This fall, The Convening melds similar programs from New York City and Cincinnati

Since 2015, FotoFocus’s annual symposiums have endeavored to explore pressing social and cultural issues through the lens of photography. This October, the local arts nonprofit is teaming up with NYC’s likeminded org Creative Time to collaboratively address the history and modern repercussions of age-old land ownership issues which are inherently visible within Cincinnati’s rich cultural landscape.

Both organizations host symposium-like events in the fall (Creative Time’s is called The Summit). The Convening is a melding of these two similar programs, and serves as a prelude to Cincinnati’s welcoming of The American Manifest project, which celebrates the work of renowned conceptual artist Charles Gaines.

Cincinnati will play host to this event in 2024, featuring the installation Moving Chains. A 110-foot-long kinetic sculpture evoking the hull of a ship will grace the banks of the Ohio River. The structure will reverberate with the low rumble of nine colossal chains rotating overhead, highlighting the exchange of people, capital, and goods cycling between the north and south that made up the slave trade. Moving Chains is currently on view on New York’s Governor’s Island through the fall of this year.

According to FotoFocus executive director, Katherine Ryckman Siegwarth, in many ways the collaboration around this event seemed kismet.

FotoFocus executive director, Katherine Ryckman Siegwarth“With the Charles Gaines American Manifest project, it became really clear early on that they wanted to bring it to Cincinnati,” said Siegwarth. “One of the pieces, “Roots,” is these metallic sculptures of sugar gum tree roots. And what’s really interesting is that through their research, they discovered that those trees (while indigenous to North America) don’t grow in many places. But, they are oddly indigenous to lower Manhattan as well as Cincinnati. So there are actually some really compelling reasons that American Manifest is coming to Cincinnati.”

In addition, Siegwarth also noted that the current executive director at Creative Time, Justine Ludwig, was previously an assistant curator at the CAC.

“Through some mutual colleagues, it was clear that FotoFocus wanted to support this ambitious undertaking. We are both sponsors for The American Manifest project, but this felt like a really interesting opportunity for Creative Time and FotoFocus to collaborate on something,” said Siegwarth.

The feeling is mutual, as evidenced by Ludwig’s thoughts.

“Creative Time is thrilled to partner with FotoFocus to engender transformational conversations deeply rooted in the Cincinnati region that resonate across the country. This program draws from histories of the land and envisions possible futures through the work of creative visionaries both locally and far afield,” said Ludwig.

Over two days, a special series of public talks and performances featuring artists, critics, curators, and other distinguished guest speakers will take place. A welcome event and performance are scheduled to kick things off at Mecca OTR on Friday, October 20th. This will be followed by a full day of discussions at two venues: the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and Contemporary Arts Center on Saturday, October 21st. Presentations will be structured loosely around three earth-based thematics—land, waterways, and trees.

Project partners for The Convening include the Contemporary Arts Center, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Terra Foundation for American Art and Wave Pool.

This, like all FotoFocus events, is free and open to the public.
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Read more articles by Eliza Bobonick.

Eliza Bobonick is a Cincinnati-based writer and a mother of three. Her work has been featured in such local and regional publications as Cincinnati CityBeat and Kentucky Homes and Gardens Magazine. She is a former musician whose interests include photography and interior design.