Thursday, August 14, 2008

“Starts with Community”

This is the title of Emily Holt’s work in “The Neighborhood Is Our World,” now on view at Kennedy Heights Arts Center. This is a black and white photograph of the bottom of a sign that reads “community” in black letters. The rest of the sign extends up past the picture plane indicating there was more to read. Holt’s shot focuses on the last word while her title reminds us the idea should remain first.

That Holt created this work as a student of KHAC’s own summer photography camp is no surprise. It is a testament to the art center’s focus on the neighborhood and the work of teaching artists like Natalie Hager who help their students honestly engage the world around them. Traveling exhibitions like “The Neighborhood Is Our World,” which will show in various venues throughout the Kennedy Heights area is the type if community arts programming that I have not yet seen here in Cincinnati. With this one exhibition, the Center celebrates local art students, established guild artists and the community. What’s more KHAC is able to begin moving beyond the “make and take” arts programming on which even the Cincinnati Art Museum still relies for membership. There is an immediate need to retire such stale programming that I’ve argued can actually stifle creativity. KHAC sees the value in inviting their students, adults and children, to see their work displayed alongside local working artists. Also with such innovative programming, the guild artists at KHAC are given the opportunity to hone their crafts through teaching and further expand their own portfolios while mentoring future Cincinnati artists. I hope to see art centers follow suit by implementing similarly fresh programs.

The Kennedy Heights Arts Center has taken the lead as a community arts center that puts community first while providing a wonderful home for artists to focus on not just selling but making art and possibly mentoring. Emily Holt’s Starts With Community is not only my favorite work currently exhibited in the galleries, but the KHAC and each of Cincinnati’s community arts centers should really consider purchasing a copy of the photograph as a reminding emblem of what a community arts center should be.


VisuaLingual said...

Wow, you've really piqued my curiosity with this post! One question, though -- why no photos? Is photography not allowed, or are you just not a photographer? I've wanted to write about a few CAC exhibits but never do because I'm not allowed to photograph the work, and I always want to provide visual evidence of whatever I'm talking about. Images are the one thing missing from your observations.

Anonymous said...

The amazing part of this show is how it evolved. The students went out to meet business owners and community members to find out the pros and cons of their neighborhood. The result, like so many other adventures, was nothing compared to the journey. We have learned so much from the stories that accompany each photograph. I was so impressed by the process of artistic discovery that Natalie Hager cultivated with these young photographers. I look forward to seeing all of you around the community to see this show on tour. Go to to check out the schedule.
John Cooper, Summer Arts Camp Director

Me said...

Visuslingual, as a rule to my blog, I don't post least not yet. My hope is that you and all of my readers will instead go to the show. I do posts links to websites if they exist.

In the future, I may bend this rule for an analysis of a specific artwork. But for now my focus is on the discussions we can have about art.

Natalie Hager said...

I feel so blessed to get to work with young artists who teach me new things about life daily. I am also thankful for the community members that were so encouraging along the way with the students' ideas, discoveries and process along the way. Thank you.

VisuaLingual said...

Ahh, Kathy, I am such a visual person that I really love having visual aids to go along with whatever I'm reading. It's often said that "designers don't read" and, while I disagree, I do depend on images, not to sway me, but to annotate the text. I completely respect your position, though.

Me said...

Visualingual, it is so funny you should say that about designers. As an art historian in grad school, I along with my fellow art theorists often grumbled about no longer looking at art, but simply theorizing about it.

Seems that you and I come from different sides, but of the same coin.