Monet Arts Excursion in Cincinnati
Road Trips & Recipes with Kathy Witt
Long-time travel writer Kathy Witt transports readers through an immersive Monet arts excursion in Cincinnati, Ohio, with places to play, stay, eat, and more.
Swing into the arts scene in Cincinnati, from immersing your senses in a dazzling experience to exploring world-class art collections at the first purpose-built art museum west of the Allegheny Mountains and one of America’s finest small art museums to gliding through the air on a literal swing as it moves back and forth across a two-story canvas.
Immersive Monet in Cincinnati
Step into a poppy field in Argenteuil in France, a pond of floating water lilies in a French garden and stacks of hay in a field just outside a painter’s farmhouse. Enter “Cincinnati Monet: The Immersive Experience” and the world of Claude Monet (1840-1926), preeminent founder of French impressionist painting.
The event takes place not far from Cincinnati’s Fountain Square in one of downtown’s most iconic structures, the former Fifth Third Bank building. Located at 18 W. Fourth St., the building dates to 1860 and is the perfect backdrop for experiencing the paintings of Monet in the 360-degree art exhibit. The experience, showing through November 2023, is spread over 20,000 square feet, a light and sound spectacular that features two-story projections.
The experience begins in Monet’s Garden at Giverny, the painting come to life and dripping with lilacs and greenery. Walk across the footbridge as fish flit about the pond below and open the door to a vast gallery filled with the ever-changing images of Monet’s masterpieces. Accompanied by an evocative musical score, the effect is pure enchantment.
The Immersive Experience has three ticketing options, including a VIP level, which includes a virtual reality experience that draws you into and through eight iconic Monet masterworks to convey the inspiration behind each, as well as a poster of a Monet painting of your choice. There is also a chance to create your own work of art and see it projected on the wall.
For an arts-centric stay, book the Swing House, located in Cincinnati’s OTR (Over-the-Rhine) neighborhood, amid plenty of restaurants, bars and entertainment.
Created by Dutch-born Cincinnati-based artist Mark de Jong, the space is the culmination of the artist’s longstanding dream of opening the interior up to accommodate a 30-foot swing.
“The intimacy of one or two people staying for a short visit activates my dream and the house as a work of art,” says de Jong, owner of the Swing House, noting that art and architecture are what makes Cincinnati stand out from other Midwest cities.
“The Swing House combines the two,” he says. “Theater, music and visual arts are all important in defining the arts community, and the Swing House makes this fabric of the arts scene richer.”
Listed on Airbnb (search “Swing House”), the house is fully renovated with everything in the space, including the placement of the bed, oriented in relation to the swing and its arc. It is space as art in an open design that produces unique effects in terms of lighting, sound and perception.
Guests have use to the entire property, including the front and backyard. The kitchen offers a mini fridge/freezer and provides filtered water, coffee, tea, almond milk, milk and instant oatmeal. The finished basement shows off artwork made with materials sourced from the renovation. A spiral staircase leads down to the basement, where the home’s bathroom is located.
Visitors can stop by Swing House and check out the space during its free Open House, held 12-4 p.m. every second Saturday of the month. Overnight stays cost about $237/night and up, depending on dates. de Jong is an Airbnb superhost.
The Terrace Café at the Cincinnati Art Museum is a lovely place for lunching on any occasion and especially on an arts-centric visit to Cincinnati. Dine alongside art, including the Bunny Wall, featuring a series of colorful and calligraphic bunny portraits created by New York artist Hunt Slonem, and Dale Chihuly’s 11-piece Persians Installation, which resembles enormous, playful and colorful wildflowers the artist believed “conjured the multisensory experience of visiting historic and exotic lands.”
Through its wall of windows, the café looks out on the museum’s arbored courtyard with gardens and statuary, a haven for fine-weather dining.
The menu features a selection of salads, sandwiches and lighter fare such as Steak & Delicata Squash served with local field greens, scarlet kale, goat cheese and pomegranate arils and dressed with dark balsamic vinaigrette. A favorite sandwich served at the café is the chicken salad, made with shredded carrots, diced celery and scallions and served with sliced tomato, lettuce leaf, sharp white cheddar cheese and lemon aioli on a toasted croissant.
A children’s menu has kid faves macaroni and cheese and chicken fingers, among other entrées, and assorted pastries and desserts, including scones, croissants and the cake of the day, sweeten the meal. Beverages include a selection of teas from Danville, Kentucky’s Elmwood Inn Fine Teas, one of America’s oldest small-batch tea blenders, and fair trade organic Guatemalan coffee by Cincinnati’s own Oakley Artisan Roasters. Wine and beer are also offered.
Cincinnati is home to a pair of outstanding art museums with the free-admission Cincinnati Art Museum, founded in 1881 and one of the oldest art museums in the country, and the Taft Museum of Art, a National Landmark housing galleries within a 200-year-old home.
The former showcases a collection of more than 73,000 works spanning 6,000 years and also hosts several national and international traveling exhibitions each year. The latter holds a collection that spans the Middle Ages through the 19th century with European and American paintings, and 18th-century watches, Chinese porcelains and French Renaissance enamels. If you visit the Taft on Sunday, admission is free.
At the Taft Museum of Art, “Sporting Fashion: Outdoor Girls 1800-1960,” opens Oct. 14 and runs through Jan. 14, 2024. Featuring over 60 fully accessorized ensembles, the exhibition takes a magnifying glass to the evolution of women’s fashion in the world of sports — clothing which restricted women’s movement, literally and figuratively, for much of history — examining the balance of style with function that typified women’s athletic attire.
At the Cincinnati Art Museum, “Charles White: A Little Higher,” opens Nov. 10 and runs through Feb. 25, 2024. The exhibition features nearly 50 drawings, prints and paintings of Charles White — widely recognized as one of the most important and influential African American artists of the twentieth century — which provide lessons in tolerance and compassion that resonate today.
For more information about planning a trip to Cincinnati, visit www.visitcincy.com or call 513-621-2142.
Recipe: Cincinnati Art Museum’s Terrace Café Famous Tomato Soup
- 1 medium white or yellow onion
- 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 2 springs fresh basil
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
- 1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
- 1/2 gallon tomato juice
- 3-6 tablespoons sugar
- 1 or 2 tablespoons vegetable base
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup sherry
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- Dice the onion. Melt the butter in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the diced onions and cook until translucent.
- Add tomatoes and basil and stir to combine. Add the tomato juice.
- Add 3 to 6 tablespoons sugar. (This is to combat the acidity of the tomatoes.) Start on the low side, taste and add more as needed.
- Add 1 tablespoon vegetable base to the pot and puree the soup in a blender until smooth.
- Add freshly ground black pepper. Stir to combine, then heat almost to a boil. Then turn off the heat.
- Add in the sherry and cream and stir.
PHOTO CAPTION, TOP: Taft Museum of Art. (Taft Museum of Art/TNS)
Author and travel and lifestyle writer Kathy Witt feels you should never get to the end of your bucket list; there’s just too much to see and do in the world. Contact her at KathyWitt24@gmail.com, @KathyWitt.
©2023 Kathy Witt. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.