Happy Valley or Helltown

January 23 - March 13, 2009

Opening Reception January 23 5-9
Featuring the work of Voss Finn and Samantha Johnson

Northside was once known as Happy Valley or Helltown by Cincinnatians in the early 19th century. The Helltown was a result of brawling, feuds and drunken revelry in Northside’s barrel houses and honky tonks populated by the canal workers who built the Miami canal in the 1820’s and the “canawlers” who guided the barges to and from Cincinnati. The center of this hooliganism was at the Blue Goose tavern on the corner of Blue Rock and Spring Grove, now occupied by a used car lot.
The term Happy Valley may have come from Northside’s longstanding association with circus performances. Beginning in the late 19th and well into the 20th centuries, Knowlton’s corner was the site of annual parades of circus animals which disembarked from circus wagons and set up their shows in a nearby field.
Along with the heritage passed along from Northside’s founders Ephraim Knowlton, Jacob Hoffner, Alexander Langlands and others, the neighborhood has retained the widely divergent characteristics that it took on from the very beginning of its history. Along with spectacular natural features including Parker Woods and Spring Grove Cemetery, Northside is home to abandoned brownfields and sits along a stretch of the sewage infused Mill Creek. Its shops offer anything from designer knock-offs and used appliances to artisinal produce, specialty culinary outlets and high end clothing boutiques. It is home to active and vocal civic and preservation groups but has an excess of petty and violent crime.
Times have changed, but the phrase Happy Valley or Helltown still holds validity in describing the diverse neighborhood of Northside. This exhibition seeks to capture this spirit of diversity through artists’ transformation and recording of objects, places and people found in and around Northside.