Kentucky artist captures Hamilton vibe with Rossville Flats creations

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

Rossville Flats is part of the transformation of the 300 block of Main Street in Hamilton’s urban core designed to attract those who want a downtown experience to the city.

The four-story brick structure provides tenants with a sleek and modern downtown atmosphere, and now they have lobby artwork to match.

“What we wanted to do is to incorporate the urban feel of the building with Hamilton’s artwork around town,” said Pete Montgomery, a property manager with CMC Properties.

The work was designed and created by Erlanger, Kentucky, artist Shawn Voelker, but it was inspired by Hamilton, which was the goal of CMC’s president Jim Cohen, Montgomery said. The idea to have this unique artwork that came to Cohen after patronizing one of Agave and Rye’s locations.

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

“They take iconic figures in history, and we wanted to do kind of the same thing, but do it with iconic figures around Hamilton, and put a twist on it,” said Montgomery.

Initially, they sought the same artist used by Agave and Rye, but he was booked, but Montgomery knew an artist and one-time classmate ― Voelker ― at Ludlow High School in Northern Kentucky. Voelker is known for two things with his artwork: most of his commissions are sports-related, and one of the materials he uses is a hologram foil background.

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

“The materials are the difference maker for me,” said Voelker. “There are a million different artists in the world that create and are very talented, but finding your own niche, I think is key, and I’m one of the artists in the country that I know of that creates the foil background — very unique, very contemporary.”

Voelker said he was afforded the kind of freedom to create these five commissioned pieces that he doesn’t normally get for one of his sports or music portraits. Some use the foil background and others are more traditional paintings or charcoal drawings. Those are recreated creations from scenes in sports include Cincinnati Reds legend Pete Rose diving head first into a base, or another Reds great, Joey Votto, waiting for a pitch. He’s created numerous portraits of Cincinnati Bengals, music icons, and other sports figures, like golf legend Tiger Woods.

Voelker incorporated the foil background in the five pieces, but only started after he familiarized himself with Hamilton’s artistic history and the vibe of the Rossville Flats building. In the five pieces of art, he paid homage to Hamilton but “with a little bit of satire in a cool way that appeals to anybody who likes that downtown living.”

The first piece he created was inspired by The American Cape, the statue of Alexander Hamilton that greets High Street motorists into downtown Hamilton with his cape flowing behind him.

“We thought that was essential, it’s one of the main features coming into Hamilton that I recognized coming in,” Voelker said.

Other inspirations include a pair of public art works at Armstead Park ― the StreetScape mural Alexander and the sculpture When it Rains it Pours ― as well as Billy Yank atop the Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers Monument and the Marcum Heart in the Park splash pad that features Rossville Flats in the background.

Each piece took about 40 hours to create, along with some of Voelker’s heart and soul, he said. This commission was fun for him, he said, as it was some of the more creative work he’s done in a while because of the allotted freedom.

“I just like the ability to be able to translate a figure in a unique way,” he said.

Voelker has already received at least one private commission request for another piece of unique Hamilton art, and Montgomery said he wouldn’t put it past his boss to commission more artwork down the road.

“They’re just very popular,” he said. “I have a feeling that once people see how cool it is, he believes other (Hamilton) businesses will incorporate some stuff like that they see around town. Whether they use Shawn or not, it would just be neat to see some more of the artwork because that’s one thing Hamilton is known for. Hamilton is art.”

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