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Cherie Garces, Behold. Acrylic and glitter on canvas. Courtesy of Art Beyond Boundaries and Kennedy Heights Arts Center

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In a Year of Uprising, An Open-Air Art Exhibition Heeds the Call

Posted on November 12, 2020

Kennedy Heights Arts Center and Art Beyond Boundaries look to generations of creative talent to respond to systemic racial injustices—and to continue a decades-long demand for change, with art.

“I’m pretty long in the tooth,” says Jymi Bolden. “I’ve been around here for a little while.” He laughs, sitting outside his Main Street gallery, and continues on. We’re talking about the genesis of UPRISING, an exhibition he curated for Kennedy Heights Arts Center in collaboration with Art Beyond Boundaries, where he is director, in direct response to this year’s protests and calls for racial equity.

“The issues dealt with were, for the most part, being expressed by contemporary artists—that is, the youth,” he says. “And those are issues that have plagued our culture, our society long before most of them were born. Contemporaries of mine, as well as good friends—Melvin Grier and Gilbert Young and Thom Shaw and Jimi Jones—we all go back 40 years of dealing with results of the same kinds of issues.”

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Melvin Grier, Vietnam Moratorium, October 15, 1969. Photograph from 35mm negative. Courtesy of Art Beyond Boundaries and Kennedy Heights Arts Center

Such is the nature of systemic racism: It is in the bones of society, surpassing any single generation. “So to bridge that gap,” says Bolden, “to bring young and old into the exhibition together—it was gratifying. I felt obligated to do it because rarely does it get done.”

The exhibition started, for Bolden, as a conversation with his gallery assistant: How could Art Beyond Boundaries do an open-air show along Main Street? The short answer: “It just turned out to be impractical, if not damn near impossible, to pull off,” he says. So they shelved it, but soon after Kennedy Heights Arts Center called, asking about a potential outdoor exhibition on their grounds. And from there, UPRISING took off.

In conceptualizing the show, Bolden looked to protest posters, a most ubiquitous—which is certainly not to say insignificant—form of political art. And from there, called for works from Black Cincinnati-based artists that spoke to racial justice. Cherie Garces, Terence Hammonds, Gee Horton, Hannah “Jonesy” Jones, Jimi Jones, Cynthia Lockhart, and Ricci Michaels created new works, while Melvin Grier (in the interest of disclosure: a FotoFocus Board Member) printed a new image from an archived 1969 35mm negative, Gilbert Young altered a 2019 painting, and Bolden pulled a Thom Shaw (d. 2010) print from his personal collection to be incorporated.

Pandemic still being pandemic, the UPRISING will not be indoors. Each work was photographed, enlarged to four-by-six feet, and printed on weather-resistant materials, so guests can either drive or walk through the Kennedy Heights Arts Center’s grounds to peruse.

Through November 28, dawn to dusk, Kennedy Heights Arts Center. Prints and postcards of works available for purchase in art shop Weds–Fri 10 am–5 pm and Sat 11 am–4 pm, or by calling 513-631-4278, ext. 3; proceeds split evenly between the artist and Ohio Justice and Policy Center.

Watch a video showcase of the exhibition:

Video by Biz Young

FotoFocus collaborates—locally, nationally, and internationally—to present and support photography and lens-based projects that are accessible, enriching, and engaging to a diverse public. FotoFocus inspires conversations about the world through the art of photography and film, via its partnerships and signature programming including the FotoFocus Biennial, FotoFocus Symposium, FotoFocus Film Program, and FotoFocus Lecture and Visiting Artist Series.

As the Covid-19 pandemic reshaped our world, FotoFocus had to pivot. First, by pledging part of its 2020 Biennial budget to financially support more than 100 Participating Venues and Partners in the region’s art community through FotoFocus Emergency Art Grants, and further, by enhancing other pathways to support lens-based art and engage the public in accordance with its mission. The Lens—the FotoFocus editorial arm—is one such avenue.