Blog Post

Black History Month Featured Artists

Art Possible Ohio logo P, a white "p" made of arrows surrounde by a purple circle, surrounded by a salmond colored ring

Meet Xavier Sledge

Please say who you are, what you do (career and artists career wise if you have multiple jobs), and how many years have you been in the Accessible Expressions Ohio show?

I am Xavier and I am a college student that likes to paint colorful backgrounds, LeBron James, buildings and whatever I like.  I am a beginner adult artist. I have been in the AEO show for 2 years .

Please state why you chose to apply to our shows?

 I chose to apply to the AEO shows because it gives me a place to share my art with other people and  I get a chance to meet other artists from different backgrounds. I enjoy looking at the different artworks from the artists. 

What was one of the best parts about being in our AEO shows?

The best part about being in the AEO show is seeing people enjoy themselves while they experience being in a community that is inclusive and supports them in their artistic expressions.  

Why do you think people with multiple intersectional identities need access to the arts (whether its performance, sound or visual)?

Each person has value and needs a place where they can express how they see things, experiences, hopes, and their dreams. Art is needed to maintain community, decrease stress, and helps give good mental health. Art brings people together and makes life more interesting. Without it, there would be no music, artwork, movies, plays, fashion, or dance.

What do you think the consequences of lack of access to the arts does to people, specifically Black people with disabilities?

Lack of access to arts can hinder Black people with disabilities in creative, critical thinking, and self-expression. Art is therapy for the black person who may have communication challenges or other conditions. Art therapy itself is expensive and not all, if any insurance companies cover it. Without it black artists don’t receive the good things that art provides. Art from black artists provides our stories from our eyes. Art gives us community and provides us a space to share our common interests. Without it, black people with disabilities are isolated from other people, career opportunities,  and are not able to learn from one another or improve in their craft. Having access to arts can open up doors to a variety of creative areas of art including music, artwork, theater, graphic design, and fashion, for black people with disabilities. I am forever grateful to my mom who advocated for me to be in a higher-level art class in high school so that I could improve my art skills. My high school arts teacher Mr.  Antoine Pastor at Copley High School really helped me improve in my art skills. In doing so, he opened the door for me to submit my artwork to the Art Expressions Ohio contests where my art could be shared with everyone, and I could meet other artists, especially black artists that I probably never would have met.

Headshot of Xavier Sledge, a young Black man with black cropped hair. He wears silver glasses and is smiling. He wears a blue suit and tie.

Meet Candice Igeleke

Please say who you are, what you do (career and artists career wise if you have multiple jobs), and what you taught/ are teaching during our ADAP program? 

I’m Candice Igeleke, a chocolate-brown-skinned woman with colorful locks, born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, now residing in the King-Lincoln District of Columbus, Ohio. I am the daughter of Maria Williams-Bethea and Russell Bethea. I am a mother, wife, sister, and cherished member of a large family. Within that, I am a dancer, choreographer, certified yoga instructor, educator, dance teacher at Flux + Flow Dance and Movement Center, and the CEO and founder of Candice Flows, LLC, an innovative consulting and performance-based company that specializes in providing a platform of skill and performance training for movement-based artists, as well as individuals who simply love to move or want to rekindle their passion for movement within or outside the performance industry. In addition to our core offerings, we provide a range of valuable services, including program development, masterclass workshops, yoga and mindfulness sessions, student development, faculty and staff development, and captivating performances. 

My Arts Adaptation, Integration, and Arts Residency is at Parkmoor Elementary School where I’m currently teaching mindfulness and self-regulation practices through yoga. I’m introducing students to Traditional West African culture through music, history, movement, and language, where they’ll also be learning Wolof and French. Lastly, I’m creating an environment that focuses on teaching and implementing the importance of community, creativity, stage presence, and confidence. I’m excited and the students are ready! 

Please state why you chose to work with us and apply for the ADAP program.

I have always had a gift for working with youth and have been in the field since my teenage years. My passion and calling for working with younger people deepened when I studied education at Norfolk State University and began teaching at Children Defense Fund, Freedom School sites. My first introduction to Parkmoor Elementary was when I performed for their Black History Month event in February 2023. Since then, I have formed a relationship with Dr. Campbell, who invited me back to teach for the summer of 2023. The positive experience I had with the student, staff, and other art educators made it clear that I wanted to return for an extended period of time to work and dance with the students in this program. So when the opportunity presented itself to work with Parkmoor Elementary for the school year through the ADAP program, it was a blessing. With ADAP program funding and supporting the artist, this not only relieves the strain on the school’s tight budgets, it gives the students the opportunity to work with local artists and gives them a chance to explore things they may not otherwise have access to. It was a no brainer. 

What was one of the best parts about working at your designated schools? 

The culture and energy of the school is amazing. Dr. Campbell and her staff have made it evident that they have been intentional about the environment they create for their students. It’s art from the moment you walk in to when you leave. I also feel supported and appreciated by the staff with the help offered and accommodations made for me. It feels really good to be in that space.

As for the students, it’s them coming into our session, eager to recap the information that they’ve learned. Whether it’s about the Djembe, the style of dance that we’re learning that day, or the immediate implementation of our “Community Flows Contract,” which is a list of expectations from our discussion on how we’re going to show up in the space. Ultimately, it’s the beauty of working with young minds. 

Why do you think children need access to the arts (whether its performance, sound, or visual)? 

It’s important for children to have access to the arts because it provides so much. Art awakens something whether you’re the beholder or the creative. Art can provide a sense of community, a space to learn, grow, and experiment, find love, and discover self. For me, it provided an outlet to express my emotions. It built my confidence and helped me stay focused. It helped provide discipline, self pride, and offered a different perspective. I believe art supports different learning styles. We know some are auditory, kinesthetic, and visual learners. To attach an art to your learning style, things just make sense and it’s a chance to meet people where they are. Art is necessary for many reasons I forgot to mention or can’t put into words. It just is. 

What do you think the consequences of lack of access to the arts does to children, specifically children of color and children with disabilities? 

Art is essential to all our lives, both for children and adults. It seems that art has been at risk in schools since I was young, and probably even before that. Data shows that black and brown youth have less access to art programs, and this is even more pronounced for youth of color who have disabilities. Art is just as important as other subjects, and we would never consider cutting mathematics or English from schools. 

In a training I completed a few years ago, we discussed deescalating high emotions and dealing with trauma in children. At some point during the training, we talked about the power of rhythm and repetition, which for me relates to the art of music and dance. 

When children repeat a clapping phrase, rock to a beat, feel a vibration, or rhythmically pat each other on the back, there is a subconscious soothing effect that helps regulate the body. With over 10 years of experience in childcare and education, being a lifelong dancer, performer, and teacher, and also being a parent, I have firsthand experience of the power of art in various settings and environments. The lack of access to arts stifles children’s creativity, limits their options for expression, and restricts their career paths. It also separates them from their own culture and the cultures of others. Art allows for empathy and a connection to one’s own body. These are lessons that young people need to develop in their minds, bodies, and spirits. 

Candice Igeleke, a black woman, with curly black hair, tied in a bun with loose ends around her face, stands, legs apart, leaning to the side, reaching one arm back and one arm toward her left foot. She smiles and wears a bright orange, green, and yellow traditional African print dress, with a halter top bodice  and yellow and black skirt. Multi-colored pom poms are tied around her waste, via a beaded belt.

Meet Cynthia Amoah

Please say who you are, what you do (career and artists career wise if you have multiple jobs), and what you taught/are teaching during our ADAP program.

My name is Cynthia Amoah, a Ghanaian-American spoken word poet, national speaker, and teaching artist. In fall 2023, I taught creative writing, poetry and the power of using our voice with 6th-8th grade students at Berwick Alternative K-8.

Please state why you chose to work with us and apply for the ADAP program?

Teaching serves as a space of creative exploration and exchange – a space that allows me to learn from my students as much as I bring to the classroom. Through the AIA Residency, I aimed to learn more about my teaching practice by gaining new skills and experiencing accessibility and the power in writing for students with disabilities.

What was one of the best parts about working at your designated schools?

Though this was my first time at Berwick, their school culture was so familiar and warm – Dr. Mottinger introduced me to several school teachers and staff throughout my residency. And as much as I worked with my students, I also felt seen and welcomed by other students in the hallways and staff members whom I didn’t get a chance to directly work with throughout my time there.

Why do you think children need access to the arts (whether its performance, sound, or visual)?

When students have access to the arts, they are given a chance to find their creative voices. By combining creative writing and performance in my residency, my goal was to empower students with the knowledge that their voices and words are deeply meaningful. My students found language and words that described them positively, developed their communicative skills through poetry, engaged in collaboration by working with their peers, and grew their creativity in community. This is also what access to the arts does, allows students to see how their individual creative voices can combine to say something much greater.

What do you think the consequences of lack of access to the arts does to children, specifically children of color and children with disabilities?

Simply put: When students do not have access to the arts, they miss out on the opportunity to find and use their creative voices. Creativity and access to the arts encourages curiosity, exploration, collaboration, observation, and levels the playing field among all students, regardless of disability. This is necessary in a society where students with disabilities are handled much differently from other students in various subject matters.

A headshot of Cynthia Amoah, a Black woman with black braided hair with loose ends. She wears a pale blue, off-the-shoulder top.