FotoFocus, Creative Time to host art symposium centered on social issues

Arts organizations Creative Time and FotoFocus are teaming up for a series of free public talks and performances in Cincinnati this October focused on social and environmental themes such as land sovereignty and stewardship.

Dubbed “The Convening,” the two-day event is bringing together artists, activists, critics, curators and thinkers for discussions, workshops and performances. One subject the group will explore is the United States’ history of forced migration and its national and local impacts.

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and the Contemporary Arts Center are each hosting a full day of programming on Saturday, Oct. 21

A welcome event and performance will take place a day earlier – on Friday, Oct. 20 – at Mecca OTR, a bar in Over-the-Rhine.

Other supporting partners include Terra Foundation for American Art and Wave Pool.

“Creative Time is thrilled to partner with FotoFocus to engender transformational conversations deeply rooted in the Cincinnati region that resonate across the country,” said Justine Ludwig, executive director of New York-based Creative Time.

Joan E. Biren and Ariel Goldberg attended an arts symposium in 2022 symposium.
Joan E. Biren and Ariel Goldberg

Since 2009, Creative Time has led gatherings focused on contemporary social issues. One of the nonprofit’s most recent endeavors was the “Moving Chains: Toward Abolition” symposium. Participants aimed to look at the concept freedom outside any connection to property ownership.

Through “The Convening,” participants will review contemporary art, including photography, to consider topics such as land-use and self-determination.

Since 2015, FotoFocus has hosted photography exhibitions as a platform to discuss issues ranging from culture wars and feminism to the spread of disinformation through digital technologies.

Katherine Ryckman Siegwarth, FotoFocus’ executive director, said the goal of the upcoming collaboration is to “inspire critical conversation and create a platform for perspective-changing ideas.”

“For nearly 10 years, FotoFocus has organized impactful discussions in Cincinnati highlighting photography’s relevancy to the pressing issues of our time. We are excited to combine curatorial forces with Creative Time, expanding these conversations to include different perspectives,” she added.

Jeff Orlowski-Yang speaks at a symposium at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
Jeff Orlowski-Yang

FotoFocus and Creative Time described “The Convening” as a “prelude” to Charles Gaines’ forthcoming “The American Manifest” exhibit in Cincinnati. The multi-city project explores the complicated role northern “free” states played in both maintaining and abolishing slavery in the U.S.

Creative Time commissioned Gaines’ work, with support from Cincinnati-based FotoFocus. 

It launched in New York in summer 2022 with a sculptural installation in Times Square. The second chapter is currently on view on New York’s Governors Island through the fall. 

“Moving Chains”which illuminates the exchange of people, capital and goods between the north and south as part of the slave trade – debuts in Cincinnati next year.

FotoFocus and Creative Time plan to announce the speaker and event lineups for “The Convening” later this summer. They’ll share more details at

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