Monday, October 16, 2017

Blink


Blink was an event that occurred in Cincinnati from October 12 to October 15, 2017.



Perhaps that introduction sentence is a bit too dismissive. It beats repeating the same, bad joke every TV newscaster has been making all weekend, though:

"Blink! ...and you'll miss it!"

Odds are you didn't. If you weren't one of the thousands of people crowding the city's streets the past four days, you probably saw plenty of coverage via the mediums of social and traditional media. I don't think anyone was expecting the massive crowds taking over the sidewalks and all the cars that gridlocked the streets. I think it's safe to say that even the person who came up with the most beyond your wildest dreams of success attendance projections for the event's organizers was probably blown away themselves.

I had never been interested in, "Luminocity," the acclaimed light projection show that preceded this one and died a quiet death last year at the age of four. Blink had me excited, though. I liked many of the artists included, was excited to learn about others. I liked that it spanned a good portion of the city's core, most of which was connected by the streetcar system.

Within minutes of opening, it was clear just how excited everyone else was too. Over the next few nights, I tried to find the same enthusiasm that my fellow almost, but not quite (or just over) 30 year old peers were displaying for wading through crowds. I didn't want to sound like some crotchety old man who's aggressively requesting you not stand on the grass in front of his property. It's just, it was tough at times. Tough to try and take in the displays when a gaggle of drunks aboard the "pedal wagon" roll by and ruin the moment of watching art. It's tough when the smell of portable toilets and spilled beer make the event feel more like a summer church festival or the annual Oktoberfest/Taste. It's tough when you're just trying to get a few blocks south and rough lads want to invite you to their middle aged fight club because their car's caught in the crosswalk and they don't typically see many pedestrians near their home base of Buffalo Wild Wings. I kept having to dodge impatient Uber drivers when I, myself, was growing too impatient with walking through stalled crowds on the sidewalk.

The event seemed to be almost universally loved. It was unique, exciting, beautiful, and impressive. It brought new people into the city and as they learned how to drive in urban environments, they no doubt spent money here and saw the new identity and perception that has taken hold over the past decade. However, I wouldn't consider Blink some life changing, status affirming event that's propelled Cincinnati's ranking from Midwestern metropolis up to the company of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

I heard one person remark that "there's no way Amazon (in the company's search for a second headquarters) can deny us now!" Unfortunately, if anything, the past four days have shown a glaring issue: lack of a true regional transit system, something Amazon is specifically looking for. While it was great to see so many taking advantage of what transit we do have, downtown was paralyzed by automobiles, the predominant form of mobility around here.

And it's not just about transit, it's about vision. What is the vision for Cincinnati? For the region? How do we grow and improve? Because, while there's a lot of great things here, there can be so much more. We can't just rest on what we currently have, seek out only the safe ideas, or believe that we're so special that we can't learn from the examples of other cities.

That's what we've always done. 

A bright future is going to take a lot more than just a four day light show, as wonderful an event as it is.

However, maybe Blink and its focus on art, is the tip of the iceberg.

I think it's clear that the event will be back. Good. The art is fantastic, but let's make the viewing experience better. Maybe we start with pedestrian, transit, and bicycle only streets? Maybe we make people connect with the environment, rather than cruising by in their cars as if they're searching for Christmas lights in a cul-de-sac? While we wait to see what the next year brings, be sure to go walk the city or one of its neighborhoods on a normal night. One where you're not pulled in by a large scale event, ballgame, or concert.

I think you'll like this place even when it's not dressed up.










5 comments:

  1. You could always identify the people who hadn't been Downtown in a while: When the sign said "Don't Walk," they didn't walk.

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    1. Ha. Even when there's no one clearly coming down the only direction possible on one-ways.

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  2. If they do this again I want to take over a random parking lot one night. I feel like between you, me maybe Phil and whoever else we can include, we know enough people to pull some strings. We could setup a big projector and run a slide show of pictures. Or we could figure out something ever cooler. I want to be involved next time somehow.

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    1. I was talking to a guy I know at UC yesterday and he said "hey man, I'm a video engineer, I want in."
      So it begins.

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