Alongside their teacher Ms. Schorsch, OHHS Art and Design students in Drawing and Printmaking worked earlier this year to create artworks in response to “Race and the City” for a special multi-disciplinary exhibition. On May 14th, 2022 an art event showcasing artworks, poetry, and performances from Greater Cincinnati Artists in response to chapters from the book “Race and the City: Work, Community, and Protest in Cincinnati, 1820-1870” will take place at Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church from 2:00-5:00 pm.
Icons of Influence
For “Icons of Influence” students selected an African American icon of society to research who impacted and influenced Cincinnati in a positive way. To begin the task, students reviewed information from Chapter 3 of “Race and the City” and the accompanying virtual book discussion posted online. Students then researched either an individual discussed specifically from Chapter 3 or other historic or contemporary African Americans, that impacted the advancement of this marginalized group of individuals in Cincinnati. To create the image a scratchboard stylus was utilized to capture carefully observed details, textures, highlights, and shadows. A term was selected as a descriptor of the selected icon that was included in the work to summarize the individual’s life or characteristics.
Exhibiting Artists Include:
Virginia Coffey and Sarah Fossett
Ms. Schorsch created a new work focused on Sarah Fossett based upon “Race in the City” and will be exhibiting her Virginia Coffey piece from the “10_Women” exhibition alongside the students at the event.
Sarah Fossett was an early American social reformer and advocate for African American rights in 19th century Cincinnati, Ohio. Sarah, born in 1826 in Charleston, South Carolina, moved to Cincinnati in 1954 after marrying Peter Fossett, a former slave of President Thomas Jefferson. Together, the Fossett’s actively assisted runaway blacks on the Underground Railroad and founded a church along with various orphanages in the area. Sarah is prominently known for her integral part in the desegregation of the Cincinnati streetcar. A white conductor refused to let her board in 1860, resulting in her filing suit against the company and ultimately led to the desegregation of the streetcars, but only for African-American women.
The portrait created as a representation of Sarah Mayrant Fossett’s impact includes symbolism related to the early streetcar operations and her part in the creation of a divergent trajectory of the systems of segregation in place at the time in Cincinnati. The coloring of the landscape emphasizes the struggle between segregation and desegregation through the use of contrasting colors. The overall primary color palette used in the creation of the piece alludes to Sarah’s role as a foundation for early American social reform. Echinacea, a symbol of strength, resilience, and healing, stands opposite the image of Sarah, setting up a dialogue between the literal Sarah Fossett and the ideals she embodied. The singular canary represents her role as an early voice emerging in opposition to segregation and oppression that would later impact generations of social reformers.
“The hardest thing in this world to do is like people for what they are – regardless of the artificial barriers of color and worship.” –Virginia Coffey
Virginia Coffey was an American social reformer and civil rights activist who worked for improved race relations in and around Cincinnati, Ohio. Virginia arrived in Cincinnati in 1924 to teach at an all-black school, one of the few opportunities for African-American teachers. Instead of finding a progressive northern city, she found a segregated city. Virginia fought to integrate areas of the city, including Coney Island where she coordinated an event protesting the segregation at the gates of the park. In addition to the multiple committees and organizations that Virginia partnered with throughout her life, she formed the first Girl Scouts troop for African-American girls and became the first woman, and first African-American, Executive Director of the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission in 1968. Throughout her life Virginia worked to achieve her goal of getting people to listen to each other, getting to know each other, and treating each other as human beings.
The portrait created as a representation of Virginia Coffey’s impact includes symbolism related to the Coney Island protest and her role as a leader for the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission in bridging the gaps of a divided community. The divisions of the landscape become united by color. Gladiolus, a symbol of faithfulness, sincerity, and integrity, frames the image of Virginia, calling emphasis on her strength of character and perseverance. Symbolic association with the Girl Scouts emerges from behind the gladiolus as a sign of her fostering and growing similar characteristics amongst young women. Canaries, representing the power of voice, illustrate a connection with freedom and inspiration of Virginia’s message being carried through generations.