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ArtsWave: Cincy Artists Explore Truth and Reconciliation

Updated: Aug 9, 2021

ArtsWave, the Cincinnati region’s engine for the arts, has invested more than $1 million

in direct funding for artists of color over the last year. This includes 27 recent grants to

Black and Brown artists meant to uplift the artistry and experiences of people of color,

on the themes of "truth" and & "reconciliation". Many of the artists are sharing their work

and engaging the community ahead of a public showcase planned for July at the

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and Memorial Hall.

Darnell Pierre Benjamin’s “All Us, All Love,” began as a dance performance, “13 the and

Republic,” marking the spot where Timothy Thomas needlessly died in 2001 and

reflecting on the still pervasive challenge of police brutality to African Americans.

Walterhoope helped turn the piece into a film after the pandemic hit. Despite the dark,

heavy themes, it concludes with what Benjamin calls “an explosion of pure joy” and “a

dream of what [life] could be instead of what it is.” With Truth and Reconciliation

funding, Benjamin will present free screenings combined with live performances and

Q&A dialogue afterwards. He aims to build empathy and bridge gaps in understanding,

seeking spaces where Black voices are not often heard. “It’s hard to have these

conversations with people who don't want to,” Benjamin says, noting that the best way

to change minds is to have them encounter truth firsthand. “If we have the

conversations, maybe we can make them more likely to encounter it,” he continues. “All

Us, All Love” premieres at Home of the Brave Park on July 6.

Tyra Patterson served 23 years in prison for a crime she did not commit. She was a

prolific artist while incarcerated. Upon release, she immediately set out to introduce

more social justice into the Cincinnati region’s arts community, which included designing

a mural, “Time Served vs. Time Saved," working with ArtWorks. Patterson’s Truth

and Reconciliation project, an exhibition of art by incarcerated women, is an extension

of that work. Each piece incorporates a prison-issued uniform. Patterson’s art was an

important part of reintegrating her life after prison, and she wants to share that

adaptation process with other women. “I’m not the only Tyra Patterson. This opportunity

shouldn’t be afforded just to me,” she says. Along with the exhibited art, those who

attend the Truth and Reconciliation showcase at the Freedom Center will see short

videos of each artist telling their stories.

Terrence Todd “TT” Stern-Enzi has been a film critic in the Cincinnati region for nearly

21 years. In the last year, he recognized an opportunity to take a critical look at his

perspective on films as an African American male. He approached that opportunity on

familiar ground by penning a series of long-form essays exploring representation of

different types of racial and ethnic audiences in stories. From there, he stepped into

unfamiliar territory. He launched his first podcast called “Critical Reflections,” where

he and a guest share their perspectives on specific issues of diverse representation in

media. For example, in one episode he and a best friend of 40+ years revisit films they

saw together as kids and examine how race played into their discussions then and now.

As part of the Over-the-Rhine International Film Festival, Stern-Enzi will host a

screening of the film “Black Cop” with Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac on July 9.

The film features a Black police officer who decides to treat white citizens the way he

sees white officers treating Black citizens, and the two will have a frank conversation

after the screening.

ArtsWave is working with local organizations to make inclusion a hallmark of the

Cincinnati region’s arts. The Truth and Reconciliation grant program is one of a series

of investments in BIPOC arts. Join us at the National Underground Railroad Freedom

Center July 16 to October 31 as we unveil our Truth and Reconciliation Showcase. On

the weekend of July 16-18, we will also have film shorts as well and a set of

performances that will be held at Memorial Hall. For more information, go to [link to

ArtsWave Guide event].

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