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].