When visitors walk into the Imagine Otherwise exhibit housed in the Museum of Creative Human Art gallery in Lakewood, they are immediately greeted by a square plywood table set up in the center of the room. Three place settings are arranged around a centerpiece of blooming cotton stems: two plates are empty while the third plate overflows with gold coins and $100 bills, which spill onto the chair behind the setting, the only chair at the table.
Entitled “Token Negro,” the piece is a literal representation of questions that Cleveland artist Antwoine Washington wants everyone to confront.
“As Black makers in America, do we really have a seat of the table?” asks Washington. “And with all oppression and racism against us, how quickly can that seat be taken away?”
In collaboration with Cleveland’s Museum of Contemporary Art, the table is part of a larger installation which includes murals Washington created to depict various aspects of the Black experience, all set against an eclectic musical playlist of jazz, hip-hop and African American spirituals. Washington hopes visitors, who can access the installation by appointment through June 6, feel like they’re walking into someone’s apartment.
“This is a metaphor for what we’re trying to build for our Black youth, how we have to go into other places to make it our home, make it feel like us and be able to make the art we want to make,” says Washington.
The 40-year-old artist wants to do everything in his power to inspire the next generation of Black artists, particularly through his work as the co-founder of the Museum of Creative Human Art. Located on the second floor of Mahall’s 20 Lanes, the nonprofit organization exists as a safe space focused on art-based education and character development.
“My job is to help youth find their ‘why,’ which will then help them claim their space at the table or maybe even build one of their own,” says Washington. creativehumanart.com