The exhibition is part of ArtsWaves weekend-long Truth and Reconciliation Artist Showcase highlighting visual art, films and live performances from 27 local artists who received funding from ArtsWave’s inaugural round of Black & Brown Artist Grants. The grants program and its subsequent Truth and Reconciliation Artist Showcase were born out of a need to respond to the acts and events of racial and social injustice that reached a fever pitch during the summer of 2020.
“Art has the power to transform, to uplift and empower, to inspire and ignite,” said Woodrow Keown, Jr., president & COO of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. “Art can create room for dialogue, where two people can have a conversation through or in front of a piece of art, unafraid of the reflection we may see in the piece. We are honored to partner with ArtsWave and these talented artists from across Greater Cincinnati. Together, we hope we can heal as we move ever closer to an equal and equitable future.”
As part of the Truth and Reconciliation Artist Showcase, the Freedom Center will also screen a series of films produced by the artists from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 17 and 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 18. The film screenings are free. For a list of films, click here.
Artists will also showcase live performances Sunday, July 18 at Memorial Hall. For a list of performances, visit artswave.org/showcase.
“The work of the 27 artists gives us insight into their personal pain and struggles caused by overt and systemic racism,” said Alecia Kintner, president & CEO of ArtsWave. “But through their art, they illustrate hope and optimism that their stories will educate and push us forward to a place of greater equity and understanding. I thank each of them for sharing their truth with us.”
Featured artists in the Freedom Center’s Truth and Reconciliation Visual Art Exhibition include:
Brent Billingsley’s Painted Pieces of TRUTH and Spoken Words of RECONCILIATION. The work is a collaborative project involving fine art and spoken word poetry. In the work, the American flag serves as the them that unites iconic Americans from different cultural backgrounds.
Gee Horton with Phyllis Jeffers-Coly and LaDe Richardson’s The Baobab Project. Drawing from traditional African rites of passage, The Baobab Project explores ways in which Black men come of age. Conceptually, this work is rooted in the understanding of the majestic baobab tree and the barbershop as sacred communal spaces. Informed by Horton’s own coming of age journey, the project invited men to look inward and reflect on their internal and external identities through barbershop conversations. To date, over 50 Black men from diverse ages and backgrounds have participated in this project and have united to create a beautiful collection of intimate personal portraits.
Rebecca Nava Soto’s The Edge Project. Through a combination of Mesoamerican-inspired mixed media paintings, digital projection and an ephemeral floor installation, The Edge Project creates a visual continuum that is grounded in indigenous aesthetics and extends into contemporary Latinx culture. Nava Soto uses writing, image-making and popular materials as mediums through which individuals can explore their presence and participation in a multitude of worlds. The piece considers a person’s individual, familial and communal worlds as edge environments that have the potential to transform.
Tyra Patterson’s Time Saved vs. Time Served. Patterson’s use of painted portraits of incarcerated women, all of whom are dressed in prison uniforms, reveals the dehumanizing and brutal restrictions that women confront when incarcerated. The work seeks to shed light on these restrictions, about which the public may be unaware, and emphasize the inequities of prison conditions for men and women.
Michael Coppage’s Black Box. Black Box reclaims the word “black” and aims to strip it of the negative connotations society and implicit biases have reinforced over centuries. The work features portaits of Black men in shirts with a noun preceded by the word black: Black List, Black Market, Blackout, Black Eye. The portraits are vehicles through which Coppage demystifies Black men by encouraging viewers to gain an awareness of the ways in which they use and consume colors and to develop an understanding of the hidden and loaded meanings attached to them. Through his work, the artist seeks to foster discourse around education and healing and thus promote empathy and compassion.
ArtsWave and the City of Cincinnati awarded $272,000 through this year’s Black & Brown Artists Grants program. Funding for the grants and the artist showcase was provided by the City of Cincinnati, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Duke Energy, Fifth Third Bank, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and ArtsWave’s Arts Vibrancy Recovery Fund. Grantees were awarded through a competitive, community-based selection process, which was chaired by Toilynn O’Neal, founder of the Robert O’Neal Multi Cultural Arts Center (ROMAC).