In 2020, Asha White started a series of abstract paintings called “Moody Monday”. The artwork reflected his sanity and mood as the year’s turbulent events unfolded – including the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine and a national reckoning with racial injustice. Over the course of 16 weeks, White (whose professional nickname is “Asha the Artist”) expressed feelings of depression and anxiety on the web. Two years later, she launched an exhibition at the Cincinnati Art Museum which expanded the series.
White’s exhibit takes the core of “Moody Monday” to the Cincinnati community. Titled “Mood Altering,” the exhibit includes first-hand accounts from 50 Cincinnatians she interviewed in the black community. Conversations explored their experiences with racism, access to mental health care, historical trauma, and mental health stigma. The exhibition integrates their stories through photography, audio interviews, and abstract paintings by White and the interviewees.
White’s exhibition is part of “Truth & Inspiration, An ArtsWave Showcase”, which celebrates the work of local artists who have received funding from ArtsWave Black and Brown Artist Program. Established in 2020, the Black and Brown Artist Program supports Cincinnati-area BIPOC artists who reflect contemporary themes in their work. This is the first time that ArtsWave — a major funder for local arts organizations and nonprofits in the region — has invested in individual artists. In 2021, 27 artists received grants to create work embodying the theme of truth and reconciliation.
Janice Liebenberg, vice president of Equitable Arts Advancement at ArtsWave, said the inaugural series of projects provided an opportunity to “meet the moment” for artists and audiences. She says, “The projects that came out of 2021 were so thoughtful. There was truth and anger, but it was thoughtful. Some artists have been able to chart a path towards reconciliation. It was a beautiful process.
This year, 22 BIPOC artists received individual grants through ArtsWave’s Black and Brown Artist Program to create work that again embodies the theme of truth and reconciliation.
According to Liebenberg, “The art projects this time around are so inspiring. It inspires you to act, to participate, to be part of the solution.
Staying current and contemporary, White tackles the subject of critical race theory in schools in “Mood Altering”. It’s a topic on the minds of communities across the United States, including Cincinnati. In June, the Forest Hills School District in Anderson adopted a “caring culture resolutionwhich prohibits teachers from assigning homework that prompts students to consider their race, socio-economic class, gender identity, religion or sexuality. Last November, voters from local Lakota schools, Lebanon city schools and Milford school districts also elected candidates who campaigned against many ideas and components of critical race theory.
“Here we are two years after the tragic loss of George Floyd, and not much has changed. In fact, in some ways I fear things have gotten worse,” White says. as a country or its impact on mental health if we do not acknowledge our dark past.”
Kailah Ware’s “Story Share” is also part of “Truth & Inspiration, An ArtsWave Showcase.” Like White, Ware’s exposition focuses on the importance of personal stories and experiences, particularly within the black community. The exhibit includes an interactive video booth in which people are invited to hear and tell their stories of social justice.
“We really hope it will be an intimate experience with the user being able to capture more authentic stories so people can spend time alone and share on different topics,” Ware says.
Specifically, Ware’s “Story Share” focuses on the topics of prison reform and the impacts that over-policing has on communities. It examines how families are influenced by over-policing, reveals the disproportionate statistics of inmates who are imprisoned on death row, and explores how the school-to-prison pipeline affects social interactions, emotional awareness, and educational potential. black children. He also wonders how and why black children, in school, are not widely informed about their heritage in a way that instills pride. One of the video booth prompts asks, “If you can imagine a world, what does that world look like when we actually experience justice?”
Ware says “Share the story” is a component of a short documentary in the works, which looks more closely at prison reform and over-policing. People will be able to preview a trailer during the showcase, and responses from the video booth will be incorporated into the final documentary.
“Mood Altering” will be open at the Cincinnati Art Museum from July 15 through August 14, and viewers will be able to access the exhibit virtually at ashatheartist.com. “Story Share” will be exhibited at the Cincinnati Art Museum on July 16. The full “Truth & Inspiration, An ArtsWave Showcase,” which includes seven other works by local artists, is open to the public from July 14 through August 14. at the Cincinnati Museum of Art. Free entry. More information: cincinnatiartmuseum.org.
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