Thursday, July 17, 2008

Not everyone loves 'Campy Washington'

As producer of the local Rocky Horror Picture Show for over 15 years, Jim Hetzer knows "campy".

But he isn't thrilled about the prospect of the "Father of Our Country" appearing four stories high, in drag.

Work began recently on the MuralWorks project at 3025 Colerain Avenue in Camp Washington, behind Camp Washington Chili.

"Campy Washington", designed by artist Scott Donaldson, is a pop art depiction George Washington in colonial drag, next to a cow's head and a halo of flying pigs - perhaps a nod to the neighborhood's days as a meat processing center.

Recently, a robot representing Jacobs Manufacturing and a Gorilla representing Schenz Theatrical Supply, Inc. have been added to the mural's final design.

"I was assured that Mural Works worked with many community leaders from the Camp Washington Community Board, residents, members of the Camp Washington Community Council, and the Camp Washington Business Association, and they said that many business owners and residents felt that this design would be very positive for the neighborhood," Hetzer says.

Hetzer says he's glad that the President visited in 2006, and not this year.

"I feel that he would be appalled to see such an inappropriate and historically inaccurate image as I am," he says. "It's an incredible embarrassment. Can you image giving someone directions by saying something like, 'As you go up Colerain Avenue you'll see a 4 story picture of George Washington in a dress. Keep going straight for a few blocks and turn right'."

He also believes that the mural is disrepectful to all of the people who have worked to build and maintain the neighborhood, as well as the current residents.

"It's hard to imagine what those pioneers who built the actual 'Camp Washington' would say if they saw it or General T.L. Young who owned most of this land after the actual military camp was torn down," Hetzer says. "What of the looks on the faces of the visitors who came to the first Ohio State Fair in 1850, which was held in Camp Washington, what would they have said? Imagine all the men and women who worked so hard in 1939 to clean up from the great flood which ravaged the streets of Camp Washington, carrying thousands of shovels of mud to dig out their homes, slaving to rebuild this community with that image looking down over their shoulder."

Hetzer stresses that it has nothing to do with seeing people in drag, something he has worked to promote.

"This is just embarrassing to the community and to the city at large," he says.

Eight ArtWorks apprentices will work alongside Donaldson and his teaching aide Kate Holterhoff to complete the project, which should be finished by the end of the month.

MuralWorks is a program that pairs professional and teenage artists with community members to create transformative works of public art on blank walls throughout the City of Cincinnati's neighborhoods.

Other mural locations scheduled for this year include Carthage, Columbia Tusculum, Downtown, East Walnut Hills, Over-the-Rhine, Queensgate and Spring Grove Village.