OKI Wanna Know: Why was there a rooster on a light pole in downtown Cincinnati?

Our feature OKI Wanna Know is your chance to ask about that odd little thing that seems to fly under everyone else’s radar. This week, we look for the creator behind a piece of Downtown street art.

In the last year, Downtown denizen Morgan Smith noticed something attached to a light pole at Vine and Court streets.

“It’s white, and it’s about half of a rooster that sticks out of the pole and it’s just like a white glossy ceramic. I noticed it about a year ago, and it’s haunted me ever since.”

Smith wants to know what it is.

“I thought it could be maybe a memorial to someone because there’s a name on it — and I thought some dates — but I couldn’t read it. My only other thought is it’s some kind of artist doing guerilla public art.”

The sticker below the rooster reads “Champ,” with the dates June 11, 1986, and April 17, 2023. A Google search of the date doesn’t turn up anything obvious, so the dates may be significant to just a few.

Since we can’t confirm it’s a memorial, let’s consider it art.

ArtWorks is a non-profit that specializes in public art, like the multiple murals around town and the Big Pig Gig of a few years ago. Sydney Fine is their senior director of impact. She says the white rooster is not one of their projects.

RELATED: How many Big Pig Gig statues remain?

“I’m never working in that space, the guerilla art space. It’s not my area of expertise,” she says.

But, she does know about the process.

“The way Artworks typically does public art [is] where there’s tons of working with the city, getting permitting and property permissions, and we bring in community leaders to inform the artwork,” she says. “So it’s usually not a surprise. But I think the element of surprise has its own value.”

Guerilla art can be political, or it can be whimsical. That’s what the Bombshells of Cincinnati are aiming for.

“We’re a group of fiber artists. We started about 12 years ago, and we do yarn graffiti.”

That’s Jen Edwards, co-leader of the Bombshells. “Even a small yarnbombing, everyone spends about 60 hours apiece. All of a sudden somebody comes by and they’re super interested, and … it just brightens their day. We do it because of the joy that we bring.”

Yarnbombing, if you’re not familiar, is the art of knitting scarves and hats for statues, and wraps for trees. The Bombshells have decorated a number of statues, and had installations at Washington Park.

Jennifer Sult is the other Bombshell co-leader. She says their group didn’t make the light pole rooster, but she still appreciates it. “I love that! I love that there’s somebody out there just plotting and planning and sneaking out at night and putting things up there.”

Despite the sneaking around, Sult says most of their projects, like those of ArtWorks, are sanctioned.

“Every once in a while we’ll do a small project, where we don’t have permission,” Sult says.

RELATED: How many Winhold Reiss murals are there around Cincinnati?

One of those is in Northside. A restaurant on Spring Grove went out of business, and its sign, reading “fish logs” was taken down.

“And I was so sad. It also coincided with when my kids moved away to college,” Sult says. “I was heartbroken. The sign was gone, my kids were gone. I was talking to Jen, and I was like ‘We need to get a graffiti artist to put that sign back up.’ She looked at me and was like, ‘We are graffiti artists.’ “

Sult says they crocheted a new fish log sign, installed it, and then checked social media.

“Everybody just loved the fish log sign, and it being gone was just like a missing element in our neighborhood that they needed back,” Sult says.

Click through the slideshow below to see more guerilla art around town.

There are and have been other guerilla installations, especially Downtown. Eleven years ago, also at Court and Vine, there was a flower on a plank with the message “Put Art Everywhere.” This summer, at least nine linoleum and tar tiles appeared in intersections credited to an artist or collective called House of Hades; they have been reported in other cities, too.

We may not ever find out who installed the rooster, or any of these other pieces, but that may be the point: It’s art for art’s sake. It’s not about the artist. Sydney Fine with Artworks says street art is there to brighten your day.

RELATED: Why doesn’t President Taft have a statue in Cincinnati?

“I feel like once you notice one, you start becoming more observant of your surroundings because you want to find more, because it’s interesting.”

A glossy white rooster statuette on a light pole.

Bill Rinehart



If you’d like to see the rooster at Vine and Court, you’ll have to go back in time. It disappeared just before Thanksgiving. Jennifer Sult with the Bombshells says that’s not surprising.

“That’s one of the things that we have to accept when we put this art out there: it is temporary, it will get stolen. Especially if it’s really cool.”

If you’ve spotted something offbeat you want to know more, ask OKI Wanna Know by filling out the form below.

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