Oh, Gods of Dust and Rainbows embraces art as an agent of transformation, a mode of healing, and a therapeutic process. The title is an homage to a 1957 poem Two Somewhat Different Epigrams” by Langston Hughes, who moved to Cleveland in his childhood and maintained an artistic connection to the region. The poem — a tender, brutal, and provocative prayer — meditates on the inseparability of joy and suffering:

Two Somewhat Different Epigrams (1957)
Oh, God of dust and rainbows, help us see
That without dust the rainbow would not be. 
I look with awe upon the human race
And God, who sometimes spits right in its face.

Amidst a time of ongoing tragedy and loss, FRONT 2022 explores how artmaking offers the possibility to transform and heal us — as individuals, as groups, and as a society. Spanning over twenty sites in Cleveland, Akron, and Oberlin, the exhibition bears witness to the region’s past and present scars, from the environmental degradation caused by industrial production to police violence and urban fracture. Yet alongside interlocking public and personal crises, healing is contemporary Cleveland’s biggest industry; furthermore, organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous (founded in Akron) or Art Therapy Studio (one of the nation’s first such independent institutions) represent influential models for collective care. Learning from these and other local precedents, Oh, Gods of Dust and Rainbows emphasizes collaborative creative processes, working closely with institutions across the region, and connecting artists with local communities. Emerging over multiple timeframes, FRONT 2022 approaches the slow process of curating as a way to leave lasting traces upon civic and cultural infrastructures, while also embracing the ephemeral glimpses of beauty that art — like a rainbow — can still offer. 

The exhibition features over 75 regional, national, and international artists working across painting, drawing, sculpture, textiles, ceramics, photography, video, text, performance, and other media. Ongoing exhibitions and public installations work in tandem with online and time-based programs. Starting with how daily practice allows individual artists to cultivate liberation through the everyday rituals of creation, the triennial also demonstrates how aesthetic pleasure — sharing joy through movement, music, craft, and color — can bridge differences between people to bring them together. Finally, the exhibition suggests ways that artmaking can speak with power: showing us how to recognize and reimagine the invisible structures that govern contemporary life.

Langston Hughes