It’s a Doin’ Thing


Bruce Riley is one of those cool cats who you just want to hang out with all afternoon at an outside café drinking something hard and cool, eating tacos and talking about the mysteries of this crazy thing called life. To the contrary, when Bruce and I met, we were inside in The Commons, not drinking or eating, but we were talking about some of the mysterious aspects of this thing called the artist’s life.

Bruce is a Cincinnati native but now lives up the road a bit in Chicago.  He still comes down to Cincy regularly to visit family.  This time, however, he was in town for his show opening at the Miller Gallery in Hyde Park. Do yourself a favor and see his awesome and amazing paintings.  The show is currently running until June 25.

Accompanied by his wife, Kelly McKaig, and sister Brenda Campbell, Bruce was gracious to spend some time with me and share his story and some sound advice to the upcoming generation of young artists.

Riley attended the Art Academy during the mid 70’s. He did not graduate but did take classes only when they were paid for by someone else. He saw early on that educational debt was crushing to young artists. When not in school, he would use his own money to rent a studio and continued working on his own. The impression I got was that he was grateful for the structure academics, but the real learning came in doing things on his own – a rebel with a cause you might say.

In Bruce’s view to be an artist is to simply do the art.  Experiment. Learn. Make mistakes. Become the expert. When possible love. Expand your view by reading, talking to others and never, ever stop doing the craft.  In his experience, an artist really does not come into their own until the age of 35. Bruce states, “When one works hard at ones art, that individual will have a killer skill by the age of 35. You start really finding your own voice.”That is when the consistently working artist reaches the threshold of having a recognizable name.

He describes his day as being beautifully boring.  He gets up around 6 AM, putters around the house for a bit as he chases away the night’s slumber with a cup of coffee, then off to his studio which is across the street.

While in the studio, he focuses in on the work. Riley said, “In the work ideas come and go. Ideas are the goo that mutates into the next awareness. This is the stuff that comes up when you are consistently working.”  For him, and probably for most prolific and successful artists, ritual, routine and discipline is what drives the momentum to keep creating.  Not to say that from time to time, inspiration is just not going to show up for the day, but overall he goes to work daily.

Additional advice Riley has for the emerging artist is to take risks. Physically. Mentally. Financially. He didn’t pay attention to conventional wisdom along the way.  To him it did not make sense to work at a “day” job that sucked all of your creative energy 40 plus hours a week only to make just enough money to live. This version of living renders the artist to be a weekend warrior.  He was not interested in that scenario.  He KNEW he was going to make his living as a working artist.

And he does by creating and selling is art so that he can afford his materials, studio and the beautiful boring life he has with his wife in Chicago.  After all to sell and share your art is the goal-right?

To see the latest work by Bruce Riley, go to the Miller Gallery in Hyde Park.  Click here to watch a documentary short on Bruce Riley and his work.


Student Spotlight: Brevyn Fleming and Norwood View Elementary


My name is Brevyn Fleming. I’m going on my 3rd year at the Art Academy studying Illustration, and I’m finding that I can work in many different media and styles to fit a project. This large-scale painting in children’s-book-style art is a testament to the flexibility I’ve learned in the last two years.

The Art Academy was asked to design and paint a mural when Miller-Valentine’s Adopt-A-Class group decided that they would refurbish Norwood View Elementary’s playground, courtyard, and the tunnel that connected them.

They contacted us early in 2016, and a small group of the student ambassadors began talking over designs in February after we saw the area we’d be painting and met some of the kids from the school. I was chosen as the lead artist because of my experience with illustrative styles and my ability to use photoshop for the design.

The mural that was originally in the courtyard was over 20 years old and hardly used any color—it didn’t make the courtyard a very exciting or cozy place to be. I decided to run with an animal and nature theme to counter the urban environment around the school, and many of the kids said they liked animals and sports. We painted the entire mural in the last 3 weeks of April and the beginning of May, finishing it just before their Playground Dedication on May 5th.

Miller-Valentine provided the paint, brushes, and scaffolding, and Matt Dayler and Justin Toland projected the images on the wall for us. Cecilia Padilla, Madison Leigh, Brittany Harrington, Rachel Liston, Vera Thornbury, Aaron Broughton, Julia Waldorf, Andrea Bacca, Nick Paddock, Tanner Browne, and Galen Crawford all helped paint whenever they could.

class pic


finished stitched

Beloved Minumental Exhibition Celebrates 29 Years

Genius comes in all shapes and sizes, but at the annual AAC Minumental Exhibition, no masterpiece can exceed two inches in any direction. That’s what makes it one of the best and most beloved shows among AAC students, faculty and alums year after year.

This past February, the AAC Alumni Committee hosted the 29th Annual Minumental Show at the student-run Exposure13 Gallery in Over-the-Rhine. Hundreds of art lovers attended the exhibition, and more than 200 pieces were sold netting nearly $2000 in sales. For many students, this show presents the opportunity to make that “first sale” as an artist. It also provides exposure and recognition for the impressive work created by our AAC community at large.

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2015 Beaux Arts Ball a Huge Success

It was an evening of elegance, beauty and fun. The 2015 Beaux Arts Ball, hosted by the Alumni Association, brought together hundreds of Art Academy supporters to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of AAC’s historic move to Over-the-Rhine.

Honored guests included the Eleanora C. U. Alms Trust, Fifth Third Bank Trustee; The Otto M. Budig Family Foundation; The Kaplan Foundation; The Manuel D. and Rhoda Mayerson Foundation; P & G; Western & Southern Financial Group; John Ruthven, Alumni; and Carl Solway.

For decades, the AAC has carried on the Beaux Arts Ball tradition, originally inspired by art students at the National School of Fine Arts in Paris. The riotous revelry has been revived many times throughout the history of the event in Cincinnati, and over the years, it has been hosted in many different locales, including the old Art Academy building in Mt. Adams, the Cincinnati Art Museum, and the new AAC building on Jackson Street. To accommodate the large number of guests, the 2015 ball was held at the Verdin Bell Event Centre in Pendleton. The space was transformed into dazzling Venetian palazzo, thanks to the students and alumni of the AAC, who created original artwork and decorations inspired by the masked balls of Venice.

We would like to extend our sincere appreciation to our sponsors for Venezia Carnevale, the 2015 masquerade Beaux Arts Ball: Hubbell Trust, The Otto M. Budig Family Foundation, Chavez Properties, Miller Valentine Group, Brian L. Tiffany & Company, The Manuel D. & Rhoda Mayerson Foundation, The Kaplan Foundation and John Isidore and Sandy Kaltman.

Save the Date for 2019, when the Art Academy of Cincinnati will celebrate its 150th anniversary!

Alumna Christine Carli

See more from our Beaux Arts Ball page


Wilder, Elyse Johnson

Q&A with Wilder Winner Elyse Johnson

Artists draw inspiration from many places including the environment that surrounds them. The opportunity for a change of scenery can prove especially valuable. At the Art Academy of Cincinnati the Stephen H. Wilder Traveling Scholarship provides just that, affording art students of all disciplines the chance to explore the world around them as fuel for their creative expression.

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The Art Academy of Love

There are many things students would expect to gain during their time at the Art Academy of Cincinnati: knowledge, perspective, inspiration, life-long friends, a degree. But a surprising number of alumni also leave with something else — the love of their lives.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that over the 147-year history of the AAC, hundreds of couples have found their other half while attending the Art Academy. Even one of the AAC’s most distinguished alumni, Charley Harper, met his wife, Edie Harper, at the Art Academy, “in the same class, in the same row.”

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