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New Semester Begins: Picture Freedom

Freedom can be the addition or subtraction of power.  Teenagers like our CATS students can understand that concept in a very practical way. Earning a driver’s license is a form of freedom that comes from newly gained power called, independence. (Remember those days?)   But this theme of freedom in a season of #metoo, #blacklivesmatter and kneel or not to kneel can also seem like a political concept to them.   FREEDOM is what CATS students will be investigating for their next project. The theme PICTURE FREEDOM, was introduced to the students during the last week of January by Education Director Laura Greene who hopes the CATS students can interpret the theme visually “with deep and personal meaning to tell a compelling story on what freedom means to them.”

During an in-class orientation Green introduced students to artists throughout history who have tackled the theme freedom like the painting “Free Speech” by Norman Rockwell and asked how the artists expressed those ideas. She then turned the question to the students, asking them what cultural, social and political influences would help define what freedom means to them and if art could in fact communicate and inspire freedom? The discussion was lively and engaging. 

The students then set off to explore the work of living artists and examine their process while gaining inspiration for their own artwork. Along for the trip is local contemporary artist Ricci Michaels who is a known activist and who will be working with the students in studio throughout this project.

First stop was the 21c Museum Hotel on Walnut Street downtown Cincinnati where the exhibition The Future is Female by a collection of female artists was on view. This timely collection of contemporary art investigates the female identity, experience and empowerment.  One student remarked “it was weird, but I guess weird is good.”  The  Alice F. and Harris K. Weston Art Gallery next to the Aronoff Center was the next stop for the students, who made good use of their I-Phones taking pictures of the works art throughout each gallery.   A guided tour by Director Dennis Harrington  of monumental sculptures made from simple and ordinary materials in the exhibition Doug McGlumphy: The Regular Guy,  carefully explained how McGlumphy elevated the idea of the every day working class man.  The large scale acrylic paintings by Cincinnati painter Frank Herrmann: New Works left more questions than answers though, as Harrington told the students he would let them figure out what they all mean, giving them if you will the freedom of interpretation.   And last was a tour of a  collection of artwork, memorabilia and racist objects from the home of Cincinnati writer Kathy Y. Wilson in the exhibition Sanctuary. Wilson’s work often  explores the complicated and challenging issues of racism, gender, identity and class. The exhibition dove deep into these waters.

Now the students are currently in the studios bringing with them inspiration from these contemporary works and starting the process of creating their own interpretations of FREEDOM. See slide show.