Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Washington Park Pool from 2008 with Music Hall in the background.

The pool has been closed. ©Melvin Grier

Consider yourself fortunate if there are places from your childhood that you can visit. I'm talking about possibly a grade school building, a house where you grew up, a park or theatre. Many of us have lost that part of our past. To serve progress every building, including the one I grew up in, in the West End was torn down. This includes three schools, three churches and seven theaters . Progress comes and poor people move on. Parts of Over the Rhine are looking very up-scale these days. It wasn't too long ago that 12th and Vine was a gathering spot for loiterers, now it's shops and restaurants that serve the more affluent that are moving into OTR. The poor people move on.

A few years ago I covered a walking tour of the 12th and Vine area when some of the above mentioned changes were in their early stage. There was talk future residents would include those of mixed incomes. I was and remain skeptical.

A block or so from 12th and Vine is situated Washington Park, greenspace in the middle of bricks and concrete, a place to relax on a park bench and watch life go by. Of late that life has been on the raw side. You are more likely to see someone urinate on a tree than toss a frisbee. I had many assignments there to document the park's problems, perceived or real. Washington Park is a convenient target to point out the least desirable aspects such as loitering and litter. This past week a woman was run over and killed by a Cincinnati police officer as he drove off the park's paved roadway. The question: who should the park serve? This valuable oasis of green that is neighbor to Music Hall, Memorial Hall, and the just completed School for the Creative and Performing Arts is slated to undergo a major change. After the change is effected we can expect to see fewer homeless people in the park. Families may picnic, dogs may romp, frisbees may fly. The poor will move on.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Thom Shaw - Artist

Thom Shaw is gone.The song says "everything must change nothing stays the same", we accept this because we must. Thom was about something more than applying ink or pencil to paper or canvas. His was a message, boldly and un-apologetically stated. I had known Thom since the 70s but didn't know him at all. The art side of Thom spoke loud and clear. He revealed almost no details of his private life to me. I never thought to ask him. Our discussions were always about our latest projects, his always seemed way more ambitious than my own. A lot of our discussions took place by phone. Thom was an idea machine pouring out his thoughts like a John Coltrane or Eddie Bayard solo. "The young become the old, mysteries do unfold", we grew older in our parallel universes. I'm proud that we sometimes shared a gallery wall with our respective art work. There will be a memorial service for Thom soon. I'm sure there will be much more eloquent words spoken about him than I can offer. I hope my actions will resonate louder than words as I continue to attempt be about something with my work. Thom would be pleased with that. Photograph © Melvin Grier

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Friday, January 15, 2010


Haitian Detainees, Lexington KY

Think of Haiti, pray for Haiti
Haiti’s right here, Haiti’s not quite here.

- Caetano Veloso

I have had the opportunity to be in contact with the people of Haiti on two occasions. Once, I was sent to a detention center in Lexington, KY, where a large group of Haitians was being held prior to possible deportation. In 1995, I went to Haiti with a Cincinnati Post reporter to do a story on a church group that was doing construction work on a school.

In Lexington as we approached the holding facility a voice cried out, “What news do you have for the Haitian people?” We had none. Only questions and the sound of the camera’s shutter greeted these people who had made it safely to the shores of the U.S. only to be rejected, detained, and sent back.

In Port-au-Prince as we drove near the ocean, the driver remarked that because most Haitians don’t swim it was testament to their desperation that they would undertake such a perilous trip in order to reach the United States.

I don’t know whether or not most Haitians swim, but I have seen the conditions under which they live. The recent earthquake is just piling misery and death upon misery. We can send our prayers and our condolences but we need to send our money and goods to those legitimate organizations that are set up to get help to these most unfortunate people.

Melvin Grier