Controversial art to local brand, flying pigs soared

The flying pig at The Art of the Brick exhibit at Cincinnati Museum Center in 2016.

This weekend my daughter bought an ’80s wind jacket from a vintage store. The kind that makes a swishing sound when you walk. I thought about how it was once ubiquitous, then reviled, and now cool again.

The ’80s are back. But there’s one holdover from the decade of big hair and acid washed jeans that never lost its luster: Cincinnati’s connection with the flying pig.

After living through the Big Pig Gig in 2000, and following the Flying Pig Marathon since its inception, many of us have a hard time imagining a time in Cincinnati where winged pigs weren’t around every turn.

But as we were donning that throwback wind jacket the first time around, there was nary a flying pig in sight.

For Cincinnati’s 200th birthday in 1988, the city built Bicentennial Commons at Sawyer Point. What’s a park without art? So British artist Andrew Leicester was commissioned to create a sculpture for the entrance.

You’ve no doubt seen it; the four smokestacks are a nod to the city’s river history. And at the top of those smokestacks? Four winged pigs. Leicester said it symbolized Cincinnati’s pork processing history – and the pigs’ ascent into heaven.

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