A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

People of NKY: This tall guy and artist is obsessed with making great sourdough bread (and sharing it)

By Ginger Dawson
Special to NKyTribune

As I have gone on in life, I never cease to be amazed at the twists and turns that a seemingly regular existence can have. I mean, I’ve lived on the same block for 31 years, I don’t go on boat trips down the Amazon River and I don’t have a burning desire to take up skydiving.

Christian Schmit in the kitchen.

None the less, interesting things continue to happen. I can’t account for it.  

Most recently, a loaf of sourdough bread was the culprit.

A few weeks ago, on Facebook, I noticed that an old friend was engaged in the process of baking bread for a small group of customers. I determined that I should be a part of that group.

This old friend, Christian Schmit, was a regular customer at a shop that I used to own and operate in downtown Cincinnati called God Save the Queen. He was a favorite. It didn’t hurt that his Aunt Jan and Uncle Scott were also part of my social circle.

At the time, he had just graduated from the Art Academy of Cincinnati and was pursuing his very definite calling to be an artist.  

Among the many projects he was involved in at that time, there was one, in particular, that was very memorable.  He joined with his friend, Teri Ford, an accomplished poet, in a spoken word performance entitled “Teri Ford and Uncle Glockenspiel.”  

One of the panels of An Epic of Time and Town.

Teri read her poetry to the accompaniment of Christian (Uncle Glockenspiel) who was attired in a one-man band getup that was somewhat reminiscent of the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz. The Tin Man was Christian’s fave.

It was a very good piece -— visually perfect, highly entertaining and very popular.

I hadn’t seen Christian in a very long time—maybe twenty years?

Because of sourdough bread, I found out what Christian had been up to since we last visited. 

After growing up in Montgomery, Ohio, and having had an Ohio-centric existence, Christian did that unthinkable thing—he moved to Kentucky! Covington, to be precise.

He had been working at Baker Hunt Art & Cultural Center and doing some after-school art projects for the Center for Great Neighborhoods—both Covington institutions— when, around 2004, a grant was awarded to him by the Kentucky Arts Council.

One of the stipulations of the grant was that the recipient must be a Kentucky resident. True to form (and we will get to this), Christian found a place to rent on Greenup St. in two days!

He did go back across the Ohio River to get his Master of Fine Arts at the University of Cincinnati’s Design, Art, Architecture & Planning program, however. He was also an adjunct professor there and does continue to exhibit his art on both sides of the river.

Lead Artist – Christian Schmit

An ongoing focus in his art has been a series of miniature constructions from recycled cardboard and paper creating “miniature private worlds”—literally tiny, beautifully crafted recreations of furniture and everyday objects. This body of work began in 2014 and has been shown in Cincinnati’s Weston Gallery, Thunders-Sky, Inc. Gallery and NKU, to name a few.

Christian also, on occasion, engages with ArtWorks, a Cincinnati non-profit that focuses on public art.  He has worked for them a few times over the years.

In 2009, he was the lead artist of a Covington mural on the Sixth St. building facade of the John R. Green Co. in the Mainstrasse Village.  

An Epic of Time and Town features people and places from Covington’s past and recent past. It is multi-panel and was inspired by the work of artist, Saul Steinberg. 

Steinberg (1914-1999) was prolific in many mediums—drawing, painting, sculpture, etc., and notably produced covers and sketches for The New Yorker magazine for sixty years.  In 1948, he was commissioned to create a mural that was installed in the Terrace Plaza Hotel in downtown Cincinnati.  After a move, Mural of Cincinnati is currently on display at the Cincinnati Art Museum.

It is a real treat to take time and really look at each of these murals—both Schmit’s and Steinberg’s. Each reveals a subtle humor and an affectionate wit towards its subject.

Sourdough heaven

Sadly, like the demise of the Terrace Hotel, which caused the removal of Mural of Cincinnati, Christian’s mural will soon meet its own fate as well. With the start of the John R. Green Lofts development slated to begin this Spring, that portion of the building that hosts An Epic of Time and Town is slated for demolition.

Please take the time to see it before it’s gone.  

The last couple of years Christian has been an Adjunct Professor of Art at Northern Kentucky University. He teaches Art fundamentals and Drawing. He takes this role very seriously and he goes beyond simply teaching basics and tries to mentor some of his ideas and attitudes into his students.  
One philosophy that he has shared is particularly important to him. Like many of us, for whom music played an influential part of our younger lives, Christian was particularly impacted by the “Do it Yourself” philosophy of the early, influential punk band The Minutemen.  

Mike Watt, lead singer, had/has a philosophy of “We Jam Econo” (named after an Econoline van the group toured in). To paraphrase Christian: “Whatever circumstance you’re given, do something with it.  If you don’t have a gallery to exhibit in, make one. If you can’t make a big piece of art, make a little one. The idea is to keep moving and keep creating. Make that the focus.”  

Lean and mean. No nonsense. Make it happen.

Get your loaves right here! ‘Fretting Over Bread Since 2018’

This is also the philosophy that drives Christian’s most recent obsession—baking bread. He had discovered this passion years ago during college era jobs.  

Even then “Jam Econo” had him admiring the work ethic and product that Bill Pritz, the owner of Shadeau Breads produced. Shadeau was a legendary Over-the-Rhine bakery. Christian badgered Pritz for a job. He even offered to work for free. No dice. It was a small bakery and there was no room.

This obsession went underground for a few years, but it did not disappear. A little over a year ago, it reared its head again. Bread.  

This prompted him to participate in a program sponsored by the Center for Great Neighborhoods, a Covington non-profit organization. FreshLo is the name of this initiative that focuses on local food production. Through this, Christian was linked up with Trinity Episcopal Church, which has provided an accommodating commercial kitchen.

The name of this project is Tall’s Bread. Christian jokes that the tagline to this title is “Fretting Over Bread Since 2018.”.He produces a small menu of sourdough baked goods: Bread, a loaf with dried cranberries and pretzels.

He has a three-point mission: To scratch his obsession, connect with people and “know that if you want a good loaf of bread you’re gonna get it”.

Find him on Facebook to find out more.

Covington has been a good place for Christian.

I am happy to have reconnected with this old friend.  You just never know when something as innocuous as a loaf of bread is going to yield such a pleasant result!  

The chief of Tall’s Bread. Yes, he is tall.

Ginger Dawson will be writing about the People of NKY — the neighbors you need to know and people you need to meet and understand. The feature will appear periodically at the NKyTribune. If you have ideas for subjects, please share them with Ginger at ginger@fuse.net.

See Ginger Dawson’s earlier People of NKY stories here.

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