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Holler looks at black art in Columbus

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Jazz band Liquid Crystal Project performs at New Harvest Cafe & Urban Arts Center as part of the Holler black arts event. Credit: Ebo Amissah-Aggrey

Scott Woods, a writer, poet and artist, felt there was something missing in Columbus. He said he knew the city had talented black artists, but they were not well known to the community.  With that in mind, he created “Holler: 31 Days of Columbus Black Art.”

Holler is a 31-day showcase of black art in Columbus during the month of March. Woods said he wanted to incorporate a wide variety of acts including spoken word poetry, dance, visual arts and live musical performances.

“The whole image of the field mentality kept clicking with me,” Woods said. “So then I thought about what you do in a field, and how you are creative in a field and I thought about slave hollers and that’s where the name came from.”

According to the event website, as of 2010, Columbus is 40% non-white. Twenty-eight percent of that number is black, which is more than double the percentage statewide. Although February is Black History Month, Woods said he felt it was important to acknowledge black artists outside of that month.  

“In all honesty Columbus isn’t very active during Black History Month,” Woods said. “I wanted us to be in control of when we wanted to be historical. It was important to me to make people recognize what we do in a month or time when they are not supposed to be looking for it.”

Over the 31 days, Holler will be showcasing black art at multiple sites sites, but one of the more frequent venues is New Harvest Cafe & Urban Arts Center.

This cafe is where Melvin Robinson, artist, photographer, and Ohio State alumnus displays his art gallery, which focuses on photographs of his fellow artists.

“I actually know Scott, and when he told me about the event I was really looking forward to it,” Robinson said. “I actually travel to places like Cameroon and Paris where I present these pictures to the native people as part of my tour and I show them the photos and visuals of black art.”

Holler is a one-time event and will not be something that will continue in the same capacity annually, Woods said.  

“I absolutely do not want Holler to be an annual event,” Woods said. “This is just an invitation into the black art scene and it’s up to the city on what they want to do with that because I think if you have it every year, it becomes the thing that you do every year. And that’s where you go to see these artists once a year and I don’t want that.”

Although the event will not be repeated, the ultimate goal of Holler is to make the need for such an event unnecessary in the end, Woods said.

“The philosophical reasoning behind not doing it annually is because to me the goal of Holler is to make itself irrelevant,” he said. “Holler showcases black talent that is underserved, underrepresented and under recognized. If it’s doing what I hope it does and or starts, the artists involved will get more gigs, more attention, more press. That would make Holler unnecessary. That’s the goal. I want black art to be normalized.”

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