I was kind of a born naturalist and could draw, and my family realized both of those situations and they geared me towards that,” said wildlife artist John Ruthven, often called “the 20th-century Audubon.”
“I rented one room on Gilbert Avenue, right near downtown, and called it ‘Ruthven Studio,'” he said. “I put a sign in the window, ‘I paint anything and everything.’ That really did it. I wasn’t too self-conscious about it because I really could draw. Someone walked into my studio one day and said, ‘I saw your sign in the window. Do you do cartoons?’ I said, ‘Absolutely.’ He said, ‘Well, I’m starting a new business. It’s going to be called Play-Doh. I need a Play-Doh boy.’ And I said, ‘I’d love to do that.’ Talk about an opportunity. And so, for 15 years I did most of the Play-Doh company’s artwork.”
In 1960, Ruthven painted the Federal Duck Stamp, and his career took off. He specialized in wildlife paintings, especially birds. “I knew birds very well,” Ruthven said. “From my early association with Audubon and studying wildlife in general, I was never without my binoculars, studying birds.”
Ruthven’s formal relationship with the Great Parks began in 1973 when he dontated an original painting of a chipmunk to the park district for use promoting the successful 1973 park levy campaign. Though Ruthven says he crafted the painting at Woodland Mound, it, fittingly, is displayed at the Sharon Centre in Sharon Woods. Sharon Woods was a favorite park of Ruthven as a child and it remained his favorite county park throughout his life.
Cincinnatians may be most familiar with Ruthven’s mural “Martha, the Last Passenger Pigeon” at the corner of Seventh and Vine streets. The original painting was created to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Marth’s death, and the extinction of the species
In 1972, Ruthven earned the distinction of being named the first Artist of the Year by Ducks Unlimited. Ruthven contributed paintings for prints that have raised nearly $2 million to protect and preserve wetlands in North America. His painting of a cardinal for Ohio’s most popular license plate raised more than $5 million for the Ohio Division of Wildlife.
“The symbolic act of looking at a Black and Brown womyn state her experience, then approaching her to impose your views, and touch her body without consent is an unfortunate reality Black and Brown womyn/people deal with all the time.
The person who felt empowered to do this is not original. They feel comfortable violating Black/Brown bodies, and they do not care about the Black/Brown experience, which is the point!
Black/Brown bodies (especially womyn ) coddle your guilt. We bend to protect your feelings, your opinions, and your egos. Instead of observing, listening, holding your tongue, stilling your hand, reflecting on your role, your response to our voice is this.
It may seem minor to you, but actions like these perpetuate the same misogynistic, racist, aggressive, and harmful things Black/Brown people deal with on a micro and macro level. So doing this, especially when no one can see you, doesn’t make you a bigger person, it only makes you smaller than you already are. Do better. Unlearn….. and for once, bend. “
David Michael Butler, AAC Illustration Chair
“So most of us Black creatives love it when we get the chance to celebrate ourselves living our lives, enjoying our communities, connecting with one another, building with one another. Celebrating Black joy and showing the world that we are here, now!” – David Michael Butler
Dear Art Academy of Cincinnati students,
The last few months and most recently the last few days we have witnessed the full scope of racial tensions that have gripped the United States for centuries. The Art Academy of Cincinnati is making a statement to condemn the acts of the police officers in Minneapolis in the death of George Floyd, the shooting of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, GA.
Humanity should be outraged with these acts of terror.
The Art Academy of Cincinnati stands for justice, truth, empathy, and the belief that life should be honored and respected. This miscarriage of justice and the handling of events that have evolved to represent a systemic problem that needs to be addressed locally, nationally, and globally. Our black students uniquely confront challenges that others do not face. We want our students to understand that the Art Academy of Cincinnati acknowledges that structural, systemic, historical, and intersecting forms of oppression require our ongoing attention, action, innovation, and leadership for positive change. The AAC is committed to protecting the rights of the diverse population of students of color understanding that their situation is uniquely theirs in the context of humanity and in the scope of higher education. More information can be found here as we continue to learn how to be successful moving forward in supporting all of our students: https://www.aicad.org/principles-on-dei/
In November of 2019, The Art Academy of Cincinnati established the Corrina Mehiel Center for Urban Impact in collaboration with Mel Chin’s S.O.U.R.C.E. STUDIO. This initiative will bring diverse woman artists to Cincinnati to work within the community of Cincinnati. The first two Corrina Mehiel Fellows, Monique Muse Dodd and jackie sumell were scheduled to engage with the AAC and the city this Summer and Fall but have been delayed due to the events surrounding COVID 19. Updates will be forthcoming regarding their visits to Cincinnati.
The Art Academy of Cincinnati also is committing to establishing a committee that includes students, faculty, staff, alumni, board members, and OTR community members to begin to address pathways forward looking at many of the following:
*Implementing diversity and inclusion/sensitivity training for faculty/staff to help ensure that we all have adequate foundation to work from: This process is ongoing and is required every year.
*Surveying students, faculty, staff, board, and alumni for perspective and experiences. This survey will be sent in September of 2020 and will be completed at the start of every semester.
*Reaffirming or creating a mechanism for response/input to personal experiences on campus/class. This will be in place by the start of the Fall 2020 Semester.
*Reviewing/updating our vision, mission, operating principles, and codes of conduct to be sure they are comprehensive. This process will begin in September.
*Establish strategic partnerships with organizations in OTR/City. This process is ongoing.
*Partnering with organizations to host conversations and discussions on the issues, opportunities, and necessary changes that underlie the systemic issues we see. This process is ongoing.
*Adapting curriculum to include more inclusive thinking, or explicitly tackle these issues. This process will be addressed by the Academic Management Team.
*Investing in resources that enable peer mentorship and stress/anxiety services that address the unique challenges that confront our black students. This process will begin in September.
This is just the start of a conversation and we welcome your input as we move forward attempting to understand the tragic past and present systemic racism, and to navigate towards a better and more just future.
Our thoughts are with the Floyd, Taylor, and Arbery families and of all persons of color that have been jeopardized through centuries of systemic racism. As the city of Cincinnati also engages in the conversation, we ask each of you to be safe, care for one another in this difficult time, and stay connected with us if you are in need of assistance.
Joe Girandola, President
Paige Williams, Academic Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Tysonn Betts, Chair, Board of Trustees
Art Academy of Cincinnati
Artwork from our students and alum.