CINCINNATI — Organizers are marking 35 years of Juneteenth Celebrations in Cincinnati with music and an emphasis on art in Eden Park.
On exhibit is Voices of Freedom, presented by Juneteenth Cincinnati and the Kennedy Heights Arts Center. Among the featured artists is Michael Thompson, a multi-media artist and poet who is making a big impression across the country.
Since graduating in 2021 from nearby Thomas More University with a degree in Fine and Studio Arts, Thompson has been featured as an artist and teacher for Artworks, The Contemporary Arts Center, The Cincinnati Shakespeare Company and his current position as Artist in Residence at the Cincinnati Art Museum.
It all started with his Thompson’s senior show, “Strange Fruit,” which combined images of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ with those of lynchings and Black men behind bars in America.
“I think my job as an artist is to be that force that not only causes conversations but causes you to do some real introspection,” Thompson said.
He started the conversation Saturday with students at the art museum, just a few hundred feet away from where his work was being displayed at the Juneteenth celebrations in the park.
Thompson was showing them how to create what he calls “Memory Blox,” cubes that are decorated with symbols of a person’s life.
“I wanted to create a physical object that serves as an icon to represent the different people, places and memories that shape the individuals that we are," he said.
Thompson believes the Juneteenth observance is a great time to reflect.
"Truly, I see myself as a storyteller first and foremost,” Thompson said. “Art is one of the many tools that I use to tell those different stories and to bring messages that I think are important to my community.”
Thompson is preparing for an exhibition at the museum on July 15. He hopes the recognition will help him to fulfill one of his dreams: to become the youngest honoree from the prestigious MacArthur Foundation.
“To be a Black artist in Cincinnati and to see the way the city celebrates artists and celebrates blackness and then to have the opportunity to merge those two things on Juneteenth is a really fantastic experience for me,” Thompson said.