Taft Museum announces 2021 Duncanson Artist-in-Residence

The Taft Museum of Art and the Robert S. Duncanson Society welcome fashion designer Asha Ama Bias-Daniels as 34th annual Duncanson Artist-in-Residence.

Bias-Daniels is most widely recognized as the first Cincinnati designer to be a competitor on the television series Project Runway. As a couture designer, Bias-Daniels is no stranger to runways, creating pieces for a diverse range of artists from Zendaya to Little Big Town, and for her own line, Asha Ama.

Asha Ama Bias-Daniels

The Cincinnati native graduated from St. Ursula Academy. She went on to study at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, graduating magna cum laude with a degree in fashion design. 

Daniel’s designs include clothing for men, women and children, as well as lingerie, swimwear, embroidery, draping, knitting and tailoring. According to the Taft, her work for women is said to possess “a duality: soft, rhythmic draping against pieces with an armored feel – protection for Black women. She incorporates ornate detailing, print mixing, strong lines, and cut-outs that accentuate curves in the female form.”

Bias-Daniels’ latest creative endeavor is exploring a new collection with an emphasis on the meaning of the year 2020, focusing on the revealing truths of this year, and the topic of Black identity.

Bias-Daniels’ impressive resume made her a top contender for this year’s residency theme – fashion design – but for all Duncanson Artist-in-Residents, a commitment to community involvement is paramount. With a heart for mentoring and education, Bias-Daniels believes her experience as a Black woman (often feeling misunderstood, stereotyped, and misidentified) can help her help others find their sense of self through fashion. Bias-Daniels is an active leader in this work as the founder of the mentorship program, Created to Create. Through this initiative, she teaches fashion design to Black, underprivileged teenage girls in Cincinnati.

For two weeks in April, Bias-Daniels will lead public programs, teach workshops, and visit schools across Greater Cincinnati.

For an early sneak peek, guests will be able to see a few examples of her work alongside the Taft Museum’s upcoming exhibition, Walk This Way | The Stuart Weitzman Collection of Historic Shoes, opening Feb. 27.

Established in 1986, the Duncanson Artist-in-Residence Program honors achievements of contemporary Black artists working in a variety of disciplines. The program honors the relationship between painter Robert S. Duncanson and his patron, Nicholas Longworth, who commissioned Duncanson to paint landscape murals in the foyer of his home, now the Taft Museum of Art. 

Residence sponsor: Ohio National Financial Services
Programming sponsors: Phyllis McCallum and Steve Jemison, Sara M. and Michelle Vance Waddell Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation

List of previous Duncanson Artists-in-Residence

And speaking of Duncanson, one of his paintings was recently selected as the Congressional gift to President Joe and Dr. Jill Biden, the first black artist to be so honored.

Sen. Roy Blunt presenting Robert S. Duncanson’s “Landscape with Rainbow “to President Joe and Dr. Jill Biden.

Statement from Deborah Emont Scott, Louise Taft Semple president/CEO of the Taft Museum of Art:

“Yesterday we saw the clouds clear to make way for a new tomorrow. It was about 1850 when Duncanson painted the eight landscape murals in the entry foyer of the Taft. Without the benefit of guaranteed freedom for himself and others like him, he left us with a painted vision of beauty and hope. I would like to think that his ‘hope’ was nudged a little closer to reality yesterday when one of his paintings was chosen to be the Congressional gift presented to President Joe Biden. 

How fitting that an artist for whom freedom was never a guarantee winds up being the one – the one whose genius urges us to keep his legacy going. As the first Black artist to rise to international acclaim, he broke many barriers in 19th century America – and then our country inaugurated the first Black, Asian-American and female Vice President of the United States. 

From Duncanson to Harris, from our house to the White House, we look forward to creating a brighter future through the power of art.”


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