What to Know About BLINK in Covington

BLINK drew roughly one million visitors to downtown Cincinnati in 2017 and in its new production this weekend, large crowds are expected again as the event grows into Covington. BLINK will stretch from Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine, across an illuminated Roebling Suspension Bridge, and to the area of Seventh Street and Madison Avenue in Covington.

Here's what to know:

Expect crowds, tight parking

"Those two facts alone should tell you - it's going to be crowded," City Manager David Johnston said about the density of the Covington zone in BLINK and the crowds expected.

Covington Police Chief Rob Nader said, "Expect congestion."

City of Covington officials have been working with BLINK organizers, public safety agencies, transportation organizations and other partners to mitigate problems at the event, whose hours - officially - are 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

But they say visitors can help by following these tips:

  • Come to Covington via bus, shuttle, rideshare or carpool.
  • Expect to walk between attractions.
  • Download the BLINK Cincinnati app for maps and other information.
  • Plan your visit and route ahead of time. 

"BLINK is meant to be enjoyed on foot," Nader said. "Do NOT anticipate driving between BLINK attractions, as we fully expect traffic in and around those areas to be moving slowly, if at all."

 What is BLINK?

It's difficult to summarize. Basically, it's a free "festival" (although organizers shy away from that word) that uses projected lighting, immersive art, murals and music to showcase unique buildings and public spaces and turn the region into a massive outdoor art museum. The illuminating sponsor is ArtsWave, and it's produced by The Agar, ArtWorks, Brave Berlin, the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation, and the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber.

Covington north of Seventh Street along Madison Avenue and Scott Boulevard is one of five BLINK's neighborhood zones, with the others in Cincinnati. 

Covington will have two "hospitality areas" - in the parking lot across from RiverCenter and on Seventh Street - which will include music stages scheduled with hour-long sets from dozens of bands.

In all, Covington will have more than 20 installations and attractions, including:

  • A dozen light projection sequences of 3 to 10 minutes each on continuous loops focused on The Ascent, the Octave (former German National Bank building), The Mutual Building, the BB&T building, the Faile and London Police murals, and other locations.
  • A coordinated music and light show featuring the Suspension Bridge, a la "RUMBLE: A Contemporary Voice for the Bridge that Sings."
  • A free concert by the rock group Grouplove.
  • New murals on the U.S. Bank building at Sixth Street and Madison Avenue and the north side of the TANK garage on Madison Avenue.
  • A pop-up disco party featuring the World's Largest Mobile Disco Ball (there is an admission charge to this).
  • A light installation sitting on the Ohio River. 

Several Covington organizations - including Baker Hunt Art & Cultural Center and the Hellman Creative Center - were among those that held workshops to prepare light accessories and other objects for Thursday evening's parade, whose route is entirely north of the Ohio River.

Road closures

The City of Cincinnati will restrict traffic on many streets in its urban core during BLINK, as seen HERE. Covington's restrictions on vehicles will be more limited: 

  • The Suspension Bridge will be closed starting at 7 p.m. to until 10 p.m. Monday, although pedestrians will be welcome. Oggo will also run a shuttle with its electric vehicles.
  • RiverCenter Boulevard from Scott Street to the Embassy Suites valet (just west of Madison Avenue) will be closed from 4 p.m. to midnight Thursday through Sunday.
  • Seventh Street between Madison Avenue and Washington Street also will be closed from 4 p.m. to midnight Thursday through Sunday. Traffic on Seventh during the daylight hours will be limited to one lane, and the "alcove" on the southern side of the street will be closed off during the entire four days. 
  • Transportation

Covington officials strongly urge visitors to use public transportation, a rideshare program or carpooling to get to and around the City. Options include:

  • TANK, Northern Kentucky's bus system, will provide direct service from Northern Kentucky University's Lot E to the Covington Transit Center at Third Street and Madison Avenue, with buses leaving every 15 minutes and costing $2. Details HERE.
  • Southbank Shuttle will provide service throughout the downtown area (with a route reaching into Cincinnati) at $1 a ride, with buses arriving every 15 minutes. Map, HERE.
  • TANK will also provide a special route Friday and Saturday to the Transit Center from The Center for Great Neighborhoods of Covington's "Party at the Bus Stop" get-together at Holman Street and MLK Boulevard (12th Street). Info, HERE
  • A good summary of the transportation information surrounding BLINK, including private rideshare information, can be found under the "Getting around" part of the event's website, HERE.

Covington Economic Development Director Tom West said BLINK will bring attention to two things Covington is known for - its historic buildings and its array of authentic, unique restaurants and bars.

"We definitely encourage visitors to not just enjoy the spectacle that is BLINK but also take a minute to check out Covington and patronize its businesses," West said. "They are worth experiencing."

NKU students' work to be featured

A Northern Kentucky University collaborative artwork will be showcased as part of BLINK.

Students and faculty from the School of the Arts, (SOTA) including the NKU’s Philharmonic Orchestra, will present the Light Streams installation on Oct. 10-13 at Smale Riverfront Park, east of Roebling Suspension Bridge on the Ohio side of the river. The opening night features live performance at 9 p.m. of the orchestra’s music timed with the kinetic movement of lights in the art work.

Three faculty artists are leading the installation: Associate Professor of New Media Art Brad McCombs, Assistant Professor of Strings and Director of Orchestras Amy Gillingham and Associate Professor of Visual Communications Design Hans Schellhas. 

Light Streams will use dynamic colored lights that illuminate and animate a collection of canoes orchestrated to a musical score. The interactive installation will evoke rivers and streams with their power to captivate the imagination through their infinite movement of color and shape. The collaborative project uses the metaphor of canoes traveling on water to communicate our region’s past and the continuing journey to our future.

“Eight canoes will be supported above ground at various heights between five and 10 feet in the air. Each canoe is outlined in programmable RGB lights to create incredible effects of movement and color orchestrated to an amazing musical score,” said Brad McCombs.

SOTA students have been spending hours rehearsing the musical score while other students have helped assemble the installation, welding supports structures and applying ultraviolet designs on the canoes that are roughly 17 feet long. Thursday evening will premier Light Streams to the BLINK crowds, with the NKU Philharmonic Orchestra performing music by Bedřich Smetana, Miguel Roig-Francolí, and John Botter, a recent NKU Music alum.

“We wanted our music to help the installation come alive and also simulate the movement of water. The musicians, dressed in black below and around the canoes, will wear small blue lights on their bodies and instruments to reveal flowing movements as they perform,” said Amy Gillingham. “After the live performance, the other BLINK nights will feature a prerecorded sound track of the orchestra that will be synchronized and programmed to the lights.”

“Part of the intent is that the piece could be enjoyed up close with details like the flowing patterns that will be intermittently activated with UV lights, as well as viewing the hovering illuminated canoes from across the river,” said Visual Communication Design professor, Hans Schellhas.

-Staff report