Pyramid Hill official charts path for future

Park celebrates its 20th anniversary.

Jeni Barton, director of arts administration at Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum in Hamilton, wears a lot of creative hats in her leadership role.

As a native of Hammond, Ind., she came to the Cincinnati area to serve in the role at Pyramid Hill in the spring of 2015. Today, she’s helping Pyramid Hill chart a new path for the future. Pyramid Hill is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2017.


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“Last year we had over 33,000 visitors in the park. We are the largest, cultural tourist attraction in Butler County, so we do bring people to art and nature on a very regular basis,” Barton said.

Prior to joining Pyramid Hill, Barton spent 10 years in the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs in Wilmington, Del., as marketing and special projects coordinator.

Barton holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in photography from the University of Delaware. She is an experienced grant and media writer as well as an innovative arts marketer. She is also a creative graphic designer, digital illustrator and photographer.

We found out more about the co-director of Pyramid Hill, who also minored in Japanese in college. Prior to moving to Ohio, Barton has lived in Indiana, Tennessee and Delaware.

Q: As director of arts administration, what strengths do you bring to Pyramid Hill?

A: I have a passion for creating new artistic experiences for the community. I remember when I had my first big junior high birthday party, I decorated different areas into themes with colored bulbs and an assortment of hand made props. I fell in love with utilizing creativity and art to give people a completely new experience. In our repetitive society suffering from information overload, it is very difficult to have a completely unique experience. That same passion I had at a young age has enabled me to bring exciting artists, projects, exhibitions and programs to Pyramid Hill that are causing people to take a second look at the park or draw completely new audiences.

Q: What is a typical day for you like at Pyramid Hill?

A: A typical day might include meetings with program partners, funders, staff or my co-director, Shaun Higgins. We have a small staff and wear a lot of hats, so it could include everything from writing grants, graphic design and writing press releases to giving tours.

Q: Pyramid Hill is celebrating its 20th Anniversary in 2017. Can you say a few words about that?

A: I believe this major milestone will be a pivotal point for Pyramid Hill, as the organization charts its course forward under new leadership. It is also a celebration of park founder Harry T. Wilks' vision and all that he was able to build since the park's creation in 1997.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary and the many exciting new developments at Pyramid Hill, we decided to engage Lemon Grenade to design a new logo that depicted what truly makes us unique — being an Art Park. The modern and clean new design reflects our new attitude while representing our iconic entrance sculpture, “Passage” by John Henry. We are also holding a special concert in partnership with the Butler Philharmonic (formerly the Hamilton-Fairfield Symphony Orchestra) and Cincinnati Opera on Sunday, July 16. The event will be the world premier for a new composition written by Paul John Stanbery, director of the Butler Philharmonic. It is titled “Vision on a Hill” and follows the story of the park’s creation. I am most excited to hear this new original composition. It will be the first time it will ever be played for the public. We also started a 20th Anniversary Fund, which is accepting donations to help support our endowment, and help our endowment grow, so we are sustainable for the next 20 years. Currently, the 20th Anniversary Fund has raised just over $20,000. There will also be a major exhibition, “Intrude,” which will be on display from October 6-15 by Australian artist, Amanda Parer. These are monumental sized rabbits, up to 23 feet tall that inflate, they light up, and they are absolutely stunning. They create a really mystical environment in the evening.

Q: You and Shaun Higgins serve as co-directors at Pyramid Hill. How do your and Shaun’s positions differ?

A: I think the best way to sum it up would be, I'm the artsy one. I have a background in fine arts and continue to be a practicing artist. This unique perspective from both artist and arts administrator allows me to create unique artistic experiences and bring exciting new artists to Pyramid Hill. Most museums do not have 300 acres, so we need two directors, who can handle both typical museum administration and land management. We are like the dynamic duo!

Q: What are some of the benefits Pyramid Hill offers to the community?

A: By more than doubling the programming at Pyramid Hill, we have been able to reach and engage more community members in a relatively short time, and appeal to new audiences. The new programs have given us an opportunity to partner with more organizations and deepen our reach in the art community. The increased audiences coming to Pyramid Hill also get to experience the renaissance going on in Downtown Hamilton.

Q: What is something people may not know about you?

A: I once ate the winning Oreo for a brand-new car. I couldn't get the car because I ate the cookie. I was playing Monopoly with my parents, eating Oreo's, and I picked up this Oreo and I said, "Oh look, they are putting pictures on Oreo's now." And, I showed everyone sitting around the table that there was a car on my Oreo, and I ate it. Then, the game ends, and my Mom went into kitchen, and she said, "Oh my gosh." And I said, "What?" She said, "This package says if you find the Oreo with car on it, you win a new Volkswagen Bug." We called, and they said, "No, you have to have the cookie," and I couldn't get it. I'm the only one I know in the world who has eaten a brand-new car.

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