Track star turns to painting after injury; part of new institutional residency at MOCA Cleveland

Stina Aleah’s ‘Helping Hands’ exhibition runs through September 26
Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 2:33 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, known as MOCA Cleveland, is doing something bold to build racial equity and bring artists of color and their creations into the spotlight.

The museum is turning over its second-floor gallery space to community hands.

For the next year, Michael Russell II and Antwoine Washington will be in charge of programming, under the name Museum of Creative Human Art. This local pilot could be modeled across the country.

Various artists will have exhibitions at the Museum of Creative Human Art.

“We just want to give them an opportunity in their platform to speak their voice,” Russell said.

Stina Aleah’s “Helping Hands” exhibition is currently showing through Sept. 26.

TONIGHT on 19 News: Meet a local artist who stumbled into painting following a tragedy. Her amazing work is now featured at Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland moCa as part of a new year-long institutional residency. Hear from Stina Aleah tonight at 6 and learn how MOCA Cleveland is working to build racial equity.

Posted by Damon Maloney TV on Friday, September 17, 2021

“It would have taken me a decade or more to be in a space such as this,” Aleah said. “The artist and entrepreneur, an African-American woman, said opportunities like the one being afforded by MOCA Cleveland are rare.

She added: “I want someone to stand in front of my work and be so emotionally connected and find their own meaning in it.”

Her colorful oil-paintings instantly capture attention. They depict triumphs and struggles; her perspectives.

Russell, an artist himself, and MOCA Cleveland said connecting museum visitors with creators who are influencing arts and culture right now is the goal.

“Growing up in the inner city, you know it’s not often that you see artists highlighted in this way and that can be inspirational,” Russell said.

Aleah found art through tragedy.

“My whole life, I was in track and field. We were the track family,” Aleah said. “But my junior year of high school, I broke my femur long-jumping at a meet and I could not compete that year. I was devastated.”

After the injury, Aleah was relegated to her school’s art room. She quickly discovered another passion: Painting.

“I could not separate myself from the feeling of creating something out of nothing,” Aleah said. “While I was healing mentally and physically. Twenty-fifteen, I saw an oil painting of a former classmate and I was like, ‘I can do that.’”

Aleah applied her sports-training mentality to learning how to become a better painter.

“To be elite, you have to train. You have to be dedicated to your sport. You have to be a student of your sport,” she said. “And so, I took those same fundamentals and applied them to wanting to be the best at what I was doing which was painting.”

Aleah’s favorite piece is titled “Revolution Or Revelation.” It depicts personal and career challenges and remaining true to herself.

“I was getting to a point where people wanted to put me in a box,” Aleah said. “I get to a point where I want to revolt. And so I always say that was my revolution and in that revolution I had a revelation, and it was maintained who you are because somewhere someone needs the messages you have. This picture depicts that separation of what people expected of me, what people wanted me to be, and me going into my true form.”

While she’s telling a story with her work, she said it’s thrilling to have people interpret her pieces it in their own way.

“That’s the beauty of it. The way I create them is so that everyone else can find their true meaning in the art as well,” Aleah said.

Russell wants everyone who walks away from the Museum of Creative Human Art to have learned something.

“Critical thinking is one of the biggest things,” Russell said.

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