After two years of planning, design and construction, the Cincinnati Black Music Walk of Fame recently celebrated its opening, welcoming over 5,000 visitors as well as music industry legends and their families.
Founded by Hamilton County, Ohio Commission President, Alicia Reece, and approved unanimously in 2021 by the Board of Commissioners, the Cincinnati Black Music Walk of Fame immortalizes the Cincinnati region’s Black musicians, songwriters, and industry professionals. This entertaining, interactive, and enriching multi-layered attraction is open to the public and accessible for all to enjoy.
Experiences at the Cincinnati Black Music Walk of Fame include:
- Interactive Podium Kiosks–Thirteen interactive, illuminated kiosks, positioned along the visitor pathways, each feature two signature artists from Cincinnati, Hamilton County and Southwest Ohio. Visitors can enjoy a 30-second sample from each artist at the push of a button, and the same music vibrates from a haptic panel for those with limited hearing. Graphics on the kiosk offer Braille translations.
- Meet the Stars!–Visitors learn about the music, stories and cultural contributions of the 12 most recent Walk of Fame inductees via a reader rail and adjacent large media screen. The panel and media footage complement the inlaid terrazzo markers featuring each of the inductees. Here, there is a QR code which invites visitors to a website where they can nominate their personal favorite as a future inductee.
- Beat Maker–An eight-person interactive drum machine invites visitors to beat to Blues, Hip-Hop and funk tunes. When successful, guests receive the payoff of a colorful light show at the adjacent fountain. Walk of Fame inductee and influential music producer, Hi-Tek, provides voice narration with instruction.
- Interactive Media Consoles–Each of the four Interactive Media Consoles feature a digital media display and rotating six songs from artists within the Walk of Fame, encouraging them to dance.
- Augmented Reality Band Interactive–Using virtual ‘green screen’ technology, visitors have the chance to be a star, either jamming with Parliament Funkadelic legend William “Bootsy” Collins or dancing with “Snap!: I’ve Got the Power” songstress, Penny Ford.
- Dance Party and Nighttime Takeover–At the Interactive Dance Party, located on the upper level of the Walk of Fame, visitors enjoy music, theatrical lighting and interactive media consoles that invite them to their groove on. At night, this area is a showcase for the Nighttime Takeover, where the entire site comes alive with music, digital media and colorful motion lighting.
JRA, part of RWS Global, served as the lead planning, experience design and project management team for the much-anticipated project, with interactive digital media by Trivium Interactive and lighting by Abernathy Lighting Design, an EOS Lightmedia Studio. “We were honored when Commission President Reece approached us to design the experience for the Walk of Fame, and we were inspired by her vision for the project,” said Tony Schmidt, JRA Director, Studio. “We knew immediately that this would not only be a tourism driver for the region, but a way of honoring the unsung heroes of music and the contributions they have made to the industry and to music culture as a whole. It was a truly collaborative effort on an aggressive deadline that stretched our team creatively, and we’re thrilled at the overwhelmingly positive response.”
“I told JRA to ‘bring me Disneyland,’” said Reece, “and they delivered. Incorporating cutting edge technology was extremely important to me, and between the interactive kiosks, the lighting effects, the green screen media and the overall aesthetics, JRA and the other creative collaborators have more than fulfilled that brief. It was an important part of my vision that the Walk of Fame be fully accessible as an experience that grandparents, parents and children can enjoy together. The Cincinnati Black Music Walk of Fame has succeeded on all of these fronts, while shining a spotlight on some of the greatest musicians and voices in music history with their origins in the region. Together, we’ve turned a gravel lot into one of the world’s greatest outdoor interactive Black music tourism attractions, and for that I am immensely grateful.”
2023 Cincinnati Black Music Walk of Fame inductees included chart-topping group The Deele, featuring prolific music producers Antonio “L.A.” Reid and Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds; Louise Shropshire, who composed the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome”; the “Godfather of Soul” James Brown, who spent 15 years making music at Cincinnati’s famed King Records studio; and Philippé Wynne, lead singer of 1970s group, The Spinners. In a surprise moment at the Induction Ceremony, Commissioner Reece was also honored with a star on the Walk of Fame in recognition of her vision for its founding and her dedication to its construction. Other Induction Ceremony attendees included past recipients Bootsy Collins, Penny Ford, Midnight Star, as well as industry influencers 24 Carat Black, Kathy Wade and Shirley Murdock. The ceremony closed with a special celebration performance by legendary R&B group, The Ohio Players.
The Cincinnati Black Music Walk of Fame is located just outside The Andrew J Brady Music Center on the Cincinnati, Ohio Riverfront. The attraction is fully accessible to the public. For more information, visit www.cincinnatiblackmusicwalkoffame.org.