Heights Arts Calls Out Compelling Images Around Racism Protests

A protester urges calm in this photo by Cleveland Institute of Art graduate Aj Almy.

With performances canceled, in-person visits severely limited, and its exhibition schedule already filled for the coming year, Heights Arts looked to nontraditional means of exploring issues related to racism and social justice in our community in the context of the ongoing protests and discussions of recent months.

One of the first things that always becomes obvious in times of intense public action is the power of images to pose questions and eloquently express things that can be hard to get down in words. Specifically, photographers and artists in our area were sharing images that not only told powerful stories, but could stand alone as visual art—which of course makes them all the more powerful in telling the stories. This idea had been explored previously at Heights Arts through exhibitions of photojournalism where photographs that had initially been used to editorially support journalistic articles were gathered, framed, and presented as gallery exhibitions.

As people began to post images representing their own experiences of the protests and responses to racism, Heights Arts reached out and asked some of these artists if we could share their images through our own social media outlets. The first two artists we asked, Bryan Clark and Aj Almy, had posted photos from the May 30 protest in downtown Cleveland; both agreed to let Heights Arts share their images. Since then, the list of artists has grown and includes former Heights Arts intern and Cleveland Institute of Art grad Davon Brantley, and we are pleased to continue sharing images that tell the story of how artists are responding to this moment and the Black Lives Matter movement. We intend to continue the project as long as artists continue to express their perspectives in ways that Heights Arts can note and share. This project is a way for Heights Arts to not only keep a focus on these issues, but to feature artists of color, many of whom have connections to the Heights area and nearby University Circle. In the longer term, there may be opportunities to translate some of this material into a more formal exhibition or program.

In important ways, this project is a return to one of the founding ideas of Heights Arts: that the Heights area is already home to a vibrant artistic community, and one thing an organization like this can do is to provide venues for that creativity to bubble to the surface, and then call attention to that creative expression. In this case, there are no gallery walls and no performance stages, but rather the social media backdrop that has so quickly become ubiquitous in our lives.

To see these images, follow Heights Arts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.



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Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118