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The Leaders Academy: Building Tomorrow, Today

The Art Academy of Cincinnati (AAC) is pleased to announce the completion of its first Leaders Academy.

This dynamic STEAM program was designed to assist area high school students in their leadership development, professional acumen, and commitment to the community. Support for the program comes from Art Academy of Cincinnati, Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr. Foundation, Cincinnati Reds Foundation, For Our Future, and the Gaskins Foundation.

The mission of the prestigious program is to unlock the next generation of innovators, entrepreneurs, and problem solvers by empowering them in an environment that challenges familiar narratives and constructs associated with black and brown communities.

“We believe the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs are located in communities that have been underestimated and underserved,” said Rob Richardson, one of the founding members of Leaders Academy. “I believe the environment and inspiration you put into students makes all the difference.”

Students lived on the Art Academy’s campus for a week while participating in a rigorous schedule of educational workshops facilitated by local leaders from across various sectors.

Education activities included panel discussions on impact through equity, inspiring the future through music, and realizing change. Speakers included: 

  • Whitney Gaskins Ph.D., CDP, Assistant Dean of Inclusive Excellence and Community Engagement at the University of Cincinnati
  • Eddie Koen, President and Chief Executive Officer at Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio
  • Kick Lee, Executive Director at Cincinnati Music Accelerator
  • Tyra Patterson, Community Outreach Strategist at Ohio Justice Policy Center
  • Rob Richardson, International Rep, LIUNA and Producer/Content Manager, Disruption Now Media
A photo of Dr. Whitney Gaskins
Dr. Whitney Gaskins
A photo of Eddie L. Koen
Eddie L. Koen
A photo of Kick Lee
Kick Lee
Tyra Patterson
Rob Richardson

Leaders Academy culminated in conceptualizing a mural that will be painted on the corner of 12th and Jackson street led by artists’ Jenny Ustick, Anissa Lewis, and Dan Reidy.

Students worked with Ustick, Lewis, and Reidy to break down their thoughts about real challenges facing their communities. The group demonstrated their awareness, empathy, and mutual accountability in working together on the project.

The following prompts were provided to the students to choose a pathway of interconnectedness and problem-solving.

  • How can I make a difference in my neighborhood?
  • How can I be a voice of positive change for my neighborhood?
  • How can WE make our neighborhoods better?
  • How can I make the world better?
  • What does ‘justice’ mean to me?
  • How is justice being tarnished in my neighborhood?
  • What is a second chance? Who deserves it?
  • What does ‘equity’ mean to me?

“This time spent together is an acknowledgment of the power young people hold and an invitation for them to harness it for the benefit of their communities,” said Jenny Ustick, project lead.

Leaders Academy demonstrates the Art Academy’s vision to become an open door for problem-solving in the city while leveraging the college’s academic programming and unique location in the thriving arts district of Over-the-Rhine.

“The world needs diverse creative thinkers, artists, and designers now more than ever,” said Joseph Girandola, president of the Art Academy. “It is important that with give back to the community we are in and support the future generation of leadership in Cincinnati.” 

To see the creation of the mural, visit the Art Academy September 25-26, and October 2-3 from 10am-3pm.