Connect with us


Cincinnati Collab Turns Stairs Into Art

A pilot program seeks to transform and connect pedestrian transport networks throughout the city.




Photo by Kate Bonansinga

Do you ever go for a walk in the city but avoid public stairways because they seem disrepaired, dirty, drab? Do you think that stairways, like any other gray concrete structure, could use a splash of color? A group of University of Cincinnati (UC) researchers, volunteers and artists are now doing just that, one step at a time.

Lizzy Duquette — a graduate from UC College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) — and Dai Williams — illustrator, printer, muralist, teaching artist — blended their artistic styles to transform Cincinnati’s “Uptown” Ohio Avenue stairs connecting Bellevue Park and Van Lear Alley into a “Ghost Garden” replete with grassy greens, wormy pinks and new colorful signs.

A similar project gave new life — literally — to the staircase between Van Lear and Vine Street near Findlay Market. Christened as the Fig Alley stairway after a large fig tree near Van Lear, the stairs did not have a name before.

These transformative artworks lie at the heart of Step Up to Art, a pilot project spearheaded by DAAP in collaboration with the local Spring in Our Steps nonprofit and the CUF Neighborhood Association. It aims at creating public art for and improving stairways that form the arteries of Cincinnati’s pedestrian transportation network.

Residents of Mount Auburn and Clifton Heights participated in two focus groups by researchers across different DAAP schools, where the residents gave suggestions on the best ways to improve the stairs and selected an artistic team that would best fit their vision. A standard for wayfinding signage was also developed to provide consistent information and, should the program achieve wider success, connect Cincinnati through distinctive designs for each neighborhood.

According to a UC press release, Step Up to Art had its start in 2019 when DAAP School of Art Director Kate Bonansinga partnered with Dr. Muhammad Rahman, an assistant professor in the School of Design, for a community enrichment program.


“It’s a much-awaited collaborative opportunity between important agencies and built on a public promise of a brighter future for our equitable and accessible neighborhoods,” Rahman wrote in a LinkedIn post about the program.

The project cost $26,300 in total. The city of Cincinnati contributed $10,500 for codesign of the signage system, fabrication and construction oversight.

For more information, visit



Introducing the Sign Industry Podcast

The Sign Industry Podcast is a platform for every sign person out there — from the old-timers who bent neon and hand-lettered boats to those venturing into new technologies — we want to get their stories out for everyone to hear. Come join us and listen to stories, learn tricks or techniques, and get insights of what’s to come. We are the world’s second oldest profession. The folks who started the world’s oldest profession needed a sign.

Promoted Headlines




Most Popular