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Local artist spreads positivity through art

Used with permission from Cedric Michael Cox
Cox poses next to his pieces from the Kinley Hotel.

When John Caliguri, orchestra teacher, listened to the contemporary musical composition “Secret History” for the first time, he was moved.

“I listened to it over and over again [and] mental pictures started coming to mind,” Caliguri said. 

That’s when the idea hit him.

“Wouldn’t it be awesome to have somebody paint what they think it sounds like?” Caliguri said. “I always wanted to do a live art thing, so [I] got the idea, found an artist, and we were on our way.”

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Caliguri employed local Cincinnati artist Cedric Michael Cox to paint while the Chamber Orchestra played “Secret History” during their concert on March 14. The two met at an event hosted by Black Art Speaks, a community of African American artists in Cincinnati, over the summer.

This was not the first time Cox had been requested to complete a task like this. He previously performed as a live artist for the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra and the Cincinnati Opera. 

Cox has been interested in art since childhood, attempting to recreate the world with crayons and oil pastels.

“It’s a certain desire and passion to want to recreate a new sense of reality,” Cox said. “That’s what art is, man’s interpretation of the environment.”

Cox’s piece “Music from the Garden” was a commission for the Cincinnati Opera.
Cox’s piece “Music from the Garden” was a commission for the Cincinnati Opera.
(Used with permission from Cedric Michael Cox)

Despite his passion, Cox did not always plan on pursuing a career as an artist, until he took a step back and realized the impact art had on his life.

“As time starts ticking [and] you realize you’re approaching adulthood, you start honing in on what things are important to you, what you’re good at, and what you see yourself excelling in,” Cox said. “I saw art as one of those things.”

After Cox received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP), Cox began exhibiting his work regionally and nationally.

Cox has “made it” as a successful artist, being showcased in places such as the Contemporary Arts Center of Cincinnati, the Columbus Art Museum, the Taft Museum of Art, and many more galleries across the nation. Cox plans to keep this momentum going in his career.

“I see myself getting into museums, I see myself exhibiting art outside of Cincinnati, and I see myself doing more public art,” Cox said.

While his work has led him to success all around the country, Cox’s proudest moment in his career happened close to home.

Cox visited E.H. Greene Intermediate School, where he acted as their artist in residence. He introduced the fifth and sixth-grade students to his project called “City Creations.” From there, the students created magnets inspired by geometric designs entitled “City Creations II.”

“I was walking around the halls and I noticed how beautiful the artwork was,” Cox said. “It was so well put together and just gorgeous.”

Cox’s experience walking through the halls of the school changed him.

“That let me know that I’ve created something—an appreciation to skill, [an] appreciation to form, color, composition, and passion,” Cox said. “That’s one of my proud moments because that’s something that lasts longer than a great exhibition that I’ve had in New York or a great exhibition I’ve had in Arizona [or] anywhere else I’ve [been] around the country.”

Cox’s experience also changed the students. Amy Combs, a fifth and sixth-grade art teacher at E.H. Green Intermediate School, reflects on the impact Cox had on her students.

Cox stands next to his painting from a residency at Springer School and Center.
Cox stands next to his painting from a residency at Springer School and Center.
(Used with permission from Cedric Michael Cox)

“He has shown them such important lessons that one can only gain through working in a studio,” Combs said. “After his work with classes, I noticed students making bolder artistic choices. They had more confidence in their painting abilities than before. They had a different reference point to pull from under Cedric’s tutelage.”

Combs also expresses that the reason for Cox’s impact on her students expanded past his artistic capabilities.

“Cedric has such a wonderful way of mentoring students,” Combs said. “He comes in with his big personality and fierce fashion sense and the kids think he is a rock star. They listen to him and respect him for his energy and mindful intention. I think those weeks with him will be something that they never forget and will continue to inspire them and bring them joy as they look back at their education.”

This idea of spreading art education and inciting artistic appreciation is very close to Cox.

“I am going to try to make every student into one who appreciates the arts, one who respects the arts, one who values the arts, [and] one who has taste in what he or she might consider to be noteworthy, beautiful, or inspiring,” Cox said. “My role as an art educator is not to train smaller artists, but to train individuals who can appreciate art as much as I do, if not more.”

Ultimately, Cox wants to spread positivity through his work and make people think about the significance of art in the world.

“My art touches on good times, positivity, meaning in yourself, [and] reaching pure human potential,” Cox said. “I want my work to be a testimony that art will always be important in society.”

This story was originally published on The Chatterbox on May 12, 2023.