Truth & Healing Artist Showcase


Sharing truth, encouraging healing

July 14 through September 10, 2023

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is once again partnering with ArtsWave to give Black and Brown artists a platform to share their truth and encourage healing. The Truth & Healing Artist Showcase focuses on the themes of healing, rebirth and reconnection and highlights the struggles that people of color experience within the Cincinnati region, including the mental challenges that come with cultural and racial divisions and the ongoing inequities Black and Brown people face. Despite these challenges, glimmers of hope shine brightly, allowing us to heal by reminding us what Black love looks like and the quest for joy during difficult times.

Among the artists and works featured in the Freedom Center exhibition are:

  • ASHA AMA’s AGAPE, a couture collection of menswear and womenswear exploring gender fluidity and Black people’s intentional separation while highlighting our unique ability to possess agape – or selfless – love. Though the world has strategically broken down Black people’s connection to their own identity, they still find ways to dream, find each other and love.
  • Julia O. Bianco’s TOGETHERNESS, a canvas tent cyanotyped using organic material collected from Burnet Woods. The piece invites viewers inside, where they can rest on handmade cushions, evoking a gathering around a bonfire as they also interact with a series of poems written during Bianco’s “Walking the Winter” sessions.
  • Brent Billingsley’s I’m Listening, which features a collaboration between the artist, Cincinnati Police Department and students at Woodward Career Technical High School that produced a line of hand-designed, costume-painted, artistically-rendered garments. The content is the result of a series of discussions between students, teachers and police that empower youth through creativity, relationship-building and care.
  • Michael Coppage’s HANDS BEHIND YOUR BACK!, part of his “12 Commandments” series. The bronze sculpture is a powerful commentary of police brutality disproportionately targeting Black and Brown communities. The piece plays on the Biblical commandments “Thou shalt not kill” and “Thou shalt not bear false witness” and the way police have historically used the power of their position to justify institutionalized violence against people of color. The sculpture further highlights how even compliance with these commands can result in death. The piece is not meant to demonize police, but to speak out against the assertion of power over Black bodies and the systemic issues that arise as a result.
  • Michael Thompson’s Murmurations, which uses the mesmerizing flight of thousands of starlings, as they flock in intricate and undulating patterns, to highlight the power of collective action to protect and progress our communities. The work draws parallels between natural and human systems and recognizes the strength and beauty of interconnectedness as a force for the common good in our efforts toward justice and dignity.

These projects explore not only the African American and Black experience, but also attempt to reconcile issues related to Mexican, Lebanese, Somali, Argentinian, Zimbabwean, Guatemalan and Indigenous heritage. Artists collaborated with community members and other partners in their projects, so that the larger public could participate in the process of healing, including reconnection and rebirth.

Funding and curation for this exhibition comes through ArtsWave’s Black and Brown Artist Program, the largest commissioning art program for local artists of color. ArtsWave – the region’s engine for the arts – created this program to provide financial support and to interpret the themes of our times. The Black and Brown Artist Program is supported by the City of Cincinnati, Macy’s, Duke Energy, Fifth Third Bank, Greater Cincinnati Foundation and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.


Skirball gallery, third floor
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
50 East Freedom Way, Cincinnati, OH 45202


Included with general admission.
Free for Members and on Fifth Third Community Days.

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