We’re not quite ready to ring in 2015, so you’re going to have to wait to hear my resolutions for the very exciting New Year in front of us. Instead, it seems right to reflect on some of the more influential people and events in the arts in 2014, and this issue of The Ripple Effect is full of our top picks.
I want to tell you the stories of Three Wise Men and One Very Brave Young Woman – all of them committed to those wonderful holiday ideals of Peace and Harmony, in unlikely ways.
The first Wise Man knows that connections to culture – both past and present, both traditional and popular -- can help bring neighbors together. He is Ozie Davis, executive director of the Avondale Comprehensive Development Corporation, or A-CDC for short.
Earlier this year, when ArtsWave established its partnership with the Place Matters neighborhoods designated by LISC (Cincinnati’s Local Initiatives Support Corporation), Ozie chose two “past and present” arts activities from the menu that ArtsWave provided.
The first was a heritage cooking class offered by Bi-Okoto, to connect the neighborhood’s African American residents to past culinary traditions. The second was “Bach and Boombox” presented by local musician Nat Chaitkin, who used his cello and his radio speakers strategically located outside of a church peace rally to lure teens inside, to hear the message of reconciliation that neighborhood organizers were eager to communicate.
The second Wise Man is acting on the strength of his convictions, quietly but surely. As the new Village Manager for Silverton, Tom Carroll feels the pressure to balance a tight budget and invest in infrastructure. To balance the budget, Silverton recently contracted out law enforcement services to Hamilton County. But here’s what’s amazing: with money set aside from the sale of police equipment that’s no longer necessary, Tom is creating a small fund eventually to be used for public art. He’s even been able to sell guns and police cruisers the department no longer needs, with the proceeds seeding this public art fund.
In Tom’s own words: “It is pretty cool to sell public guns for public art, wouldn’t you say?”
Yes, I say, “Go Tom!” See you in the New Year with ideas for enlisting Silverton’s residents in a public art planning process.
The third Wise Man is Cincinnati Police Chief, Jeffrey Blackwell. Chief Blackwell made me sit up straighter when he told me that what kids in our city’s toughest neighborhoods needed was “love and inspiration, not more policing.” I didn’t need to tell him twice that the arts offer both; so the question is, how can we give them more?
I have an idea, and Chief Blackwell is ready to act on it: ArtsWave has hundreds of surplus nylon backbacks, waiting to be filled with the tools for creativity. If we all help by contributing basic art supplies like crayons, notebooks, small play dough containers, glue sticks, construction paper, markers… you get the idea… then, we could assemble “Creativity Packs” that the Chief and his lieutenants deliver on our behalf. Anyone willing to join me? Click here to find out what we need you to do to be part of ArtsWave’s “Love and Inspiration” campaign in partnership with the Cincinnati Police Department and other community agencies.
Finally, I promised you a Very Brave Young Woman. Her name is Journey, and she writes songs and sings. She is one of the talented, driven young people who have found a creative and safe home at Elementz, Cincinnati’s urban arts center located in Over-the-Rhine. So clear is her talent that Studio Kre8v at Elementz is investing a lot of time in developing her potential, even charting a path to a professional recording contract.
She has a track on a new CD called “Rise: Hip Hop that Encourages Self-Awareness and Resilience” recently released by Elementz. Journey’s song, "Open Up," is about a challenging and painful subject for kids today -- bullying – and through her music she urges all young people to confront it and open up to others who can help. Tom Kent, executive director at Elementz, explains that they would like to see this recording incorporated into the curricula at regional schools. “This is what resonates,” he says. “Every child should be taught this song.”
Ozie, Tom, Chief Blackwell, Journey. Four stories of unlikely influencers in 2014. I’m glad to know them all and look forward to supporting their visions of creating community through the arts...one interesting step at a time.