Play Area Helps Transform Vacant House Into Vibrant Forest

In the heart of Cincinnati, a gloomy afternoon turned vibrant as Brad McCombs, NKU’s Art & Design Program head, and a group of students gathered to transform the historic Holloway House into a haven for teen mothers facing homelessness. Amidst the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Rosemary’s Babies Company, led by founder and CEO Rosemary Oglesby-Henry, recognized a critical gap in resources for homeless parents. Determined to make a difference, Oglesby-Henry acquired the Holloway House in 2022, which had sat vacant for over a decade, and enlisted McCombs to create a forest-inspired play area within.

The play area, named “Levi’s Learning Area” is a testament to McCombs’ multidisciplinary artistic vision. Using large tubes coated with papier-mâché and paint to resemble tree bark, the installation features crawl spaces and a treehouse-like balcony, offering children a whimsical yet educational space. The room is awash in earth tones, with a mural painted by McCombs outside depicting a tree adorned with leaves acknowledging the organization’s donors. This transformative project was made possible through the collaboration of McCombs and four students, who were compensated through the College of Arts and Sciences-sponsored Student Success Impact Mini-Grant.

Rachel Paxitzis, one of the contributing students, expressed the invaluable experience of witnessing the project’s progression from conception to completion. Aspiring to teach art at the college level and specialize in community art, Paxitzis saw the project not only as an opportunity to apply her skills but also as a meaningful endeavor that could positively impact the lives of young mothers and their children. With the doors to the Holloway House and Resource Center set to open in the spring of 2024, the project serves as a beacon of hope, providing a nurturing environment for families in need. Oglesby-Henry envisions a space where young mothers can find support, and children can thrive in a thoughtfully designed, forest-inspired play area that transcends the challenges they may be facing.

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