Antwoine Washington, "154 years", 2021. Mixed media, mural installation in Museum of Creative Human Art, Lakewood, OH. Courtesy the artist.
La Tanya S. Autry, the Gund Curator in Residence at Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland and first on-staff Black curator in its 52-year history, has organized “Imagine Otherwise,”
a multimedia exhibition and city-wide initiative sited at moCa Cleveland, ThirdSpace Action Lab in Glenville, and Museum of Creative Human Art (MOCHA) in Lakewood.
The Exhibition opens February 18 and runs through June 6.
This exhibition is unique in its collaboration between moCa Cleveland and these Black-led and centered organizations.
The title, “Imagine Otherwise,” comes from a passage in Christina Sharpe’s book “In the Wake: On Blackness and Being,” which inspires this exhibition.
"To 'imagine otherwise' involves countering systemic racism and nurturing our ability to envision other worlds, other ways of being in the world,” says Autry, who has been with moCa since 2019. Autry partnered with ThirdSpace Action Lab and Museum of Creative Human Art because she admires their work in Cleveland. She encountered Evelyn Burnett and Mordecai Cargill of ThirdSpace at various local events. She also connected with Antwoine Washington of Museum of Creative Human Art on several occasions before collaborating with him on this exhibition. The exhibition has been a feat which has taken nearly 5 months from concept to completion.
Autry co-created The Art of Black Dissent and the Social Justice & Museums Resource List, and co-produced #MuseumsAreNotNeutral, a global initiative that exposes the fallacies of the neutrality claim and calls for an equity-based transformation of museums.
The Black Liberation Center, Autry’s latest project, is an experimental series of exhibitions, workshops, and programming which aim to spotlight arts and culture that envision and strategize paths toward the freedom of all Black people, and thus, all people. Autry continues her challenging charge in the Cleveland community curating what writer Christina Sharpe refers to as “wake work.”
“'Wake work' is a careful navigation, a meticulous form of care,” says Autry. “It encompasses the various methods Black people implement to get through this antiBlack world and find ways to love themselves, one another, to love life. This long history of exclusion in a majority Black city is an indication of antiBlackness. Black people and other racialized people have not been a part of the moCa Cleveland’s top level management in over half a century.”
It is noteworthy that in June of 2020 The Museum of Contemporary Art’s Executive Director, Jill Snyder, announced her resignation after 23 years with the museum and just weeks after publicly apologizing for canceling “The Breath of Empty Space,” an exhibition that had been slated to debut in Cleveland and was to feature Shaun Lenardo's charcoal drawings of police violence against minorities
, including Eric Garner and Tamir Rice.
“Imagine Otherwise” features artists Shikeith, Imani Dennison, Amber Ford, and Antwoine Washington, and aims to spotlight Black pathways to self-determination and collective liberation through photographic, sculptural, mixed media, and video-based installations. Antwoine Washington is a Cleveland artist and is the Co-Founder, creative director and a ‘bunch of other things’ for Museum of Creative Human Art (MOCHA).
From Autry’s updated show description: “Antwoine Washington employs domestic furnishings and murals as visual storytelling in 'And Yeah, About that Seat at the Table' (2021). Sited at the Museum of Creative Human Art (MOCHA), the organization he co-founded, the artist’s multimedia installation highlights how that proverbial access point to power is illusory for most Black people, while also honoring a long history of Black self-making.”
Washington’s current series in this exhibition is about two Black entrepreneurs with a mission to create their own museum to elevate Black voices. Amidst their journey the pair observe what they consider to be a false reality of having a ‘seat at the table.’ The works take the viewer through the history of what Black Americans “have been served here in American, An unhealthy diet of oppression, racism, and etc.,” according to Washington.
“I feel honored to play a part in this powerful exhibition,” says Washington. “I think it’s a great idea and it’s needed especially at a time like this. Often black-led orgs are never the focus, underfunded, and used as a box to check off to fulfill a grant requirement. So I appreciate the opportunity to be recognized and be able to tell my side of the story.”
Among the variety of enticing works showcased in this exhibition, the piece, “154 Years” by Washington is a mural installation which portrays a woman with black historical figures in the background, a rainbow darting out from behind her and text barely revealing the word, “FREE.” The subject is wearing a shirt that reads, “A CERTAIN DARKNESS IS NEEDED TO SEE THE STARS,” which is a quote from the civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr. The piece may symbolize and theorize a future where, as King stated in his “I Have a Dream” speech, “people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
“I hope everyone who encounters ‘Imagine Otherwise’ feels the deep degree of authentic care and rich imagination Shikeith, Imani Dennison, Amber Ford, Antwoine Washington, ThirdSpace Action Lab, and Museum of Creative Human Art embody in their work,” concludes Autry.