Black Art Speaks, ArtsWave, Urban League and ArtWorks partner to complete historic mural

By Casey Weldon

City of Cincinnati

The City of Cincinnati expresses that Black Lives Matter by creating a street mural on Plum Street outside City Hall to raise public awareness.

Cincinnati City Council on Wednesday, June 17 unanimously passed an ordinance declaring that Black Lives Matter and further authorizing the city manager to execute the city’s expression through the creation of a mural between Eighth and Ninth Streets by commissioning the generous effort and talent of Black Art Speaks, ArtsWave, the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio and ArtWorks.

“In addition to the historic collaboration of so many artists on the Black Lives Matter mural, the art is a reminder that the City of Cincinnati takes a stand against racism, against disparities in health, housing, education and economic opportunity, and for equity for all,” said City Councilmember Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney.

“The mural will talk about where we’re going and how we’ll get there,” said Alandes Powell, a leader in initiating the conversation about the city commissioning the art. She added that the mural will end with an exclamation point created by all artists, signifying “our desire and hope of equality, nothing more and nothing less.”

Cincinnati joins a growing list of cities across the country that have created “Black Lives Matter” street murals or art installations in support of this growing movement. The Queen City’s mural will be unique from other cities, however, in that it will be created by 17 teams of African American artists (60-70 total artists) each handling a different letter of the piece.

“We believe art can play a critical role in initiating courageous conversations and accelerate the change we want to see in the world. Art has the power to mend communities, decompose racial inequities and inspire generations to be better, and do better,” said Gee Horton, one of the artists involved in bringing the city’s message that Black Lives Matter to fruition. “As a collective group of Black Visual Artists, our mission is to use art as a vehicle to drive that change – creating this mural in front of City Hall is a perfect first step.”

“We are honored to provide donations so that this historic moment becomes reality,” stated Eddie Koen, Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio. “Around the country, people are understanding the importance of symbolism. This mural, an idea birthed by our former board chair, Alandes Powell, approved and adopted by the city as its own message, will be seen and heard around the world to hold us accountable to the promises that we make today and to remind us the city that we aspire to be – one in which all Black people belong and thrive.”

Immediately following the Council vote, the project team mobilized to initiate the installation. All artists were in place at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The mural will be completed Friday, June 19, Juneteenth, when a brief dedication ceremony will be held by the mural at 2 p.m.

The public is encouraged to drop by on the day of the dedication to show their support.

“This is what the arts do – the arts and artists bring us together as a community and move our region forward,” added ArtsWave President and CEO Alecia Kintner. ArtsWave, through its tens of thousands of donors who support the region’s arts each year, will fund the fees for artists involved in the mural’s creation.

The mural was made possible by the financial sponsorship of the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio; artist funding from ArtsWave, the engine for the arts; community members supporting the campaign; corporate support from Fifth Third Bank, P&G, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and Kroger; Greater Cincinnati Foundation, and cooperation from the City of Cincinnati.

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