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Kentucky artists present powerful visual commentary on race

January 7, 2021

January 12th marks the opening of an innovative new exhibit at Art Center of the Bluegrass. The Art of Being Black: Conversation and Experience – presented by PNC Bank – tackles the big issue of race through the lens of conversations, memories, and stories of African Americans in Kentucky. A virtual exhibit opening and gallery talk will be held on Thursday, January 21st.

The Art Center convened an advisory committee of Black community leaders and creative professionals who worked together to shape the exhibit. In addition to issuing an open call for artwork that addressed the theme of the Black experience, the Art Center commissioned five Kentucky artists to create artwork for two inter-related exhibits.

The Conversations exhibit provides a visual interpretation of a series of community conversations, hosted by the Art Center in the fall. Black community members shared their memories and stories of life in Danville. Louisville artists Ashley Cathey, Sandra Charles, and Lexington artist LaVon Williams created artwork inspired by those conversations, with artwork that speaks to issues of community and the sense of “home.”

Themes of identity and perception are at the forefront of the second exhibit – Momentum. For this exhibit, Louisville artist Tomisha Lovely-Allen and Lexington artist and poet Frank X Walker were asked to respond to civil rights photographs of their choosing. The result is a powerful visual through-line of the ongoing struggle for racial justice. A third exhibit – Call and Response: A reflection on the African American experience – was an open call for submissions and includes pieces by sixteen Kentucky artists.

Visitors to the show can also view “The African-American Experience in Kentucky” – an hour-long film by P Pi Productions. For the film, Chuck Taylor and Elliott Porter interviewed Black community members to document and share their stories. Visitors can also respond to the exhibit through several hands-on engagement opportunities, including creating their own collage quilt squares and responding to creative writing prompts.

“We are grateful to the community partners who wanted to help us tell this story,” says Kinkade. PNC Bank stepped forward early in the planning process as the presenting sponsor of the exhibit, while Toyota Motor Manufacturing provided a grant to help underwrite the cost of curating the show. The Kentucky Humanities Council provided additional funding to bring the exhibit to life.

The Art Center has also developed a robust virtual field trip curriculum that is available to educators throughout Kentucky, with fourth and fifth grade classes able to participate free of charge.

Visitor Information:

The Art of Being Black: Conversation and Experience will be on display from January 12 to April 17. The galleries are open Tuesday through Friday, 11am to 7pm and Saturdays, 10am to 5pm. Small group tours may be scheduled on Mondays, by appointment. Parking is available behind the Art Center building, including handicap accessible parking. The Art Center building is fully wheelchair accessible and stringent COVID-19 safety precautions are in place to maintain visitor safety. All visitors must wear a mask at all times.