From July 15-17, the 22 artists of ArtsWave's 2022 Black and Brown Artist Program reveal their work at the Truth & Inspiration Artist Showcase. These multidisciplinary projects reflect the program theme of "truth and reconciliation" by taking an honest look at racial injustice and imagining a more equitable future for the Cincinnati region. We asked the artists about their work and what to expect at the Showcase.
Annie Ruth (Project: "On Her Shoulders" Arts Curriculum Connections): After being commissioned by ArtsWave in 2020 to create the "On Her Shoulders" exhibition…I felt it was important to take the work one step further by creating an arts education curriculum for the collection. This curriculum is a springboard for conversation and dialog amongst many ethnic groups and generations.
Margaret Tung (Project: "New Music for the Queen City and Beyond"): In classical music, there is minimal diversity among composers. I wanted to feature female composers and composers of color. I commissioned a woodwind quintet piece by Alice Gomez, who is Latina, as well as a horn solo and chamber piece by Jeffrey Scott, who is Black.
Annie Ruth: My work conveys [the program's theme of] "truth and reconciliation." Although most of my work is inspirational and encourages the viewers to bring out the best in themselves…my arts curriculum was built specifically for reconciliation. For some reason, "reconciliation" seems to be a hard word for many people to take in — my prayer is that we won't keep sugar coating the message and the words that need to be spoken — as a Black woman, those words are my truth.
Margaret Tung: The "Truth" is that classical music is an art that is mostly accessed by the privileged and has little diversity in the profession. It requires early training and financial means to acquire lessons, instruments, etc. The "Reconciliation" is creating music by commissioning composers of color and female composers. I am also having an all-female woodwind quintet perform at the Artist Showcase media event.
Iman Jabrah: The artworks in the "Amid عامد" exhibition share numerous struggles that we as Palestinians can identify with. They speak to the delicate complexities between nostalgia, belonging, grief, identity, beauty and pride, as well as the overall struggle of balancing a Palestinian identity in a prejudice world on a daily basis. The exhibition offers a space to truly hear and understand the reality of situations others may have never experienced… The word "Amid" stems independently from both Arabic and English… "Amid" in English represents the feeling of being in between; in between identities, in between cultures. "Amid" in Arabic means deliberate — to be deliberate in action, in the message and the vision. The two words come together beautifully.
What was the most difficult part of creating your project?
Annie Ruth: The most difficult part of creating art is that little thought in the back of my mind: "Will they get it?" Because my art conveys the heart and soul of many Black women, I took a big chance expressing my pain and vulnerability in many of the themes. However, using a bright and bold color palette always makes it easier for me to draw the audience in to begin those tough conversation about reconciliation and healing.
Margaret Tung: I had a great time with this project and it all felt like a joy to me, even though I had to learn a lot.
Iman Jabrah: This is the largest exhibition I have ever curated, and I am working with international artists, so…the project has come with a healthy set of learning curves. Communication has been one of the trickier aspects of this project. All of us come from different parts of the world and as a result, we had to figure out how to hold Zoom meetings that work well with everyone's time zones. I want to thank all who contributed to this project, from co-curators, designers and artists to art venues and nonprofits. The support I received from the community helped bring a big project to success.
What new experiences and knowledge did you gain as an artist through creating this project?
Annie Ruth: I was able to truly see how my work has positively impacted multiple generations of students… As I worked in the community and produced artist residencies, I realized that I was teaching the children of the children that I taught years ago. This experience allowed me to embrace my role as community elder even more.
Margaret Tung: I had never commissioned a composer to write new music, so I learned a lot…[about] the contract portion and the timelines that composers need. The other big challenge is making the music come to life and performing it with the composer's intentions.
Iman Jabrah: I have learned that a dream is possible… I have gained big insight [into] the details of making such an exhibition happen through planning, community and collaborations. As much as I envisioned this project, I could not have predicted nor anticipated the difficulties or successes of the overall experience.
What would you like for others to take away from your work?
Annie Ruth: I pray that those who view and study my work will see and feel my heart. See the joy, see the pain. Experience the joy, experience the pain. See the truth, feel the truth and experience the reconciliation, authentically.
Margaret Tung: I would like others to be able to take away the beauty of the music. My goal was to help create repertoire for classical music, and my hope is that this music will continue to be performed and eventually become part of the standard literature.
Iman Jabrah: I would like this project to inspire other Palestinian artists and curators…to have their voices heard and their work showcased without prejudice or bias, at the same level and frequency as other artists. For Palestinians who have never seen an exhibition that highlights…their own people, I hope this [shows] that it is not impossible.
The Truth & Inspiration Artist Showcase spans three locations: Cincinnati Art Museum, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and Cincinnati Museum Center. Visit artswave.org/inspiration for more details.