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 by author Langston Hughes, who moved to Cleveland in his childhood and maintained an artistic connection to the region:
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.
This poem, a meditation on adversity and a prayer for transformation, inspires FRONT 2021’s curatorial approach. The exhibition’s title extends Hughes’ original invocation to signal a plurality of beliefs, stories, places, and people.
Cleveland’s social fabric reflects centuries of economic, political, and environmental conflict. Having traded titans of industry for titans of medicine, the city is reinventing itself as a center for healthcare and cutting-edge scientific research. FRONT 2021’s curatorial framework connects Cleveland’s storied past with a polyvocal present, exploring healing as an ongoing cycle of repair, spanning crisis and recovery. This approach treats the exhibition as a process of long-term change, embracing the region’s range of cultures in need of attention, investigation, and care.
With a particular focus on labor and the environment, from the industrial past to service-driven and automated futures, the show considers the exploitation, alienation, and degradation caused by capital. The notorious burning of Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River in 1969 represents a watershed moment for environmental awareness, prefiguring the world’s unfolding climate crisis. Amidst growing uncertainty, precarity, and divisiveness, the exhibition asks how communities, from religious institutions to support groups to dance clubs, can emerge as sanctuaries for collective agency and healing. Responding to today’s challenges as potential opportunities, Oh, Gods of Dust and Rainbows explores the emancipatory power of joy, as embedded within song, movement, and multi-sensory experience.