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Art exhibit explores what freedom looks like

DNA Restoration and Repair II (detail), Komikka Patton (Chicago, IL), cut paper, pen and ink, and Marbling, 2021.
Photo provided by the artist.
DNA Restoration and Repair II (detail), Komikka Patton (Chicago, IL), cut paper, pen and ink, and Marbling, 2021.

Juneteenth Cincinnati and the Kennedy Heights Arts Center debut a new exhibit Saturday, Feb. 26. Voices of Freedom explores what freedom means in relation to emancipation.

Local and national artists were commissioned to create works examining the Black experience in America. Artists were given a prompt to explore "the promise and reality of 'freedom' as experienced by those whose lives and destinies were touched by emancipation."

Each artwork is presented alongside a poem inspired by the piece.

Curator Michael Coppage highlights new and established Black artists from Cincinnati and across the nation.

"It's about how we define liberation," he explains, "not how it was defined for us by the government and by some of the the laws that were passed, but how it's defined and how it's experienced by Black people across the country."

Coppage selected artists to bring a wide array of styles of influences and inspiration to their pieces. He was intentional about including new and established artists; men, women, non-identifying and non-binary artists, he tells WVXU.

"Depending on where you're from and where you're at, how you define freedom or liberation is going to be a little bit different and unique to you," says Coppage. "I think, in a lot of ways, Black culture (and) Black narratives are presented in this monolithic kind of presentation. And, for me, this exhibition really puts the spotlight on the individual, and then the voice of the individual."

In his own work and life, Coppage says he seeks to dismantle a one-dimensional presentation of Black people and Black culture. He's hoping visitors will see that in the exhibit.

"I'm hoping that they leave with an understanding that there is a variety, that there is diversity within the Black diaspora, and that we also have meaningful perspectives and narratives that should be shared."

The artwork is one and two-dimensional, and ranges from paintings to fabric work and multimedia creations. The poetry is curated by MoPoetry Phillips, who enlisted local poets to pen the pieces.

"I think that oftentimes when this kind of work is shown together in a group and it's got such a strong, definitive title like Voices of Freedom, that the perception is that it's for Black people only. I really need to express that this is a show about America. It's just through the perspective of Black artists and creators, but it is a show for everyone."

Voices of Freedom includes three performances, as well.

It runs Feb. 26 through March 26 at the Kennedy Heights Arts Center.

Performance details as provided:

Playing for Freedom Saturday, March 5 at 7:30 pm

Celebrate jazz and its influences with performances by Jazz Renaissance and Deondra Means. The evening will start with a South African Gumboot musical theatre presentation by acclaimed local actor Means, followed by a lively performance by Jazz Renaissance, an 8-piece group performing modern jazz in many styles, including bop, swing and Latin.

Dancing for Freedom Saturday, March 19 at 7:30 pm Experience two unique forms of movement performed by local groups: praise dance by the Heavenly Doves and step dance by Cincinnati Metro Dance team. Then, audience members will learn some steps themselves!

Singing for Freedom Saturday, March 26 at 7:30 pm Pianist, vocalist and composer Counterfeit Madison (Sharon Udoh of Columbus, OH) will take the stage, presenting a tribute to legendary musician Nina Simone. Udoh's funky yet classical piano-playing and soul and gospel-tinged voice make her a powerful performer.

All shows are free admission, but tickets are required and seating is limited. Reserve tickets online at or call 513-631-4278. Face masks and proof of COVID vaccination or negative COVID test with matching photo ID required for entry.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.