VOICES: Panel of local Black artists preached blazing, powerful sermon

Editor’s Note: This is part of a monthly series from Rodney Veal that will share insights and stories from artists and creatives from all corners of our community. As the host of ThinkTV/CET Connect for nine years and a lifelong artist in his own right, Veal has a front-row seat to the impact our arts community has on the wellbeing of our region. With this series, Ideas & Voices hopes to inspire readers to pursue their own creative endeavors and to support those who make our community better through their artistic contributions.

I was fortunate to be a moderator for a panel discussion entitled “Making Money Making Art” at Launch Dayton’s Tech Startup Week event in September. A group of talented and upcoming artists that included Countess Winfrey, Thomas L. Troutman, Boy Blue, and Shon Curtis —who hail from the worlds of dance, music, art, and photography, respectively — were assembled for this panel. What made this panel unique was that all the panelists involved were African American, making waves in their fields and earning a living at the same time — no small feat.

While the topic was about making money, the conversation touched on issues of authenticity and the power of Black and Brown voices in the creative conversation of our community. It was agreed that living a creative life requires:

  • A steely and steadfast core value system.
  • Faith in the authenticity of our creative voices, burnished by the Black experience and the richness of contributions to the cultural vibrancy of our communities in Southwest Ohio.
  • That creative careers are a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week proposition, with no rest for the wicked.
  • Artistry is a calling, not just a career.
  • That the boldness of our pursuits will carry us over and through any obstacles in the manifestation of our creative “truths.”

All of these artists shared their individual stories of crafting the musical notes, creating the choreographic movements, painting a vision of our world, and turning a camera lens to spotlight a person’s spirit. The room was filled with tremendous joy and satisfaction in a life lived in the pursuit of creative excellence. The level of energy and spiritedness in the conference room was supernova-intense. They preached a blazing, powerful sermon on the power of creative vitality.

This conversation was supposed to be about making money and art, but all of these artists proved that artistic souls and integrity in Southwest Ohio matter more than coins in the bank. Being paid a living wage as an artist certainly doesn’t hurt.

We are fortunate that these incredible artists walk among us. I wanted to take an opportunity to spotlight their accomplishments because they lead by example and possess profound, authentic, and prodigious talent. They could be anywhere in the world, yet they have chosen to make Dayton their home. With the arts season just starting, there are opportunities to see some of their work for yourself. Countess will be performing with DCDC at “Musicology” on Oct. 29 & 30 (DCDC.org for tickets); Shon Curtis is currently serving as an artist-in-residence at the Arcade Hub and Entrepreneur Center/University of Dayton; Boy Blue is presently displaying art at locations throughout the Miami Valley. For upcoming music releases and performance dates, you can also follow Thomas L. Troutman at thomastroutman.com.

If you get a chance to see and experience their work, invest the time to do so. You will be inspired and engaged. These four are truly reflective of a youthful and diversified arts community in Southwest, Ohio. They no longer have to leave for the cultural epicenters of New York and Los Angeles to receive acclaim and opportunities. They can embody their creative thoughts and ideas right here in the Miami Valley. They are the apostles of the cultural renaissance that is happening in our region. They are young, gifted, and Black, and they are the future.

Rodney Veal is an artist, choreographer and the host of ThinkTV and CET CONNECT, The Art Show.

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