Art, music in concert for new portrait contest

Posted at 7:00 AM, Apr 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-21 07:00:18-04

CINCINNATI -- The staff members of several programs at the nonprofit Price Hill Will have come up with an innovative way to honor musicians of color with the Musicians of Color Portraits project.

They’re holding a contest to pick five Cincinnati artists to create portraits of musicians. After five winning portraits are selected by an independent jury of artists and art experts, they will be displayed at businesses and organizations along Warsaw Avenue in Price Hill, with copies simultaneously displayed at Warsaw Avenue Firehouse.

The five winning portraits in the Musicians of Color Portrait Project will hang permanently in the firehouse. Provided

The portraits will have a permanent display at the Firehouse, which is the home of MYCincinnati (Music for Youth in Cincinnati), a free youth orchestra. The 90 members and their families use the Firehouse for daily rehearsals and concerts, as well as for a gathering space.

“We hope that the community, especially the young musicians at MyCincinnati, will see the portraits of these artists of color and feel inspired,” said Eddy Kwon, MYCincinnati director, who came up with the idea along with help from Laura Jekel, director of creative place-making, and Carroll Wallace, MyCincinnati teaching artist.

“We want to help facilitate conversations about artists of color and a platform to celebrate their contributions to our cultural and political lives,” Kwon said.

Both Kwon and Jekel work for programs within Price Hill Will, which is a decade-old nonprofit comprehensive community development corporation. It works with residents on housing, economic development and community engagement with an eye toward providing opportunities for residents and keeping them interested and aware of multiple causes.

The Musicians of Color Portrait Project received a $2,500 grant from Summerfair Cincinnati, a nonprofit that has supported the arts in Cincinnati since 1968.

“Each year, we have a certain percentage that we give to the art community, and our decision is based on who best needs it and who will best use it,” said Jayne Utter, managing director, Summerfair.

“We saw that this was a project that was going to touch many lives, and we like to accomplish that when we hand out the small arts organization awards,” she said.

Jekel hopes the contest will acknowledge artists of color who are not remembered in the mainstream.

“We want to both educate and inspire people about musicians all over the world who are making an impact but are not on main radio stations nor are they recognized by academia. It could be because they do not play a mainstream musical genre or perhaps fit into a genre,” said Wallace. 

Kwon said artists of color have left their mark in all genres of music, including jazz and soul, but the staff declined to name specific artists because they want applicants to come up with these names by themselves.

MYCincinnati’s core philosophy is that exceling in music can uplift and change lives. Students play violin, viola, cello and bass in individual and group classes and participate frequently in orchestras and performances.

To participate in the contest, apply by May 1 following the guidelines described at or on the organization’s Facebook page.