June 15, 2022
Freedom Center displays artwork to encourage stronger police-community relations
“I’m Listening…” artist Brent Billingsley will host informal lecture June 19
CINCINNATI – The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center added a new piece of art to its museum experience. “I’m Listening…” is a piece created by local artist Brent Billingsley in collaboration with the Cincinnati Police Department (CPD) to reflect and encourage stronger police-community relations. The project is on display on the Freedom Center’s third floor from June 15 to September 25, 2022.
“I’m Listening…” was designed with local teens working alongside CPD officers during 16 three-hour artistic workshops led by Billingsley. Officers and teens from each of CPD’s five districts participated in the project, producing a portion of the mural before the artist combined them into its finished 17x20-foot display. The mural portrays a Black office and a Black teen meeting across a protest line for a fist bump. In the background, other offices kneel and raise their fists, mirroring the stance of activists across from them. The artist’s hope is that the piece will inspire discussion and reflection that can better unite officers and the people they are sworn to protect, just as the project did when the two worked alongside each other to create it.
Billingsley will be joined by CPD officers and youth who participated in the project for an informal gallery talk at the Freedom Center on Sunday, June 19 at 11:30 a.m. Admission to the Freedom Center is free on Juneteenth as part of their Fifth Third Community Days.
Billingsley is a local artist and empowering voice for disenfranchised youth. His artwork depicts a single, powerful image distributed across several smaller pieces, often painted by community youth, and presented together as a cohesive mural. It’s a reflection of his philosophy that everyone is part of something bigger than themselves and that their part matters. He believes the world can be changed through art, one piece at a time. He is a 2022 recipient of ArtsWave’s Truth and Reconciliation grant.
Billingsley is also a Behavioral Health Specialist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and is a co-founder of two nonprofits that utilize artistic engagement and performing arts for therapeutic purposes. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Miami University with a concentration in printmaking and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Cincinnati.
Billingsley’s “I’m Listening…” is supported by Magnified Giving, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati Recreation Commission, Reds Community Fund, Fringe Church, LaRosa’s Pizzeria, ROMAC, Back2Back Cincy, ArtsWave, Cincinnati Police Department, Meizinger Construction Services, ARTE, Pixxel Designs, Eddie Hawkins, Charley Frank, Monica Mitchel Johnson and Patrick Davis.