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Cincinnati's Flying Pig Icon Wasn't Always So Beloved

Jun 26, 2019

Before we had the big marathon, before Artworks had a "big gig," before its likeness was everywhere, flying pigs were met with strong objection in Cincinnati. Now the iconic winged pig is a mascot to the Queen City, but how did it get its start? Artist Andrew Leicester is partially to thank, or blame, depending on who you ask.

In 1987, Leicester unveiled his design for the Cincinnati Gateway, a sculpture created as the entry to Cincinnati's Bicentennial Commons, which opened in 1988. The sculpture included four winged pigs sitting atop smokestacks. They were intended as a reference to Cincinnati's pork-producing heritage, but they were met with some controversy and objection from then-mayor Charlie Luken. Some in the city wanted to keep the term "Porkopolis" buried in the past.

Now, the Alice F. and Harris K. Weston Art Gallery in the Aronoff Center for the Arts explores this important artistic work in Cincinnati Gateway Revisited, a 30th anniversary celebration and artistic examination of the public art project created as the entry to Cincinnati’s Bicentennial Commons.

Joining Cincinnati Edition to discuss the exhibit and the controversy surrounding the Cincinnati Gateway are artist Andrew Leicester; Cincinnati Bicentennial Executive Director Richard Greiwe; and Historian Dan Hurley.

The exhibit Cincinnati Gateway Revisited runs through August 25 at the Weston Art Gallery. There is a gallery talk with the artist and noted historian Erika Doss on Sunday, June 30 at 2 p.m. at 21c Museum Hotel. Admission is free and open to the public.

Listen to Cincinnati Edition live at noon M-F. Audio for this segment will be uploaded after 4 p.m. ET.

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