Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Ohio University Selects Black Artist as Visiting Scholar

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Nationwide --  Artist, Angela Franklin has been selected as the Visiting Artist/Scholar for the Stained Glass Initiative (SGI) at Xavier University (XU), Cincinnati, Ohio. Franklin is noted for her textile/mixed media works that explore and give testimony to people of The Diaspora and their shared experiences in relation to other cultures.

With the Stained Glass Initiative, Xavier University is stepping forward to recognize and explore their history stained by slavery, with a commitment to institutionalize racial repair and reconciliation. As stained glass brings together different pieces to create a whole and symbolizes transformation, spirituality and sacred history it is an appropriate title for this initiative committed to exploring racial healing and racial justice.

The Stained Glass Initiative is the brainchild of Dr Kyra Shahid, Director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion at Xavier University.

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As Visiting Artist/Scholar, Franklin has been commissioned to create four textile / mixed media works for Xavier University and facilitate an array of community programs. The four commissioned works will narrate the institution's transition through the process of racial healing and institutional awareness.

She has started this residency researching the life of Edward Fenwick, founder of Xavier University. Born and raised on his family's tobacco plantation on the Patuxent River in Maryland, Fenwick traveled to Europe at age 16, where he became a Dominican priest.

Following his return to the U.S., Fenwick inherited 900 acres of his father's land and slaves, later selling the slaves to help finance a 500 acre plantation in Springfield, Kentucky. In Kentucky, he purchased additional slaves and constructed a church and the St Rose priory, the first Dominican house in the United States. As Fenwick relocated to Ohio, he handed over the Kentucky Dominicans legal rights to the St Rose slaves. In 1822, Edward Dominic Fenwick was consecrated as the first Bishop of the new Diocese of Cincinnati and helped found the Athenaeum of Ohio in 1831. This institution was later renamed to St. Xavier College and then Xavier University.

While Fenwick did not own slaves during the founding of the Athenaeum, Xavier University's research into early students revealed that most of these families owned slaves, so the tuition and boarding fees paid by the students came from the institution of slavery. This tuition and fee money made up about 75 percent of the university's income in its first few years.

When speaking of the four commissioned works and her approach to the Stained Glass Initiative Franklin says, "The works I am creating are not focused solely on the trauma of slavery, but reflect on the long term economical contribution made by slaves. Whether it was tobacco, sugar or cotton all three products cultivated by slaves established an economic empire still in existence. In addition, slaves contributed greatly to the Catholic community and indirectly to the founding of Xavier University. Some will say slavery happened and get over it, or argue that everyone was doing it. Yet as stated by Sarah Churchwell in her article, 'The Lehman Trilogy' and Wall Street's Debt to Slavery, 'The fact that everyone was doing it is not a defense; it merely measures the scale of the crime.' In reality the residue of this trauma remains worldwide, along with the societal role, position and value often assigned to a people based on their skin color. As I have traveled the world, I have often found that various cultures have not just a world but an expression used to denote someone as a slave. More often than not this word is accompanied with an image of black people."

The community aspect of Franklin's residency begins in Dakar, Senegal with students from Xavier University (XU). A select group will participate in a unique study abroad experience delivered by Diasporic Soul under the leadership of co-founders Phyllis Jeffers-Coly and Eddy Coly. Diasporic Soul offers leadership development and heritage travel experiences in Senegal, West Africa from a healing-centered approach that includes culture, yoga and other body-centered practices, spirituality, social justice and collective healing. While in Senegal, Xavier University students will participate in a healing-centered leadership development experience that holds space for them to deepen their ability to be self-aware, loving, inter-culturally competent leaders who practice self-care and recognize their capacity for healing, restoration, resilience and resistance so that they are able to collaborate with others in order to create change and pursue healing justice.

As part of her residency program, Franklin will collaborate with the students in the design and creation of textile/mixed media and found object African shields. She says, "We often think of African shields only as weapons of war and forget that they were used for protection in many other ways, even sprinkled with herbs to provide protection and to imbue them with medicinal and magical powers. Shields could also denote status and identity, communicating who the bearer belongs to, their family, their clan, their tribe, their ethnic group, their community. They were also direct tools of resistance. The shields that XU students begin to create in Dakar will be reflective of their experience abroad and symbolize their healing, restoration, resilience / resistance and awareness of the importance of social justice. These shields will serve as a symbol of their personal power and capacity to fully express their feelings and to exist as authentically and courageously as possible. In the world today, we may not always be able to protect our students but we can empower them with the necessary mental, spiritual strength needed to confront adversity, draw upon a spirit of resilience and fully understand their self-worth."

Because fabric is the primary medium for the shields, while in Dakar, Xavier University students will have the opportunity to visit various fabric markets, the Museum of Black Civilization, Manufactures Sénégalaises des arts Décoratifs, along with the Mandiack Weavers of Caritas. Back in Cincinnati, Franklin will follow up with the XU students who were in Dakar, and facilitate on campus and community discussions along with an additional hands on activity with an area secondary school.

Franklin concludes saying, "The Stained Glass Initiative is exciting as it provides me the opportunity to lead the viewer through a unique story telling process. I am certain the completed works will be a strong visual representation of the past and present from voices seldom heard while emphasizing the important role they played in the development of a nation and a church."

Along with her work as a visual artist, Angela Franklin is the founder and director of Chez Alpha Books in Dakar, Senegal and works in higher education in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Her art works were featured in the May 2018 national exhibition of Contemporary African Art for the 13 th DAK'Art Biennale along with the Dialogue in Black and White Exhibition at the Charleston City Gallery. In addition, Paris Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi, The Art Hub-Abu Dhabi, The Renwick Gallery - Smithsonian Institution, Ohio Craft Museum and Musee Boribana - Dakar are just a few of the spaces that have featured her work. Works by Franklin-Faye are in the corporate collections of Atlanta Life Insurance Company, The NationsBank, Arco Chemical and Household Finance. At present, she is creating a new series titled, "My Soul to Keep" focused on the stages and journey through grief.

For further information, contact Angela Franklin at or follow her on Instagram @artist.angelacarolefranklin

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