sculptures. The technology was more complex and the results more impressive but it was still, you know…

aotb08aotb09Then things changed. I don’t really know what Sawaya had in mind when he chose the word “metamorphosis” to identify a particular subset of his work but I do know it fit what I experienced. When I first entered the exhibit I didn’t even know that it was the work of one man. I learned that during the introductory video. I now realized that the word “art” in the title was no accident. Venus de Milo and friends were essentially the last “reproductions” in the exhibit. Sawaya’s vision would pretty much rule from here on out. An athlete is captured mid-stroke in Swimmer. Facemask is a self portrait.

aotb12aotb11aotb10That Sawaya is a talented artist as well as a skilled technician becomes even more apparent in his “Human Condition” collection.

aotb13aotb14As Sawaya notes, Yellow is probably his best known piece. Its ability to grab attention gets it featured in plenty of ads and brochures. Full frontal shots are everywhere and oblique views aren’t uncommon. This “dark side of the moon” shot is a kind of rare, however. Sawaya also notes that it gets that attention from both young and old. For adults he conjectures that it is seen as a “cathartic ‘opening one self up to the world'” and for kids he thinks it’s “Probably because yellow guts spilling onto the floor looks cool.”

aotb15I know this isn’t very artsy. I guess it might even be considered a reproduction of sorts but it’s not a reproduction like that reproduction of Michelangelo’s David. In this entire exhibition made of children’s building blocks, this is the only piece that was made specifically with kids in mind. It isn’t life size but it is big — over six feet tall and a tad under twenty feet long — and it is certainly technically impressive. 80,020 pieces they say.

aotb16aotb17aotb18One more big surprise awaited. It’s a collaboration with photographer Dean West called “In Pieces”. The first picture shows a group of items constructed from LEGOs by Sawaya. The surrounding walls are lined with photographs in which the items are combined with people and other real-world elements. For example, the red dress can be seen being worn in the picture beyond it.

aotb20aotb19These two pieces near the very end of the exhibit may require a little explaining. Cincinnati was once the pork packing capital of the world. Porkopolis borrows the city’s one time nickname and flying pig mascot. Sawaya made the piece specifically for this exhibit. Hugman is the name of a style of sculpture that Sawaya likes to install in various cities he visits. The three shown here are special in that they are made of bricks by visitors to other exhibits. I may have even found one signed by an unknown relative. “The Art of the Brick” differs from most temporary exhibits at the museum by not only permitting but encouraging photos, even flash. That might be apparent simply by the number of photos in this article. That much appreciated photo policy made the purpose of that empty pole obvious to me even though it wasn’t exactly spelled out.

“The Art of the Brick” is at the Museum Center through May 1 and is definitely recommended.