Cincinnati’s Black artists use art to highlight injustice, spur change

Alandes Powell (far left), of Black Art Speaks, poses with a group of the artists who contributed to the Black Lives Matter mural painted in front of City Hall in downtown Cincinnati last year.

Nowhere is Cincinnati's art scene more obviously displayed than on its walls, and in the case of the Black Lives Matter! mural, on its streets.

Painted during the height of the George Floyd protests, the work has now stood for a year, a constant reminder of what the protests meant and what is still left to achieve. It’s also a reminder of the obstacles artists who are Black have had to hurdle to be seen.

For several local artists invited to paint an individual letter of the emphatic message in front of City Hall, the BLM mural was not a one-time effort. These artists have continued to express their perspective through other murals and art forms, hoping that the art and its message endures.

Dai Williams stands in front of their mural, "How To Protect A Ghost" in Over-The-Rhine. Williams, who goes by they/them pronouns, painted  their mural in the summer of 2020 as part of the New Lines Mural Series sponsored by ArtWorks.

Michael Coppage doesn’t actually like working on murals. He prefers painting and other lens-based artwork. But he admits that, due to their scale and public nature, murals are inherently assertive and impactful. 

“They become confrontational by default, but I think that those work beautifully because people aren't expecting them,” Coppage said. “You don't really get that at an art gallery.”

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