Picture this: It's 2021. You're an artist. The last time you had a solo exhibition was nearly a decade ago. The last time you participated in a group exhibition was 2019. Then, something big happens. In the next two years, you're invited to exhibit your work 16 times — not counting public art installations — and asked to speak at universities, high schools and even design firms 17 times. What changed?
For Cincinnati artist Michael Coppage, it was a Black and Brown Artist Program grant from ArtsWave. Coppage was one of 27 artists in the program's inaugural cohort, receiving funding in 2020 for "BLACK BOX," which he fully revealed at the Truth & Reconciliation Artist Showcase in 2021. "That funding played a pivotal role in my career," he says. "It was the catalyst for everything everyone has seen of mine since then."
What we've seen from Coppage since then is significant, including a projection mapping installation during BLINK in 2022, a new permanent installation at the Kentucky Center for African-American Heritage and a public art piece at the Price Hill branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.
Coppage's journey as an artist has been remarkable, but you'll find parallels in other artists from the program. Julia O. Bianco was a first-time recipient of the grant in the past year. Her project, "TOGETHERNESS," began with winter walks in the woods, where community members came together to share their reflections. At the recent Truth & Healing Artist Showcase, she presented poems from participants within a cyanotype-printed canvas tent.
Now, just a few months later, Bianco has appeared on two podcasts and published "HABITATS," a book of poems — some of which originated in those winter walks. She points to both the book and the ArtsWave grant as peak moments. "A year ago, things looked very different for me as an artist," she says. "My career has been catapulted to the next level throughout this year, and the grant has a lot to do with that."
While she has seen new opportunities after the Artist Showcase, Bianco identifies the time she spent with other artists in her cohort as one of the program's most valuable outcomes. She thanks ArtsWave for fostering connections among the artists: "The really cool thing about ArtsWave is that it's actually invested in the artists' success. It's very nourishing."
The Black and Brown Artist Program is accepting applications for its next round of project grants through November 3. Visit artswave.org/apply for details and application instructions.