Kennedy Heights Arts Center offers new exhibits and programs continuing its outreach and diversity mission, according to Executive Director Ellen Muse-Lindeman.
For example, Juneteenth Cincinnati Presents Voices of Freedom from February 26 to April 16 at the Lindner Annex, 6620 Montgomery Road. It is an exhibition of commissioned new works by ten artists, eight of whom are from out-of-state; and ten poets exploring the promise and reality of freedom in a visual and art performing series. It is curated by Michael Coppage and MoPoetry Phillips.
Artists include Desmond Beach, Mark Anthony Brown Jr., Kierston Ghaznavi, Jeni Jenkins, Fatima Laster, Dave McClinton, Komikka Patton, Blake Pierre, Vitus Shell, and Michael Thompson. Poets are MoPoetry Phillips, Jacqueline Johnson-Wilkinson, Kimberly Bolden, SoL, Dawn Crooks, Victoria Cipriani, Queens Jurnee, Manual Iris, ASlate, Golden Goddess. The project was created with American Rescue Plan funds from Cincinnati administered through ArtsWave.
Another relatively new program is Tellus Zine, a digital publication led by an all-youth editorial board showcasing art and creative writing by young adults from across Greater Cincinnati. According to Muse-Lindeman, it originated out of sessions with teens who wanted opportunities to lead and create. They also wanted to be engaged in community and social issues.
The editorial board includes Celine Tan, Naina Purushothaman, Margaret Sprigg-Dudley, Ta’Myah Eberthart, Desi Distell, Adrian Smith, El-Ayanna Crawford and Tanisha Wasan. Advisor is Bethany Pelle, director of arts education.
”I am extremely passionate about making an accessible platform for all youth to share their creative work and perspective about the world around them. Engaging young people through creativity is one of the most productive and unifying ways to bring them into a community of fellow artists where they are heard. I hope that Tellus can be one of those platforms that contribute to the arts community in ways that make people think and add to their own perspectives, because in times that are divisive, hearing other people’s stories through their creativity is even more vital,” said Board Chair Purushothaman.
KHAC, ArtsWave and the Dater Foundation support Tellus Zine. The publication has a mission of promoting diversity and breaking down barriers while promoting a variety of media including photography, painting, watercolor, poetry and digital art. The semi-annual online publication is aimed at young adults ages 13 through 21. As background information, Tellus is the Latin word meaning earth. Zine is a publication produced without the goal of making a profit. Submissions are accepted at no cost. The third annual issue with the theme of Life is Change will be issued April 23. This year there were 62 entries. For more information, visit the website at telluszine.org.
Another innovative program is a partnership with Cincinnati Public Schools to provide an after-school Jazz Academy for fourth through twelfth grade students from 25 public schools. The Academy offers free transportation to the Lindner Annex. There is a free meal when the students arrive, ensemble rehearsals, a private lesson in a wide variety of instruments, including brass, woodwinds, rhythm and now strings. Instruments are provided. Originally, the program started with 18 students; now there are 110 kids who each meet once a week.
Music Director is Dr. Isidore Rudnick, a nationally recognized jazz musician, music educator, arts administrator and current Arts Curriculum Manager at Cincinnati Public Schools. Dr. Rudnick said, “Over the past three years, the Jazz Academy at Kennedy Heights Arts Center has been recognized by local and national arts organizations as a model for community arts programming for underserved students. The Jazz Academy has the distinction of being the only non-tuition, weekly, after school jazz education program in the Tri-State region and in fact one of a very few in the country.”
“We provide students of all backgrounds the opportunity to come together every week and hone their creative skills in an exciting and nurturing environment. This program has allowed our students to display their unique artistic talents while building their confidence and self-esteem. By studying the dynamic language of America’s music, jazz, our students are given a new pathway to reach their full artistic and academic potential,”
In addition, there are a dozen jazz instructors.
Coming up is a performance of the seventh and eighth graders combo at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild in Pittsburgh on June 7-11, and at a jazz club (to be announced) in New York City. They will also have the opportunity to participate in master classes at Lincoln Center.
Lastly, KHAC is partnering with local Black artists on the fourth Saturday of the month from April to September to create a community series entitled “Hello and Welcome.” The project came out of the center’s membership in Of/By/For All, a network of arts and cultural organizations, to become more equitable and inclusive over a 12-month process. Of/By/For All methods help organizations connect with their local communities in effective, authentic ways. The more an organization is representative of its community, the more people feel seen and heard. The more programming is created by the community, the more people feel ownership. Muse-Lindeman said, “This will help us become more welcoming and inclusive.”
The center has reached out to Black artists and creatives in the community. “Our physical persona did not feel welcoming,” Muse-Lindeman said of the white house on the hill where KHAC is located. People thought it was stately, white and privileged, so the center extended its arm to the community and involved local residents in creating installations and inclusive spaces. Kennedy Heights Arts Center continues to expand its outreach in the community with a variety of art programs and exhibits.
By Laura A. Hobson