Art at the Main Library

Discover Art of All Kinds at the Main Library

Visit the Downtown Main Library and discover one-of-a-kind public art inside and outside the buildings. From a cutting-edge light installation featuring over 29,000 LEDs to three historic stained glass windows dating back to 1874, there is art for everyone to enjoy. Read more about just some of the art featured at the Main Library including:

  • Phronesis by Jen Lewin
  • Historic Stained Glass Windows
  • Amelia Valerio Weinberg Memorial Book Sculpture
  • Sky Landscape II by Louise Nevelson
  • The Due Date Wall


Phronesis, by artist Jen Lewin, opens a new window, is a large-scale light sculpture on the South Plaza of the Main Library. Seven of the sculpture’s light pillars are installed outside the Library’s Vine Street entrance, and a single interior light pillar is immediately inside the building's atrium.

Derived from Ancient Greek, the word phronesis is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, opens a new window as "understanding" and "practical judgement. 

With Phronesis, Lewin looks both into the past and the future. Inspired by the search of Dr. Stephen Bertman, a professor of Languages, Literature, and Cultures at the University of Windsor in Canada, Lewin crafted eight large illuminated sculptures, each representing a guiding principle of ancient Greek wisdom:

  • Humanism
  • The Pursuit of Excellence
  • The Practice of Moderation
  • Self-Knowledge
  • Rationalism
  • Restless Curiosity
  • The Love of Freedom
  • Individualism

These principles and their ancient roots remind us of the vast breadth of human knowledge, curiosity, and history, much of which is preserved and shared through the Library.

Moving into the Future

Although rooted in the past, the eight pillared forms of Phronesis look towards the future. Each glowing, dynamic pedestal is wrapped in a binary translation of its principle, merging our fundamental past with the language of our digital future. The height and size of each pillar directly reflect its encoded binary message. This work symbolizes the continuity and evolution of human wisdom, bridging ancient insights with modern technological expression.

The eight pillars of Phronesis range in height from 13 feet to 28 feet and include a custom wireless mesh LED system personally created and coded by Jen Lewin. Designed so that no sequence is ever the same, Phronesis features an original flow and color-changing pattern that mimics the way the wind rustles through the trees. As with all of Lewin's work, each color, transition, and moment within the dynamic, ever-changing illuminated landscape of Phronesis was meticulously coded by Lewin with care and precision. The installation comprises over 29,000 LEDs, creating a stunning and immersive visual experience.

Historic Stained Glass Windows

Current location: 3rd Floor, South Building, Downtown Main Library

When the original Main Library opened to the public on February 25, 1874, three intricate stained glass windows were installed on an interior wall separating the reading room from the great hall and massive atrium in the center of the building. The windows were impressive, attractive, and practical: their location allowed natural light to pass through the windows into the great hall, where light was at a premium.

The artistry captures the virtues of the Public Library and the City of Cincinnati in an elegant manner. The left panel includes the words "History, Poetry and Drama." The center panel features the Public Library and Juncta Juvant, Cincinnati's Latin motto meaning “Strength in Unity." The right panel features the words "Science, Art and Travel."

For several decades, the windows were on display at the Old Spaghetti Factory, a now-defunct restaurant on 2nd St., until returning to the Main Library for display in the 1990s. 

As part of the 2024 Main Library renovations, the historic stained glass windows are now on to the third floor of the Main Library's South Building, and arranged in the order they were once presented at the original Main Library.

For the first time since the 1950's, natural light again passes through the glass panels, illuminating their beauty for the enjoyment of our community.

Amelia Valerio Weinberg Memorial Sculpture

Current location: Northwest Corner of the South Plaza, Downtown Main Library

Affectionately known as the "book sculpture," this ceramic sculpture was created by former Cincinnati sculptor Michael Frasca through a bequest of Mrs. Amelia Valerio Weinberg. The artwork was dedicated in 1990.

Originally used as a fountain prior to the 2024 renovation of the Main Library's South Building, the artwork was carefully disassembled, restored, and reinstalled as a sculpture for future generations to enjoy.

Sky Landscape II

Current location: Walnut Street Entrance to South Building of Downtown Main Library

The sculpture “Sky Landscape II” was created by world-famous artist Louise Nevelson, opens a new window and commissioned by Federated Department Stores in 1980. Sky Landscape II was relocated from the entrance of Federated's Downtown Cincinnati offices to the Downtown Main Library on January 8, 1993, when it was gifted by Federated Department Stores to the City of Cincinnati.

The Due Date Wall

Current location: North Plaza of the Downtown Main Library

The due date wall is an illuminated art installation depicting due date cards, a method used by the Library to track borrowed books before the Library digitized this process.

At first glance, the numbers found on these cards seem to be random, but look closer and you might recognize some famous dates in Cincinnati lore. For example, eagle-eyed visitors may spot the dates when the Cincinnati Reds won their World Series titles. There are 17 Cincinnati-themed dates hidden in the wall. Can you find them all?

Explore More at the Main Library

Journey through three floors and 540,000 square feet of books, movies, music, and more at the Main Library with new spaces and services for you to enjoy, including:

  • Redesigned spaces like meeting rooms and interactive areas for kids and teens
  • The new Catherine C. and Thomas E. Huenefeld Story Center to record and share history with future generations
  • Outdoor plazas with new public art and spaces to gather
  • Return of the beloved book sculpture 
  • Phronesis, a new large-scale light sculpture
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