ArtWorks News

“We Want What You Want” Commemorating Juneteenth

Dear Friends,

One year ago at this time, ArtWorks was actively supporting painting the Black Lives Matter! mural in front of City Hall. Led by Alandes Powell and Black Art Speaks (BAS) Collective, many artists who were part of painting the mural included our own staff, Youth Apprentices and alumni and were present for the City’s first ever Juneteenth flag raising ceremony and mural dedication.

This year marks the first year ArtWorks will be commemorating Juneteenth as a recognized holiday for Youth Apprentices, Teaching Artists and staff members. And this week, many of them who are part of the BAS Collective, have been restoring the Black Lives Matter! mural in front of City Hall. Check out the unveiling of the restored street mural Friday at 3 p.m. and Black Owned Day Block Party on Saturday. See the full schedule (PDF). Our neighbors at Esoteric Brewery are hosting Mobile Black Wall Street on Saturday and I encourage you to learn about and support more Juneteenth events: The Enquirer and The Cincinnati Herald.

Breonna Taylor, 2020, Amy Sherald, American, born 1973. Courtesy of the Speed Museum.

I recently invited our staff to visit the exhibit Promise, Witness, Remembrance, at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky. The exhibit was incredibly powerful to experience and was organized in response to the life of Breonna Taylor, her killing in 2020 by police in her own apartment, and the year of protests that followed in her hometown and around the world. Perhaps the most meaningful aspect of this exhibit was seeing the timeline of Breonna’s life written in the words of Tamika Palmer, Breonna’s mother, recounting her life and her death. Who could not be moved by such an account? Reading about Breonna’s potential as a high school student, her determination, her hopes and dreams all the way to Tamika’s final statement about never imagining being denied justice for her child’s lost life after being fired at with 32 shots. This was not a curator or a researcher’s voice, but instead Breonna’s family was the authority in creating this exhibit. Never have I seen an institution, such as the Speed Museum, respond and collaborate as here with Breonna’s own family. It is an important reminder of how institutions can shift and can play an important role in current social justice movements.

At ArtWorks, we continue to reflect on and take action to deepen our work and commitment towards uplifting, celebrating and valuing Black artists and Black community-led work. This summer, we have projects that celebrate our community’s beautiful Black culture, important history and social change. Artist Cedric Michael Cox is designing a mural at the historic Manse Hotel location in Walnut Hills, one of the only hotels listed in the Green Book to safely lodge black motorists in Cincinnati traveling in mid 1930s to the mid-1960s. Artist April Sunami, a mixed media artist with family ties to Walnut Hills, is co-designing a living wall mural with Urban Blooms, an innovative new mural that integrates live plants into the painted mural design. Artist Jeni Jenkins is leading a powerful community mural and engagement in Avondale, bringing youth and police together to dialogue and paint a mural side-by-side, working towards a safer community.

ArtWorks remains as committed to anti-racism work as we were one year ago, and we are actively working on our Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility journey of learning and accountability. Please learn more here and please reach out with your ideas and continue to challenge us to do more.

Driving throughout Louisville recently, I saw so many signs posted in homes and businesses calling for justice for Breonna today. There is continued need for the collective work of liberation. I was reminded of Alandes Powell’s poem, “We want what you want,” a rallying cry for living in a world where Black lives are truly free, valued and children are raised in peace. Let us all work to build this world together.

Black Lives Matter.

Colleen Houston, ArtWorks CEO & Artistic Diretor
Colleen Houston
ArtWorks CEO & Artistic Director

This column first appeared in ArtWorks’ e-newsletter. View this edition. Not yet signed up to receive our emails? Sign up here.

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About ArtWorks

ArtWorks is an award-winning Greater Cincinnati nonprofit that transforms people and places through investments in creativity. The organization collaborates with community organizations and residents, businesses, governments, foundations and nonprofits to build creative works of art that bolster the region’s global reputation as an arts destination. ArtWorks employs professional artists who inspire and mentor diverse teams of youth, ages 14-21, helping them build 21st century career-readiness skills. These teams have completed more than 13,800 public and private art projects in its 25 years, including more than 200 permanent outdoor murals.