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“Hands Behind Your Back!” by Michael Coppage, ArtsWave “Truth & Healing” Artist 

“I’ve chosen to create the change that I’d like to see is to work with people who are alive and document their voices and their realities, and hopefully create a spectrum of stories from my community that shows the diversity within our community, and that being in opposition to popular narratives about who we are.

Michael Coppage

2023 ArtsWave Black and Brown Artists Program

Creativity Squared is proud to support and partner with ArtsWave and to bring you this special interview series featuring the phenomenal artists and grant recipients selected for this year’s ArtsWave Black and Brown Artists Program.

Michael is a 2023 ArtsWave Black and Brown Artists Program Grant Recipient and “Truth & Healing” Artist.

The intention of these interviews is to give these talented and deserving artists another platform to share their art and truth expressed through it, as you never know what ripples will turn into waves. If you’re interested in working with, featuring, or supporting these artists, please don’t be shy about it.

Michael’s work is in the ArtsWave “Truth & Healing Artist Showcase” exhibition at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, OH, through September 10, 2023. The next podcast episode in this series spotlights the filmmakers whose work will be featured in another run of the showcase’s film festival at the Freedom Center on July 30.

This year’s theme is “Truth & Healing” and Creativity Squared host Helen Todd had the great honor of interviewing the artists during the opening showcase to learn more about their work and what truth and healing means to them.

Meet Michael Coppage

Michael Coppage is a conceptual artist using an interdisciplinary, dialectical approach to address social issues. Coppage is the three-time recipient of Artswave’s Truth and Reconciliation grant, Ohio’s Pretrial Justice grant and Awesome Foundation grants in New York and Philadelphia. He is the recipient of the Ohio Arts Council’s Individual Artistic Excellence award and completed a TEDx Talk titled “Everybody’s Racist….and it’s O.K”. His most successful project “BLACK BOX,” a community impact project aimed at demystifying blackness, has impacted over 2 million people in 20 countries to date. Coppage has several public works set for completion in 2023. 

“Hands Behind Your Back!”

The 12 Commandments series is a play on words using the ten commandments  and “12,” a slang term from rap culture meaning “police.” Directly in conflict with commandments like “thou shalt not kill” and “thou shalt not bear false witness”, police have historically used their power to demonize, arrest, maim and kill black people. The sculpture highlights how even compliance with these commands can end in death, which is out of moral compliance. This project is not meant to demonize police but to highlight the assertion of power over Black bodies and the systemic issues that arise as a result.

ArtsWave 2023 Black and Brown Artists Program Cohort

This year’s Black and Brown Artists Program cohort reflects a vibrant collection of diverse art forms created by an equally diverse group of 18 artists. Their mediums include couture fashion, painting, and sculpture — along with film, musical composition, podcasts, theater, dance, and multidisciplinary works.

The projects not only represent the African American experience, but also the experiences of those with Mexican, Lebanese, Somali, Argentinian, Zimbabwean, Guatemalan, and Indigenous heritage.

Listen to the accompanying podcast episode which features Michael:

Connect with Michael

Connect with Michael and learn more about what he’s working on through his website, and support him on Instagram at @michael_coppage.

Learn more about ArtsWave and why we proudly support the organization in episode 9 “Art Bridges Cultural Divides” with Janice Liebenberg, VP of Equitable Arts Advancement at ArtsWave: https://bit.ly/Ep9JaniceLiebenberg.

Creativity Squared is a proud partner of ArtsWave and because it’s important to support artists like Michael, 10% of all revenue Creativity Squared generates goes to ArtsWave and directly supports the Black and Brown Artists Program.

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