How 30 Americans Helped Bridge Cultural Divides
“I have witnessed exhibits in museums all over the world and I must say, this has been one of the best I’ve seen. It is definitely one of the best CAM has ever produced.”
One of the five key goals laid out by ArtsWave in our Blueprint for Collective Action for the Arts Sector is to bridge cultural divides. In the spring and summer of 2016, the Cincinnati Art Museum presented an exhibition that illustrated how such bridges can be built: 30 Americans. Featuring artworks by many of the most important African-American artists of the last three decades, this conversation-starting and sometimes provocative exhibition focused on issues of race, gender, and historical identity in contemporary culture, while exploring the powerful influence of artistic legacy and community across generations. Approximately 60 pieces were included in the collection.
Along with the main exhibition, a resource room for 30 Americans was also opened at the Cincinnati Art Museum to provide additional space for repose and reflection. Nicknamed “The Forum,” it contained books, artist videos, and other resources for those who wished to further engage the art and the social issues the artwork raised.
Each Sunday, The Forum also hosted 30 for 30, a 30-minute program that explored a different theme, concept, or piece of art. Participants explored the exhibition and the issues surrounding it through conversations, music and artistic responses in a relaxed environment where every voice could be heard. The museum partnered with the University of Cincinnati Office of Diversity and Inclusion to host these weekly programs.
“I drove here from Indianapolis for this exhibit. Very impressed that CAM provided this opportunity. I’ll be back to CAM. I appreciated browsing in The Forum. It gave me a space to take in the exhibit.”
The impact of 30 Americans was profound. Over 40,000 people came from the Tri-state area and beyond, from a diverse range of ages and cultural backgrounds, to witness the exhibition. 92% of these visitors noted that the exhibition surprised them or introduced them to a perspective they hadn’t considered before. 75% left the museum feeling that they had a better understanding of contemporary conversations about equality and race relations. In an era where national attention is focused on bitter cultural divides, 30 Americans took great strides toward building connections.