A new series of murals that recognize important leaders in Avondale’s history who fought for Civil Rights are now on view, thanks to ArtWorks and the Avondale Development Corporation (ADC). The mural series, Pillars of Cincinnati, were dedicated at a public celebration on Thursday, May 18, at the Hirsch Recreation Center, 3630 Reading Road.
Featured on the murals are treasured community heroes Fred Shuttlesworth, Sr. mural at 1019 Dana Avenue); Theodore Berry, (mural at 3494 Reading Road); Marjorie B. Parham, (mural at 3494 Reading Road); Fanny Graff, (mural at 439 Forest Avenue); and Artie & Annie Matthews, mural at 3118 Reading Road.
– Avondale residents Artie and Annie Matthews opened Cincinnati’s first Black music academy downtown Cincinnati in the early 20th century. Artie was known for helping to define the ragtime music genre.
– Theodore Berry who was a lawyer by trade and leader for Black rights, Berry was elected to Cincinnati City Council in 1949, and in 1972, he became the city’s first African American mayor.
– Marjorie B. Parham who was the publisher of The Cincinnati Herald newspaper starting in 1963. She was an advocate for the Black community who believed in the power of the press to elevate African American stories. She was a member of the Urban League, American Red Cross, and St. Andrews Episcopal Church.
– A national champion for Civil Rights, Fred Shuttlesworth. His home in Birmingham, Alabama, was bombed and he was injured protesting segregation. This drove him to fight harder for Civil Rights throughout his life. He moved to Cincinnati in 1961 to pastor Revelation Baptist Church and by 1966, he had started a new congregation in Avondale called Greater New Light Baptist Church, where he was the pastor for 40 years.
– An Orthodox Jewish real estate agent, Fanny Graff, used her connections to find quality housing for minority populations and was a strong proponent of fair housing for all.
ArtWorks partnered with Urbanist Media, a community preservation cooperative, to identify these notable Avondale figures and corresponding site-specific mural locations.
The mural locations create a walking trail intended to create connectedness among residents and institutions, a larger goal of Avondale’s Quality of Life Plan. The murals were designed by Lead Teaching Artist Nytaya Babbitt and were created with the support of Teaching Artist Taylor Helms, along with six apprentices (teens and young adults 14–21 years old employed for the project). Most of those apprentices were from the Avondale community.
“We think that murals and artwork are a way to beautify the community and having the murals around the neighborhood in different areas gives a chance to create a walking trail and creates a reason for people to be alive and walking within the community,” said Jill Dunne, senior director of marketing and communications for ArtWorks.
“It was an honor for ArtWorks to create this meaningful tribute within Avondale,” said Colleen Houston, ArtWorks CEO and artistic director. “We hope the trail becomes a point of pride and the murals, a focal point in the community. This project will inspire more people to learn about the accomplishments and legacy of these community leaders we remember.”