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Black and Brown Artist Program

ArtsWave’s Black and Brown Artist Program supports Black and Brown artists in the Cincinnati region who interpret the themes of our times. It is one way that ArtsWave works to increase the sustainability of organizations and artists that focus on the preservation and advancement of Black arts and culture. ArtsWave's partnership with the City of Cincinnati, Duke Energy, Macy’s, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Fifth Third Bank and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center make the program possible.

Here are the projects that received the grant in 2023:

Brent Billingsley| I'M STILL LISTENING

A continuation of “I’m Listening,” which received a Black and Brown Artist grant in 2022, 
this project will be a collaboration between the artist, the Cincinnati Police Department 
and art students at Woodward Career Technical High School. The students will establish their own company, obtaining a vendor’s license so they can sell their own artistically rendered garments in public.

Jonathan Carter | Secret Bias

“Secret Bias” will be a collection of up to 10 individual paintings and mixed media works that expose hidden biases towards others within the community. The project aims to deepen roots in our region by generating healing and reconciliation, to bridge cultural divides with the recognition that Black lives matter to the same extent as all other lives, and to promote learning and understanding.

Preston Bell Charles III | Divided Roots - Seeing is Believing

“Divide Roots” will use spoken word, narration and motion sequences to convey the origins of our current social-geographical landscape. Multimedia elements will explore concepts of race, location and social views through historical and contemporary lenses in Cincinnati and its neighborhoods.

Daniel Chimusoro | Nomad (working title)

This project will culminate in a series of 8-10 songs, available for streaming, that deal with themes of love, heartbreak and the pursuit of belonging. Chimusoro will explore experiences like facing the unintentional consequences of expressing himself through his hair, his art and more. The project will include performances of the songs in local black-owned cafes (Revel OTR, BlaCk Coffee, Cream & Sugar) and concert venues like the Woodward theater or Madison Live.

Michael Coppage | HANDS BEHIND YOUR BACK! from the "12 Commandments" series

"HANDS BEHIND YOUR BACK!" will be the fourth bronze sculpture in the “12 Commandments” series. The 10 Commandments are the moral governing principles that underpin Christianity and Judaism. In rap culture, “12” is a slang term referring to the police. Police have killed over 21,000 Americans since the year 2000, with Black and Brown people disproportionately at the receiving end of a service weapon. In 2020, when the project was conceived, 564 people died at the hands of police. Directly in conflict with commandments like “Thou shalt not kill” and “Thou shalt not bear false witness,” police have historically used the power of their position to justify institutional violence against people of color. The goal of “HANDS BEHIND YOUR BACK!” is to highlight the assertion of power over Black bodies and the systemic issues that arise as a result.

Asha Daniels | AGAPE

“AGAPE” is a couture collection of menswear and womenswear that will explore gender fluidity. The collection will adorn models as they walk the runway of a nontraditional fashion show. Like Daniels’ previously funded project, “NEW MOON,” the “AGAPE” fashion show will incorporate dance, live music from local artists and original spoken word performances. An interview and photo series, “Don’t Forget Me,” will explore Black love, featuring real couples with a focus on our elders.

Desirae Hosley | Social Therapy: Are We Healed?

“Social Therapy: Are We Healed?” will be a five-part series, documented via video. A live audience will take part in an open dialogue, asking whether the arts are a healing source for the BIPOC community or a trigger of recurring events without the restoration of peace. These conversations will open the door to understanding how an artist's work can be more than a conversation starter — and how to rebuild connection after grieving past experiences. Each conversation will include a panel discussion, with artists, mental health experts and a performance that will remind us all that joy exists, even during hard times.

Deqah Hussein |Lost Voices of Cincinnati: West End

Hussein’s project will build on the “Urban Roots: Lost Voices of Cincinnati” podcast, also funded by ArtsWave, as part of an overall Historical Perspectives on Urban Renewal in Cincinnati series. “Lost Voices of Cincinnati: West End” will use archives and storytelling in a short documentary on the impact of Interstates 71 and 74 on three African American neighborhoods in Cincinnati: Evanston, Avondale and South Cumminsville.

Chenelle Jones | Yemaya: Sista to the Distant, Yet Rising Star

This project will elevate dance and DJing as modes of storytelling. It will include recorded poetry set to music composed and performed by members of (CA)^ Dance Crew, adding visual texture throughlighting and projection . This three-part story, inspired by the Yoruba myth of Yemaya, will explore the struggle for self-acceptance that women of the African Diaspora face. (CA)^2 Dance Crew will express the each phase of the story through dynamic dance, from Phase 1: Childbirth + Original Sin; to Phase 2: Shadow Dance + Love Quest; and Phase 3: Defiance + Reclamation. The message is one of defiance, representing Black women reclaiming the right to live free from racist and sexist barriers that poison their sense of self-worth and hinder spiritual ascension.

Alan Lawson | Overcome (working title)

“Overcome” is an original music composition for a full orchestra to honor the many people who have fought for our rights throughout history. The final orchestration will celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.'s March on Washington, encompassing strength, determination and unity to tell a story through music and inspire listeners.

Juan Gabriel Martinez Rubio | Pato y Muerte - Duck and Death

“Pato y Muerte” is an original, playful dance theatre script based on a German tale. It reflects a cultural understanding of death, friendship and loyalty present in Mexico and many other Latinx cultures: that death simply serves as a reminder to celebrate life, loyalty and friendship, even as we mourn. Through this celebration and the bonds we create with others, our loved ones continue living.

Pablo Mejia | Lejanía

“Lejanía” is a hybrid short film that combines documentary and narrative elements. The story follows three Guatemalan brothers, Hermitanio, Daniel and Juvencio, who live and work in Cincinnati, remodeling homes. The three brothers are Pocomam — Mayan Indians of the highlands of eastern Guatemala — who speak Spanish as well as their native language, Pocomam. All three are portrayed by members of the small but thriving Latinx community of Cincinnati. Through intimate conversations, daily rituals and sharing their lived experiences, the film explores their pain and perseverance after they leave their hometowns behind. The final product, a 13-minute short film, will invite viewers to empathize with a marginalized and often overlooked community in the Midwest.

Julia O. Bianco | Walking the Winter

“Walking the Winter" is a community engagement program that will bring people together in the Ohio woods to heal and reflect through the power of nature. A series of watercolors, ink paintings and a short film will document the experience.

Rebecca Nava Soto| PAHTIĀ TLACUA (Nahuatl, PAHTIĀ: to heal, TLACUA: to feed)

In “PAHTIĀ TLACUA,” art will serve as a vehicle for healing generational trauma and reclaiming what has been lost. A series of paintings, mixed media works and an interactive, collectively created art piece. will center Indigenous healing as an art practice. The project will honor the original holders of this wisdom while inviting viewers to embrace their own healing potential.

Rowan Salem | Journeys Embodied: Middle Eastern Stories

This project will highlight the stories of five Cincinnati residents of Middle Eastern descent through audio interviews and dance film. the five participants will create movement through their own stories and experiences inspiring a composition for a local, professional ensemble. “Journeys Embodied” will celebrate the diverse roots and backgrounds of our neighbors who make our community stronger through a shared experience.

Kareem Simpson | FLIPd: Cincinnati’s Famous Places, Spaces and Stories Told from the Eyes of the African American Community

“FLIPd” is a multi-episodic podcast that explores Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky history. It uses narrative storytelling, archival audio and immersive soundscapes to explore true stories of the historic places and spaces that made the region great, from the perspective of the region’s Black community. The podcast reframes our understanding of local history by exploring local spaces through an often overlooked lens.

Michael Thompson | Conjunction

“Conjunction” will consist of multimedia-integrated mural-making, using text, paint and three-dimensional materials to bridge physical space with metaphysical concepts like collective genius and group action. The work, imposing in its size and content, will pose questions about individuality and collective movement toward common goals, exploring how shared creative consciousness connects communities.

Silas Tibbs | Attrition: A Short Film

“Attrition: A Short Film” will depict the African American experience through Orwellianstyle science fiction. Set in the early days of the 21st Century, the film depicts a time of chaos and a fever pitch of ethnic tensions, forcing an inevitable but impossible choice for citizens.

Jason C. White | Keep The Faith: A Community Musical

“Keep the Faith” is a new musical inspired by two recent publications about the Black Church. The first is Dr. Henry Louis Gates’s four-hour PBS miniseries, “The Black Church,” which traces the 400 year history of the Black Church in America. The second is “Amen: Music of the Black Church,” a concert film recorded by the Indiana University African American Choral Ensemble. “Keep the Faith” will be the first community musical to tell the story of the Black Church while encouraging community members to consider its future. It will promote understanding and educate audiences about the music of the Black Church — one of the most influential forms of American music.