The Power of Beauty

So this past weekend, I was in Ohio visiting my family! I had a big audition, and we also took our family Christmas card photo! So it was blast an a half — I got to play with my adorable nieces, enjoy the 77 degree October weather, and soak up some much needed family time.

But this trip home, we did something a little bit different, that was incredibly eye opening. We explored the city of Cincinnati.

We went to the Blink Cincinnati event — which is this incredible architectural art and lights display that went throughout downtown Cincinnati. As well as just walked around the markets and shops after my audition one afternoon.

You see, as a little background, I grew up in the suburbs, and have never really spent much time in downtown Cincinnati, aside from when I was in shows downtown at the professional theaters and Music Hall.

But growing up, the downtown area was not safe. Crime rates were through the roof, and the drug market ruled the streets. The neighborhood known as “Over-the-Rhine” was considered one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the country. In fact, Reason magazine referred to it as “ground zero for inner-city decline.” Cincinnati, sadly, had a history of race riots that began in the 1860s, and extended all the way into the late 1990s and early 2000s. A heartbreaking and devastating past.

But as a result, growing up, the downtown area was not a family friendly place to say the least.

But since I left for college ten years ago, the city has been absolutely transformed. It is now a bustling, safe, lively area with innovative restaurants, boutiques, parks, and fun and interesting things to do — including this past weekend’s event: Blink.

Cincinnati truly did a 180. The crime rates are way down. Race relations have been repaired. Property value is up. And “Over-the-Rhine” – is now the hottest place for nightlife and chic restaurants. It’s been a remarkable transformation that can be boiled down to one thing….art.

Photo: ArtWorks

During the late ’90s, the company — ArtWorks — (not sponsored) — began this herculean effort to transform the city and community of Cincinnati.

Their motto is: “transforming people and places through investments in creativity.”

Photo: ArtWorks

It’s a development and job training program that uses art to change the lives of both people, and the community.

If you drive through Cincinnati, you’d be blown away by the incredible artwork that is painted on the sides of buildings — not grafitti — intricate, magnificent murals that were “mapped out” by professional artists, and then painted by the 3,300 youth Artworks employs and invests in.

It is truly a site to behold.

Photo: ArtWorks

And walking around that evening at Blink, and seeing the city literally dazzling in illuminated beauty, I couldn’t help but think about this total transformation that the city has seen.

How could art turn this city from a dangerous no-man’s-land, to a miniature Greenwich Village?

It’s because there is power in beauty.

Photo: ArtWorks

You know, sometimes I think people don’t want to talk about beauty. People will talk about beauty standards and how people want to say, “Screw You” to “conventional beauty.” But I think in the cultural war against beauty standards, we’ve forgotten that beauty is a good thing.

Why? Because God is beautiful. And God created beautiful things.

Why are we captivated by a gorgeous sunset with the pinks and oranges playing with the glowing clouds? Or why are we in awe of a majestic mountain with its jagged snow-capped peaks? Why are we so moved with beautiful symphonies? Or taken breathless when a fantastic monarch butterfly floats through our path?

It’s because their beauty points to He who created it.

We’re reminded of that beautiful, life-giving love that God has for each one of us. Big love – that made God want to delight us with beautiful things, beautiful people, beautiful foods and music. Beauty is a divine language, no matter which way you slice it. It’s universal. And it’s an outpouring of His love.

And art is the same way. Art gives us that escape to something beautiful — something greater than ourselves. Something God-breathed, and love-born.

It’s a literal light in the dark. And by installing these spectacular artworks on all the street corners of the city, it has changed a community that was once plagued by darkness and crime, into one that is a beacon of beauty and hope.

Artworks not only planted those murals of beauty, but also created opportunities for job development, and personal enrichment. It introduced creative outlets, and possibilities to ignite passions in youth that may otherwise not have had that exposure.

Photo: ArtWorks

Coupled with the city’s massive financial efforts to restore the buildings, and clean up the streets, art has been the catalyst for change that has truly turned the city around.

Makes you think about how inviting beauty into our own lives, might just be a catalyst for growth and change, too.

Now if we could just get the Cincinnati Bengals to do some transforming as well. 🙂

Photo: ArtWorks

“This is what the Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ez 37:5

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143 responses to “The Power of Beauty”

  1. Thanks for sharing this beautiful story of reconciliation from the heart. These stories are remarkable and have God’s signature all over them.

    • Thank you so much!! Yes! His signature is all over the place if we just look hard enough! Hugs and love xox

  2. I was in North Carolina this week and got to drive back and forth through the Smokey Mountains on I-40. It’s a beautiful drive – when not having to dodge cars and semis that absolutely barrel down the mountains! I compared those mountains in my book to God’s own cathedral; the tilted layers of rock are like the support arches of a church. The bears are its deacons and the squirrels its acolytes.

    There’s also The Tail of the Dragon, which I didn’t have time to take. It’s almost a full hour to drive the length its tight, two lane roads. There’s nary a flat spot nor straight shot the whole way; you’re either going up or down or right or left. It’s prime a motorcycle destination in the summer, but I like it after the leaves fall, exposing the terrific views below.

    Beauty. There’s so much of it in the world and the people. So much that God has given us to look at and experience. Thanks for directing our attention to it tonight!

    • Hey Jeff! Oh wow what a powerful experience! Yes! His cathedral!! You’re right about that – He has lavishly blessed us with beauty in so many forms! Nature. People. Music. Food. Art. It’s awesome. We are so loved. Hugs and love xox

  3. Wow!! The murals are so beautiful, I’m so glad that your home city has blossomed like this Caralyn! I had no idea about the crime there. I’m from Michigan and recall the horrid Detroit riots from the 60’s. I’ve heard bits and pieces of ‘news’ today, none positive until your post today! ❤️😎

  4. The power of beauty – I like that. It makes us hush and reflect on things a little bit. The world needs more of that right now for sure! So glad you had a lovely weekend at home. Family time is the best. 🙂

    • Thanks so much Hannah – you’re right about that! It needs more beauty! Hugs and love xox

    • Thanks Bill! Yes!! SO many great things! hahah yeah the Bengals could use an overhaul! haha hugs

  5. Beautiful Caralyn. Oh, the pictures and thoughts are too. 😀 As I was reading your post, thoughts came to mind of how the entire transformation of Cincinnati came about because people in the city, possibly politicians and “regular citizens” together wanted change, because they desired the city to be beautiful, useful, and attract others to the city.

    In much the same way as in your story Caralyn. You were sidetracked off the plans God had for you as you lived with the ED.
    THEN GOD, your Creator, and the One in charge of your life, said, “That is enough damage to My Daughter”, and Holy Spirit stepped in, running interference, as Jesus Christ disarmed every evil spirit, demonic entity, power and authority that thought they had destroyed you. Getting rid of every one of them, Jesus showed the Victory He had on the Cross and by His Resurrection, as you emerged healthy, strong in Christ, a living, walking, talking, writing, testimony of what He has done and is doing still.
    Caralyn, the Light and Life Of Christ shine brilliantly in and through you, as does Holy Spirit Power when you speak, write and live.
    The best part is, Jesus Christ receives all the Glory, as He has done all the work, and you always make sure everyone knows that, as you humbly serve Him.

    Colossians 2:15
    15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

    God Bless you, Good Friend, as you faithfully serve our Lord of lords and King of kings.

    Luv, 😀🌹❤️😘

    • Thank you so much George! You’re so right about that — the community WANTED the change, they were a willing participant! that’s so important. Amen to that. And oh my gosh what a kind thing to say, thank you George 🙂 God is good. And ditto for you! You are a shining light!! 🙂 Grateful for you 🙂 hugs xo

  6. Your blog is a delight. Your feelings about the art, in Cincinnati, are evocative. Cincinnati is somewhere I’ve never been, but I got an appreciation of, thanks to what you posted here.

    Of course, your writing is pretty, but the pictures here are special, and your kind of headlines add a lot of class to something already very interesting. I appreciate too the replies I’ve seen from you, as you are so friendly, and brimming with happiness.

    I know for visitors some themes in the art would be difficult to engage with, but sometimes art can be downright shocking, even if it is made from the heart. In college, I learned that a lot of art originated with interpretations of The Bible, because, as you know, in past centuries, some of the most famous artists were devout souls.

    Thanks for a great post. Keep doing a great job!

    • Oh thank you so much Odell! Gosh, what a kind thing to say! I’m so glad it resonated with you! You’re right – most of ancient art is biblically themed! It’s really cool to see how people expressed their faith through painting. Very cool to see. Big hugs xo

  7. If we could just slow down and not worry so much about what Must Be Done Right Now, we would see beauty all around us. The joy in the eyes of our granddaughter as she picked out pumpkins last weekend, a gorgeous sunset, the Gulf Coast horizon; so many more things could be added! God is good, and a great artist! Hugs and love from Kentucky– Mike

    • You’re so right about that Mike! We need to slow down! Aww sounds like a great weekend! Hugs and love xox

  8. I had no idea that “Cincinnati truly did a 180.” Thank you so much for this beautiful blog that showcased what art can do to transform. I just love artists! In fact that was my topic for my blog today – even before seeing yours! We’re on the same wave-length, Caralyn! Hoe fun!! I love your photos … especially captured by the building murals. Wonderful! <3

  9. What a wonderful story of the power of redemption and the beauty God’s shed on us. Art is one of my particular loves in life, both the creating of and the enjoyment of others’ talents. Thanks for sharing this with us! Blessings!

    • Thank you so much friend 🙂 yes! He has blessed us with so much beauty in this world 🙂 we are so loved 🥰 Hugs and love xox

  10. It is always wonderful to visit family and friends to share in quality time.
    The beatification Art Work in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio has made a positive impact in helping to transform downtown, bridging history, culture, diversity and community.
    Sounds like you had a delightful and insight. P

    • Thank you so much!! I agree – I love family time 🙂 and yes!! Art has transformed the community!! Hugs and love xox

  11. It’s beautiful to see Downtowns and other sections of inner cities finally getting reinvested in. For years it was the burbs and how many malls, now plazas, could be built. Sorry burbs but the cities are more beautiful!! ❤️❤️❤️❤️Love

  12. It most certainly is a different place. The power of belief dear lady 😀
    Even the Bengals will find it…but first the climb to encourage the building of it. Just as you did.
    Take a bow young lady, take a bow 💜

  13. in a way NYC has done the same, of course it is a much larger space, but as a kid coming into the city via Newport/Pavonia or the Holland Tunnel the difference is large, times square was literally sodom and gommorah back then, open drug sales, but then there w,ere murals and such (especially Harlem right off CPW), and also the park on the tracks now (how cool is that).. I have hope Newark NJ will recover in the same way, a once great city on a river… hope ! beauty is a start, nature has it in spades we just have to let it shine through and let humans accent it around the edges 🙂 now I want to visit Cincy and Cleveland, we have a huge country and barely explore all of it I think!

    • You’re right about that David. Hope indeed! Oh yes – definitely put Cincy on your bucket list! Catch a Reds game! hugs xo

  14. I was born and raised in Cincinnati. The city has its moments throughout history. I would not say art is the reason for how different it is. There’s a lot more credit to give to people and the art and new businesses are just a result of the hard work that’s been put into downtown by people who work for the city. Including the officers who worked hard keeping the streets cleaned up and risked their lives protecting and serving. I lived there so I know a bit more some of the reasons why things were like they were there. And I have to admit it bothers me when people who don’t know locally what the problems actually are talk about how unsafe it is. The city is better because people stop just labeling it unsafe and instead decided to help make a change. But it has a long way to go. The youth are still in need in my city and I hope that does not get over looked. I loved that mural one of my favorites so far. I saw them often growing up they have always been treasured.

    • Thanks so much for sharing your perspective on this! You’re right about that — there was A LOT of hard work that has been put into the city, and especially the police force. This is such a powerful response. Thank you for shedding light on this! bigbig hugs xox

  15. Nice post dear 😀.
    But I can’t help but think of what really happened to the poor as I’ve seen the poor get pushed out to the fringes of the city to make it appear to be better with out actually fixing the real problems.


  16. I grew up in Detroit in the 50’s and 60’s and have heard people in the suburbs use similar “unsafe” comments about Detroit. Fear and prejudice kept them from coming into the city–and from welcoming city dwellers into the suburbs. I wonder if the people who lived in Cincinnati before 2000 believe “race relations have been repaired” or if art has just changed the dynamic. Detroit is undergoing a similar transformation, and I think it is good to have new energy and new people. But I feel a sadness that what I loved about Detroit before the change is judged so negatively, as though beauty never lived there before.

    • Thanks so much Madeline for sharing your perspective on this. Yeah i think perception is a huge aspect of this — I hope Detroit has a positive transformation. hugs xo

    • Sadly Madeline the race relations have not repaired. I was born and raised in Cincinnati it’s a beautiful city always has been but the struggle is still there and a lot of oppression mindsets. But it’s of the people’s own doing these days not because of racism. I truly hope that changes for the young people. Grateful for your comment because that’s how I feel as well.

    • Thanks so much Heather! Yes! You’re right about that — He is always showering us with little glimpses of His beauty 🙂 hugs xo

  17. I love seeing cities transform themselves, and it’s even better when that change is driven by art and beauty. My oldest son lives n Cleveland, and we love going to visit since it seems to be a city that is on the move as well. I hope your audition went well!

    • I do too, Jim! It’s really uplifting! oh nice! yeah Cleveland is really a great place! thanks! hugs xo

  18. Thank you for this amazing post. It is exactly what I needed to read this morning & got chills reading it. God is beauty and there is so much of it all around us! ❤️🙏🏽

    • Thanks so much!! I’m so glad it resonated with you! Yes! His beauty really is! Hugs and love xox

  19. Those murals are so cool – it’s amazing how art can revitalize a city! I visited the LA Arts District over the summer and had a similar experience.

    – Katie

  20. I love the pics of OTR that you shared. I’m from Milan, IN and my husband grew up in Cincy. This close and I’ve never been there, but maybe we need to check it out soon. My daughters have both been to the area and love it!

    • Thanks so much Pam! Oh awesome!!! definitely come check it out! it’s the best in the summer, but fall is great too to cheer on the bengals! haha The restaurants are amazing! hugs xox

  21. Dang, Baltimore needs this too. I’ve seen more art in recent years, and a similar program has been happening called Art @ Work since 2015. I hope Baltimore can have the same outcome as Cincinnati.

    • THanks Taylor – oh cool, that sounds like a great program too! i do as well 🙂 hugs xo

  22. Living in the Columbus area, your details and photos share a wonderful transformation in Cincinnati. I have been in the downtown area before, and one can see and feel the energy and life there.

    • Oh gosh thank you so much! yes! there really is so much life happening in cincy! the number of people that turned out for the Blink event was just remarkable! hugs xo

    • Thanks! They were even more spectacular in person!!! the colors and the sheer magnitude — so awesome 🙂 hugs x

  23. My husband and I have lived in Cincinnati for five years now. You are so right about the transformation that’s occurring here, and ArtWorks has certainly been a part of it, as they’ve done their part to beautify the city. The quality and grand scale of their paintings is amazing. Greatly appreciate your observation that there is power in beauty–especially when it is used to benefit others.

    • Oh that’s so awesome Nancy! It’s such a great city. Thanks for stopping by! Enjoy the beautiful Ohio fall!!! Hugs and love xox

  24. I went to college in Cincinnati from ’78-82. While there I worked in a little mission on Vine St. It was there that I saw my first street prostitute. More alcoholics and drug addicts than I could count. Abused children. I walked the alleys and went in and out of the tentament appartments in an effort to minister to children, families, and individuals. I tried to help an older women who was drunk and mostly naked laying on a sidewalk in the middle of winter. Despite my best effort she refused to be helped. There were buildings I went into that were once grand in style and opulate in decoration that were now dark and forboding. It was dangerous and I was accousted on occasion, but I loved working among those people trying to make a difference one child, one person at a time.
    While a student there I witnessed an old abandoned school house be turned into upscale appartments across the street from the Over-the-Rhine district. It was the beginning of gentrification even then. I love the fact that this once beautiful and vibrant part of the city is being revived. However, I am concerned about the poor that are being displaced. My hope is that along with the beauty comes a place for the downtrodden and unfortunate to still have a place and a voice.

    • You’re on a reading roll, Jay! And thank you for sharing your story! What a powerful organization you participated in. wow – i can only imagine some of those experiences. Thank you for being God’s hands and feet. amen – one person at a time. I am concerned about that too. praying. hugs xo

  25. I am praying for your audition and cannot wait to hear how it went for you. I am a Baltimore girl so I love my Ravens. Thank you for talking about beauty from the perspective of God who is the creator of beauty. God does not make junk so all of us are beautiful. You are a gem and I am thankful for you.

    • Thank you!! You’re right about that! He doesn’t make junk!!! Aw thanks for saying that. Hugs and love xox

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