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Historical society expands ‘Soul!’ exhibit

In conjunction with The Ohio Historical Society’s African-American exhibit “Soul!” the museum is now featuring “Masks!” a collection of masks hand-crafted by three Ohio artists.

“‘Masks!’ is about showcasing artists from the area and displaying their interpretations, or real life influences with African culture,” said Rosa Rojas, the exhibit’s community liaison.

Garner Chapman and Brian Featheringill, Columbus natives, and H. Alfreda Abbott-Ayodele, a Toledo native, contributed their mask designs to the project.

Rojas said each mask reflects the artists’ personal cultural traditions and how they identify with the changed roles of African-Americans throughout history.

Each artist also has their own design method. “[Chapman] makes the paper and uses textiles for her masks,” Rojas said.

“Brian is an American-Indian and portrays his chronic back pain in his designs,” Rojas continued. “Freda uses found objects, like a Christmas cookie sheet and the back of a binder, to make her masks.”

To celebrate the “Masks!” art display, a public mask-making workshop will be conducted by Abbott-Ayodele Nov. 21 between 1 and 4 p.m at the Ohio Historical Society.

A variety of supplied materials will be included to make the hand-held masquerade masks, but participants can bring in personal items for their masks as well, Rojas said. The workshop is at no additional cost after regular parking and admission fees.

“Masks!” is one of six companion exhibits that have been displayed since “Soul!” opened in May.

Rojas coordinated previous community-created exhibitions focusing on topics including jewelry, Somalian cultural influences and Latino artwork inspired by African roots. The extension exhibits are displayed for six weeks each.

“In December we will have illustrations by Allan Rohan Crite called ‘Were You There?’ and art quilts called ‘Quilts With Soul,'” Rojas said.

The main “Soul!” exhibit features themes throughout African-American history, introduced by the words of African-American poets and authors.

Each section displays photographs, paintings, drawings and collages provided by the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce, Ohio.

“To really capture the entire essence of this exhibit with its historical value, visitors should tour all of ‘Soul!,'” said Kim Schuette, Ohio Historical Center spokeswoman.

The sections include depictions of warriors, protestors, abolitionists and the historical marks of the Middle Passage and slavery. Celebration pieces with dance and music are also included.

Closing the “Soul!” exhibit are serigraphs by artist Jacob Lawrence. Lawrence’s colorful silk-screen prints tell the story of abolitionist John Brown. Beside the 22 prints, display cases with artifacts associated with Brown are on display.

“We were excited to have these included with the exhibit,” said Schuette, “because this marks the 150th anniversary of John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry.”

On Dec. 3 the public is invited to a community discussion to speak with some of the artists featured in the exhibit, Rojas said. On Feb. 20 the Ohio Historical Society will feature a closing ceremony to honor “Soul!,” called “HeART of Soul.”

“Masks!” will be on display until Nov. 29 and “Soul!” will continue to be featured, along with monthly community art exhibits, until Feb. 28.

The Ohio Historical Society is open Thursdays 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays noon to 5 p.m.

Regular vehicle parking is $4 and admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, $4 for youth (6-12) and free for children under 5.

For special group discounts and tours of “Soul!,” contact Lesley Cornathan at 614-297-2477.

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