Truth and Reconciliation Visual Art Exhibition opens today

Press Release

Truth and Reconciliation Visual Art Exhibition opens today


Cody Hefner, (513) 608-5777,


Truth and Reconciliation Visual Art Exhibition opens today

Part of ArtsWave and City of Cincinnati partnership, exhibition showcases Black and Brown artists

CINCINNATI, OH (July 16, 2021) — The National Underground Railroad Freedom CenterArtsWave and the City of Cincinnati kicked off the weekend-long Truth and Reconciliation Artist Showcase today with the opening of the Truth and Reconciliation Visual Art Exhibition at the Freedom Center. The exhibition of artwork is included with museum admission and represents a wide range of artistic media, including portraits, paintings, poetry and more. Truth and Reconciliation Visual Arts Exhibition runs July 16 through October 31 at the Freedom Center.

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

“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 RECONCILIATIONThe 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 ProjectDrawing 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 ProjectThrough 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 ServedPatterson’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 FoundationDuke EnergyFifth Third BankCincinnati 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).


“Throughout the screening selection and the jury process for the overall narrative feature competition, Bridge has been a title with deep resonance,” said tt stern-enzi, artistic director for the OTR International Film Festival. “It captures, akin to the myth of Sisyphus, the ongoing realities of a community locked in a struggle to gain freedom and control of their situation and hones in on their resilience.”

The OTR International Film Festival helps build a world where movies and media can reflect and value all people. The festival brings together stories from diverse points of view to celebrate difference and honor our shared humanity. The festival is built on five pillars: freedom, identity, diversity, disability and faith. For 2021, the OTR International Film Festival’s theme is A New Lens on Life. As people are emerging from a period of disconnection and isolation, the festival invited guests to see the world through a new lens.

The OTR International Film Festival is made possible through the support of: Founding Sponsor Saul Schottenstein Foundation B; Presenting Sponsor Edwards Initiative; Gold Sponsors Procter & Gamble and Q102; Silver Sponsors PNC BankGreat American Insurance Group and Fifth Third Bank; Bronze Sponsors First Financial Bank, McCloy Family Foundation, UC HealthHuntington BankMonteverdi TuscanyBlank Rome, The Geiger Family, J.P. MorganAgar and CET; and Proud Partners ArtsWaveCintasGraydonTeam Performance InstituteHarriet Beecher Stowe House, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, AllegraBraxton Brewing Co.Bar SaesoSugar n’ Spice Diner and the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza.


About the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center opened in August 2004 on the banks of the Ohio River in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. Since then, more than 1.3 million people have visited its permanent and changing exhibits and public programs, inspiring everyone to take courageous steps for freedom. Two million people have utilized educational resources online at, working to connect the lessons of the Underground Railroad to inform and inspire today’s global and local fight for freedom. Partnerships include Historians Against Slavery, Polaris Project, Free the Slaves, US Department of State and International Justice Mission. In 2014, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center launched a new online resource in the fight against modern slavery,

About ArtsWave

ArtsWave, a nonprofit serving the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Region, is the engine for the arts. Its roots stem back to the late 1920s when the Cincinnati Taft family provided initial investment matched by community support. In the late 1940s, it evolved to become the first united arts fund in the nation and in the mid-1970s, the first organization to initiate workplace giving for the arts. ArtsWave continues to innovate while leading, as illustrated by its No. 1 rank nationally in community arts fundraising; coordination of a sector-wide Blueprint for Collective Action; piloting of new technologies to maximize arts engagement; and development of resources for the arts.
Strong funding for the arts has allowed Cincinnati’s arts and culture scene to become a national draw and regional asset, creating a wave of economic and community benefits. Each year, ArtsWave supports the work of over 100 arts organizations, school outreach programs, festivals, community centers, neighborhoods and various collaborations through impact-based grants. In 2019, ArtsWave raised over $12 million, marking its sixth year in a row surpassing this milestone. ArtsWave remains the largest community campaign for the arts throughout the country, both in total contributions and number of donors.

ArtsWave is focused on helping the Cincinnati Region’s arts sector weather the coronavirus crisis. The region’s arts sector has an economic impact of more than $300 million annually and includes more than 225 organizations that employ 10,000 individuals as artists, performers, and staff. When venue and performance closures were announced in early March 2020, ArtsWave worked quickly to accelerate $2.4 million in grant payments for 43 organizations that receive operating revenues, expanded its $10,000 Working Capital Bridge Loans for eligible arts organizations, provided Emergency Arts & Culture Organization grants to 47 organizations, and administered $3,700,000 in relief funds at the federal, county and city level to arts organizations and artists. Throughout the year, ArtsWave provided $750,000+ in support to cultural organizations led by or serving primarily BIPOC audiences. ArtsWave amassed $13+ million for the arts last year, through a combination its 2020 Campaign and an additional Arts Vibrancy Recovery Fund, focused on getting the arts through this challenging time. The public can help fund the Campaign and additional, evolving efforts at

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