2015 was like trying to ride a bicycle up Elm Street between 12th and 14th. The cobblestone thoroughfare that connects the two numbered streets is a challenge to navigate on two spindly wheels as you pass the Transept, Memorial Hall, and Music Hall on your left and the massive Washington Park on your right. If you seek a smooth ride, you can attempt to ride along one of the concrete bits on either side of the streetcar track, but doing so increases your chances of falling; anyone who’s tried to cross the streetcar track without hitting it as perpendicularly as possible knows the tire can get wedged in the groove and toss you off. It’s a rough ride one way and a dangerous ride the other, but if you do it just right, it’s smooth and exciting and the view is brilliant. That perfectly sums up this year for me.
I’ve achieved more on a creative and social level in one year than I have in the last half decade altogether. The foundation I paved in 2014 allowed me to build what I wanted in 2015 while I was able to remove the parts of my life that were holding me back from reaching my full potential. Firstly, and on an interpersonal level, I met a ton of interesting, positive people this year and forged relationships I hope will last for many more years to come as well as continued to nurture the relationships I made last year. Cincinnati is filled with all of these locals that blow my mind on a daily basis with how thoughtful and creative they all are. The fact that I can leave my apartment and most likely run into someone I know and exchange pleasantries with them on the street fills me with that warm home town feeling within the urban “big city” sphere. It’s the best of both worlds which makes living in the core so much more fun than I dreamed it could be. Secondly, and on a more personal/creative level, I bought a better camera and discovered the joys of shooting in low light, I learned more about painting, I sketched more, I practiced digital art, I tried some mixed media, I honed my video editing skills, and I started actually selling my work. I shot for LG at the ballpark, I designed a logo for myself because I started shooting for the American Marketing Association on a monthly basis, I designed a t-shirt and mug for a local coffee shop, and I did a little engagement photo work for friends as well as delved deeper into portrait photography with friends. All of these things are still in the beginning stages of mastery and I still have much to learn, but all of it is extremely fulfilling and genuinely fun to practice. That productive part of the year felt like I’d found the sweet spot between the streetcar track and the cobblestone in retrospect.
History has been a large part of 2015 for me as well. I really doubled down on figuring out what happened in the past to the city and specific buildings around town. This is where I rode the cobblestone because not all of it was easy to find, but it was worth it in the end. Samuel Hannaford and his body of architectural achievements consumed my summer while I poured over his original sketches at the library. Past community fixtures like Weilert’s Beer Garden, Wesley Chapel, the E.F. Albee Theatre, Old Main Library, Royal Theatre as well as current ones like the Lafayette Bloom School, Crosley’s factory and personal estate, the Peter’s Cartridge Company, Rhinegeist’s old brewery from 1895, the Sorg House in Middletown (thank you, Emily), Hughes Highschool, Spring Grove Cemetery, the old Marburg Hotel in Clifton, Union Terminal’s Pierre Bourdelle murals, and countless others all called out to me to learn more about them. It’s crazy how much invisible history we have nestled in every alley and on every corner of this city; discovering something interesting about existing structures or discovering the ghosts of what once was is exhilarating to say the least. With all the new information I’ve absorbed this year about Cincinnati and its history, I feel like I’m better equipped to understand it and appreciate all it has been through since 1790.
But not everything was productive. I lost several months of research and creativity due to a low point in the spring and the summer where I rode the smooth concrete next to the streetcar track carelessly and hit it at an odd angle, hurting myself in the process. I got myself riding again over the cobblestone and eventually I got back onto the smooth concrete bit again. I needed that fall to knock some sense into me, and even though I emerged from that season bruised and beaten, I feel so much better now that I had the experience. I’ve never been more free to be productive both socially and creatively and that’s important to me.
Overall, 2015 had it’s ups and downs, but I climbed greater heights than I ever fell. I gained ground this year. Problems were solved, art was made, skills were honed, knowledge was gained, and I generated a life I want to live and will continue to live into next year. After reaching the end of Elm between 12th and 14th, the street is perfectly paved with renovations and revitalization efforts underway to the north. The road is smooth and everything is still exciting, but you have room to move around and the pleasant ride isn’t limited to a small strip of concrete hugging the side of a streetcar track any longer. That increased room to move around without falling is a perfect metaphor for what I have planned for 2016.
Happy New Year.
A 2015 recap video of some of the photography I did this year that was shared to Instagram.