Wednesday, February 7, 2018

A New Business is Coming to the Midway District



Zijah Popaja and Snezana Popaja Tenhundfeld walking in their hometown park in Bijeljina, Bosnia


The Midway District will soon be home to a new business. 

The former Heir of the Dog location at 1051 South Fort Thomas Avenue, which shuttered unexpectedly and without explanation, is being transformed into Art Around the Park, an art gallery featuring work by local artists. 

Father-daughter duo Zijah Popaja and Snezana Popaja Tenhundfeld are the masterminds behind the new gallery space.

Opening a gallery together had been on their minds for a while, but it wasn’t until the space became available that they were able to make that dream a reality. Popaja and Tenhundfeld are both former Fort Thomas residents, and are each also working toward moving back into the city. Their strong attachment for Fort Thomas is one of the many reasons why opening up a gallery within the Fort Thomas city limits was important to them.

Popaja is an accomplished artist, who is heavily inspired by the outdoors. He has shown his work in many galleries and art shows throughout the Greater Cincinnati area. His oeuvre consists of a variety of landscapes and wildlife, and some of his work was inspired by various places around Fort Thomas. With Popaja's artistic talents and Tenhundfeld's business acumen, opening an art gallery was the perfect fit for their collective skill sets


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The location was also a big draw for the duo. They are both fans of Tower Park, and see it as a great way to bring people into their space. 

South Fort Thomas right now is heating up with a couple of restaurants that are opening up, and it’s a great space there. Everywhere in Fort Thomas is wonderful, but it’s nice to have the park. The park is the magnet. I’m glad that we’re bringing a little bit of balance between the two sides of the city. People on the south side can walk to the gallery, and can walk to the restaurants, and the park,” said Tenhundfeld.

Art Around the Park will showcase Popaja's work while simultaneously serving as a studio space for his artistic ventures. The gallery will also host local guest artists. “My focus is to bring together artists,” said Popaja. “We will always find a spot for new artists.”

Popaja and Tenhundfeld on her wedding day. 

Two things are clear when speaking with Popaja and Tenhundfeld: their love of art and community. This gallery is being created to serve as another gathering spot for the Fort Thomas community and art aficionados alike. This is a family that truly believes in the power of community, and especially the city of Fort Thomas. Art Around the Park is as much an artistic space as it is a gift for the city that once welcomed them with open arms. “I feel like I was born again in this place,” said Popaja.


For many, Fort Thomas is a town we've known for most of our collective lives. Perhaps you were born here, or maybe you moved here for your children to attend schools. It's easy to take for granted that which we are familiar. For Popaja and Tenhundfeld, this town was a new beginning. Their family fled war-torn Bosnia, and were able to immigrate to Fort Thomas in 1995 thanks to the help of United Church of Christ. 

“The town brought us here when we needed it most,” said Tenhundfeld. Popaja and Tenhundfeld's appreciation for the city of Fort Thomas is a major force behind the creation of their new business. “For us, it’s just coming back home...The people are amazing. We just get that neighborhood feeling. Everybody knows everybody and it’s friendly,” said Tenhundfeld.

For Popaja, Art Around the Park is also a chance to give back to the city of Fort Thomas, and express his gratitude for the kindness this town has shown him since moving here in 1995. “They opened up their doors and brought us here. This is something to do in return, and also to help become an even better artist that I am now. That’s the goal...I want to leave something behind for Fort Thomas,” said Popoja.

Art Around the Park will have a grand opening in March 2018. The opening date is yet to be determined, but Fort Thomas Matters will provide more information about the opening as it becomes available.  

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