By Cincinnati Art Museum
Cover art by Evan Verrilli
At the request of the Cincinnati Art Museum, I spent more than five months photographing Black and Brown artists in the region as they made new work inspired by the photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop and painter David Driskell. Both were the focus of exhibitions at the museum during winter and spring 2022.
I walked through neighborhoods, schools, museums, and listened to lectures to witness firsthand how our community amplifies our voices through art, while creating new work alongside them in the form of a photo essay and archival book.
For what felt like the first time in a long time, we prioritized Black voices in the Midwest, and created a flowing conversation between our history, current issues, and our future.
The inspiration for the regional artists came from two exhibitions presented at the Cincinnati Art Museum: Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop and David Driskell: Icons of Nature and History.
Untitled [Boy and H] (1961) by Louis DraperCincinnati Art Museum
America seen through Stars and Stripes, New York City, New York (1976) by Ming SmithCincinnati Art Museum
Bahian Lace (1988) by David DriskellCincinnati Art Museum
The Kamoinge Workshop is a groundbreaking African American photographers’ collective founded in New York City in 1963, responding to the Civil Rights era and leading parts of the Black Arts Movement. The founders chose the name Kamoinge—meaning “a group of people acting and working together” in the Gikuyu language of Kenya—to reflect their shared dedication to community, collective action, and a global outlook.
David Driskell (1931–2020) was one of the most revered American artists of his generation, long recognized for his vibrant and versatile work as a painter and printmaker. His art combines keen observations of America with the imagery and aesthetic innovations of the African diaspora.
Context is important: the Cincinnati Art Museum and the two exhibitions sit within Cincinnati’s Walnut Hills neighborhood, a place with a rich cultural history, and where several of the themes covered in the Kamoinge and Driskell exhibitions are directly connected to the lives of people who call this place home.
I was really interested in documenting the parts of the neighborhood that are underappreciated—the barbershops, bus stations, houses—but are the true glue of a community.
Gilbert Ave. Bus Stop (2022-05-20) by Asa Featherstone, IVCincinnati Art Museum
Car Resting (2022-05-20) by Asa Featherstone, IVCincinnati Art Museum
Countess V. Winfrey (Dayton, OH) is an artist and choreographer who created a new site-specific three-part dance that was performed at the Cincinnati Art Museum. Titled Homage: What was, Is, To Come, the performance brings to light the Black experience of the past and present and the dream of a Black future.
Balance & Breath (2022-04-29) by Asa Featherstone, IVCincinnati Art Museum
Aaron Frisby, Nicolay Dorsett, Courtney Draper, Alexis Diggs, and Niarra Gooden-Clarke in the Alice Bimel Courtyard
Reach (2022-04-18) by Asa Featherstone, IVCincinnati Art Museum
Countess Gives Direction (2022-04-24) by Asa Featherstone, IVCincinnati Art Museum
Countess Winfrey, choreographer of Homage: What was, Is, To Come
Close (2022-04-18) by Asa Featherstone, IVCincinnati Art Museum
Freedom (2022-04-29) by Asa Featherstone, IVCincinnati Art Museum
Panels & Lectures
Cincinnati Art Museum hosted a series of discussions and events celebrating creativity through the Black lens led by Black scholars and established artists. The conversations focused on the formation of Black artist collectives and celebrated Black progress.
Wordplay, a Cincinnati nonprofit focused on youth storytelling, led a writer’s room with Aiken New Tech High School where they wrote spoken word poems inspired by the Kamoinge Workshop and Driskell exhibitions, and later performed them inside the galleries of the Cincinnati Art Museum. The workshops were led by Spring Starr Pillow of Wordplay.
It was beautiful to watch their entire process from ideation to recitation. What follows are images of the writing process along with a selection of their poems:
I notice a man
He seems worried and lost
I think he’s struggling
This man reminds me of men that I have seen growing up.
He reminds me of fathers in my childhood that felt like
They couldn’t keep their families safe and stable.
When men feel like they can not keep their families safe and stable,
They usually feel lost and they start doing bad habits like drugs.
I wonder what he’s going through? I wonder if people in his community notice?
A lot of times men go through hard times but they feel worried and unsafe
About sharing how they feel. I wonder if he has someone to talk to?
I think He feels sorry about People,Goals and about himself.
He’s sorry for spending time with friends instead of his goals, he’s sorry that put others ahead of him, he’s sorry that he had to go through all of that but now he has to live by the choices and decisions he made.
Enock Reads his Poem (2022-04-14) by Asa Featherstone, IVCincinnati Art Museum
I followed photographers Briana Davis, Louis Rideout, Frank Duane Young, and Allen Woods as they mentored aspiring young Black artists on process and practice of photography, culminating in a series of group exhibitions titled Active Imagination. This was the most meta part of the experience, but also rewarding to see so many young Black photographers wanting to tell their stories.
Portrait of Marin & Isaiah (2022-03-09) by Asa Featherstone, IVCincinnati Art Museum
Hair (2022-04-13) by Asa Featherstone, IVCincinnati Art Museum
Portrait (2022-04-06) by Asa Featherstone, IVCincinnati Art Museum
Portrait of Isaiah (2022-07-14) by Asa Featherstone, IVCincinnati Art Museum
Asa Featherstone, IV (b. 1994) is a portrait photographer and curator based out of Cincinnati, OH who’s work highlights the stories and experiences that make us human.
Yesterday, today and tomorrow is an archival book photographed and designed by Asa Featherstone, IV, cover design by Evan Verrilli commissioned by the Cincinnati Art Museum.
Homage: What Was, Is, To Come is an original site-specific dance performance by choreographer Countess V. Winfrey, featuring an original score and a spoken word tour guide.