This weekend, 18 of the region's leading Black and Brown artists reveal new works at the third annual showcase of ArtsWave's Black and Brown Artist Program. Following the shared theme of the projects, this year's multidisciplinary exhibition is called
the Truth & Healing Artist Showcase.
The artists approach the themes from a broad range of lived cultural experiences including people of African American, Mexican, Lebanese, Somali, Argentinian, Zimbabwean, Guatemalan and Indigenous heritage. They examine healing, rebirth and reconnection
through fashion, painting, sculpture, film, music, podcasts, theater, dance and more.
Julia O. Bianco's project began as "Walking in Winter," a series of free events, open-to-all meetings in Burnet Woods and the Clifton area, dedicated to supporting the community during the winter months. After the experience, attendees reflected on ideas of nature and community, expressing their hopes for the spring and the wider future by writing poetry and engaging in other activities focused on art, nature and awareness. One participant's hope for "Togetherness" inspired Bianco. "I started thinking about how to create an experience for people to just be together, and about what happens when we are together." For the art-making phase of the project you, she adopted the title "Togetherness" and set out to create space for the "transformational experience of community," recognizing that "art can be an act of generosity. It can be a gift, and it is meant to be shared."
"Togetherness" features a tent with space to sit inside, poems created collectively during the winter sessions and prompts inviting visitors to reflect on their own experience of togetherness. The tent, poems and prompts all invoke a sense of community and shelter — both from the elements and as a safe space to express your true self. Knowing that every person's experience varies, Bianco hopes that setting aside a space intended for communal reflection will lead to transformative experiences. "As an immigrant, I've seen my own personal transformation when I open myself to others and listen," she explains. "Nobody can tell you who you are or what you need, but I can say, 'This is what works for me. I've experienced that being with others can be a powerful, transformative experience'"
Musician and composer Alan Lawson picked up the violin at the age of four and began writing music soon after. His project, "Legacy" is an original orchestral composition that he wrote to honor historic figures who have fought for the rights of marginalized
people. In particular, it explores the story of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s March on Washington through "the universal language of music." He explains, "I've always found music to be something that connects people from different backgrounds, walks of
life, ethnicities, religions. We can all relate to music."
The musical dialects of "Legacy" evolved as Lawson composed. While he envisioned weaving in elements of hip hop, he found that looking further back in history made the composition flow more evenly. The finished piece includes themes from "We Shall Overcome"
and other spirituals, as well as a march theme and a section with rhythmic backbeats reminiscent of traditional African drums. A video recording of the Cincinnati Youth Symphony Orchestra (of which Lawson was once a member) performing the piece will
be screened at the Truth & Healing Artist Showcase. "There aren't a lot of showcases for African American composers," says Lawson. "I wanted to show other people of color, especially children, that this is something they can do."
The Black and Brown Artist Program, made possible by the City of Cincinnati, Duke Energy, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Fifth Third Bank, Macy's and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, provides grant funding for each project. "Since its
beginning, ArtsWave's Black and Brown Artist Program has funded nearly 70 artists with $750,000 in artist commissions," says Alecia Kintner, ArtsWave's president and CEO. "Part of our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Access plan, 'Lifting as We Learn,'
the program is one way in which ArtsWave is intentionally increasing resources for Black and Brown arts throughout the region."
For a full schedule and information about all of the 18 projects of the Truth & Healing Artist Showcase, visit artswave.org/healing.