The Good King, designed by Arian Armstrong, is the latest installation in People's Liberty Globefront, having premiered in March. What's the premise? The Good King treats visitors to a space transformed into an abandoned clock tower turned art studio. Makeshift tables filled with coloring pages and art supplies propel guests into a world of imagination and creation. Cincinnati Refined called The Good King's funky design "Wes Anderson meets Where The Wild Things Are." We sat down with Globe Grantee Arian to discuss this immersive installation.
When asked about her inspiration, Arian said, “I wanted to make something that was creatively limitless for myself. I’d been doing freelance illustration and was often limited by the client’s vision. I wanted to build something very me and that helped kids believe, at an early age, that art had value. I also wanted it to be free. I knew that if I wanted to have a lot of people involved, whatever I created had to be free.
“I love beautiful, abandoned things. I love when people restore beautiful, abandoned things to their original glory. So, the overall concept is these kids have come into these beautiful, broken places and have turned them into art studios where good things can happen and they can try to change the world.”
The Globe Grant turned out to be perfect opportunity for Arian.
“My friend Julia, who started the Play Library, posted the application on Facebook. I studied set design in college, so I knew I could build something cool and attract an audience.”
“Designing and building this space was super fun. I used Bloc Ministries' woodworking shop. They employ people who’ve been to prison or may be recovering from addiction and teach them woodworking skills. One of the guys helped with my install over two weeks, and by the end he felt like we were family. Being able to build these relationships with people has been wonderful.”
Reflecting on the coloring pages, which she draws and designs herself, Arian pondered, “As I’ve been drawing these coloring pages, I’ve been asking myself who are these characters? Where did they live? What are they doing? Where are their parents?”
This space isn't just about coloring. It's about bringing together people of all ages to create art for folks out in the world going through a hard time. Each week's coloring page is for someone going through a difficult time in their life. When people come in to color, the pages are comprised into a book that is then delivered to the mission of the week.
“One of the cool things about having this spaces is the opportunity to do things I couldn’t do in just the online version. Once, I drew a coloring page for a little girl having surgery. Her friends and family showed up early, and she arrived to a surprise party. That moment stuck out to me because I don’t usually get to see the people receiving the coloring pages. It was really cool to see her response in real life.”
While children are often attracted to the space, adults enjoy it, too. “Painting cards for adults and with adults has been another part of this project I’ve really enjoyed. Even though children are usually the people coloring outside of this space, it’s usually the moms who are printing out the coloring pages and making it all happen. So it’s been nice to be able to provide grown ups, especially moms, a place to come make art and have a glass of wine by themselves; a free night out with a purpose.”
What’s next for The Good King? Arian has already been able to gather a community of people from all over the world to color her illustrations for people across the globe needing encouragement. She imagines outposts, like this one, in many different countries where people can commune and color for those facing hardships.
“I wanted to go wide, but I also wanted to go deep. I think Cincinnati is a very artistic and compassionate city, and I’m excited for the future here in Cincinnati and doing more pop-up events, and really taking advantage of Cincinnati’s rich artistic culture to keep doing good through coloring.”
The Good King Cincinnati Outpost closes on May 19, so make sure you visit before it goes away!
Open hours: Wednesdays–Sundays from 10am–4pm.