Generations of Artists Respond to Injustice in Kennedy Heights Arts Center's Open-Air Exhibit 'UPRISING'

Kennedy Heights Arts Center and Art Beyond Boundaries looked to generations of creative talent to respond to systemic racial injustices in a pandemic-friendly outdoor art display

click to enlarge Terence Hammonds, ballad of righteous indignation. Screenprint, acrylic and house paint on paper. Courtesy of Art Beyond Boundaries and Kennedy Heights Arts Center - PHOTO: FACEBOOK.COM/KENNEDYHEIGHTSARTSCENTER
Photo: facebook.com/kennedyheightsartscenter
Terence Hammonds, ballad of righteous indignation. Screenprint, acrylic and house paint on paper. Courtesy of Art Beyond Boundaries and Kennedy Heights Arts Center

“I’m pretty long in the tooth,” says Jymi Bolden. “I’ve been around here for a little while.”

He laughs, sitting outside his Main Street gallery, and continues on. We’re talking about the genesis of UPRISING, an exhibition he curated for Kennedy Heights Arts Center in collaboration with Art Beyond Boundaries, where he is director, in direct response to this year’s protests and calls for racial equity.

“The issues dealt with were, for the most part, being expressed by contemporary artists — that is, the youth,” he says. “And those are issues that have plagued our culture, our society long before most of them were born. Contemporaries of mine, as well as good friends — Melvin Grier and Gilbert Young and Thom Shaw and Jimi Jones — we all go back 40 years of dealing with results of the same kinds of issues.”

click to enlarge Melvin Grier, Vietnam Moratorium, October 15, 1969. Photograph from 35mm negative. - PHOTO: COURTESY OF ART BEYOND BOUNDARIES AND KENNEDY HEIGHTS ARTS CENTER
Photo: Courtesy of Art Beyond Boundaries and Kennedy Heights Arts Center
Melvin Grier, Vietnam Moratorium, October 15, 1969. Photograph from 35mm negative.

Such is the nature of systemic racism: It is in the bones of society, surpassing any single generation.

“So to bridge that gap,” says Bolden, “to bring young and old into the exhibition together — it was gratifying. I felt obligated to do it because rarely does it get done.”

The exhibition started, for Bolden, as a conversation with his gallery assistant: How could Art Beyond Boundaries do an open-air show along Main Street? The short answer: “It just turned out to be impractical, if not damn near impossible, to pull off,” he says. So they shelved it, but soon after Kennedy Heights Arts Center called, asking about a potential outdoor exhibition on their grounds. And from there, UPRISING took off.

In conceptualizing the show, Bolden looked to protest posters, a most ubiquitous — which is certainly not to say insignificant — form of political art. And from there, called for works from Black Cincinnati-based artists that spoke to racial justice. Cherie Garces, Terence Hammonds, Gee Horton, Hannah “Jonesy” Jones, Jimi Jones, Cynthia Lockhart, and Ricci Michaels created new works, while Melvin Grier printed a new image from an archived 1969 35mm negative, Gilbert Young altered a 2019 painting, and Bolden pulled a Thom Shaw (d. 2010) print from his personal collection to be incorporated.

Gilbert Young, Liberty. Mixed media graphite, acrylic, and printed document. - PHOTO: COURTESY OF ART BEYOND BOUNDARIES AND KENNEDY HEIGHTS ARTS CENTER
Photo: Courtesy of Art Beyond Boundaries and Kennedy Heights Arts Center
Gilbert Young, Liberty. Mixed media graphite, acrylic, and printed document.

Pandemic still being pandemic, the UPRISING is not displayed indoors. Each work was photographed, enlarged to four-by-six feet, and printed on weather-resistant materials, so guests can either drive or walk through the Kennedy Heights Arts Center’s grounds to peruse.




UPRISING is on view dawn to dusk through Nov. 28 at the Kennedy Heights Arts Center, 6546 Montgomery Road, Kennedy Heights. Prints and postcards of works available for purchase in their art shop 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Wednesday-Friday and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday or by calling 513-631-4278, ext. 3; proceeds split evenly between the artist and Ohio Justice and Policy Center.


This story was originally published by FotoFocus' The Lens and republished here via an unpaid partnership with the arts nonprofit.

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