Five artists immersed themselves within the Walnut Hills community to chat with residents and business owners about the issue of segregation and how it’s affecting their community.
The project was initiated by the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation and is inspired by renowned activist Carlton Turner and his vision of artists as researchers who take their findings to create art that prompts discussion and pursue social justice.
Community members are invited to Cincy Stories at 4 p.m. on June 30 to see the walking exhibit where they can see the interpretations by artists Alan Haley, Michael Ellison, Dyah Miller, Herschel Johnson and Benjamin Thomas.
There will be a break for dinner, and the WHRF encourages people to try the restaurants in the business district. At 7:15, there will be a panel at The Monastery with the artists and community leaders.
According to Johnson, the goal of the project is to empower residents to continue the conversation the artists began.
Here’s what the artists discovered:
“People said they see the kids hanging out with their own race at school,” says Thomas. “And Kroger — it should have been in a thriving place — but people weren’t feeling comfortable to come into a predominately black neighborhood to shop. Businesses close because of that.”
Thomas is using the mediums of aerosol and paint to create “We Are Cincinnati," a mural of four Walnut Hills residents — everyday people without privilege whose portraits will be iconic in nature. Those who attend next week’s event will have the opportunity to see a live demonstration, as Thomas will be working on the mural at the time.
For Ellison, the neighborhood scape has changed. The highway now inhabits his former home, and he rides his bicycle to Clifton to go grocery shopping. He and fellow photographer Miller will display their collection of portraits and places, and at the culmination of the project, will auction their photos off with 25 percent of the proceeds benefitting the Walnut Hills Little League.
Other projects include a documentary, a 3D shield and a partnership with St. Francis de Sales to offer students the opportunity to learn to sculpt. Each artist’s project includes a plan for community building and community betterment, both now and in the future.
“Segregation is a condition,” Thomas says. “It’s really a mentality that’s subconsciously or intentionally placed in the minds of folks because of money, greed, power — whatever it is — and I don’t want to point a finger, but I want to recondition the condition of segregation by introducing people to others and giving platforms to people who don’t have them.”