Reflecting on the Just Imagine Art Show | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Reflecting on the Just Imagine Art Show

Graphic and website created by Seun Erinle of Grid Principles ( Wednesday, May 19, 2021, KFTC members hosted a virtual launch event for The Just Imagine Art Show: Healing harm, sharing grief, envisioning the Kentucky we deserve. 

The idea for this art show emerged from a small crew of KFTC members and staff from the Empower Kentucky Leadership Network – Mikaela Curry, Trinidad Jackson, Tona Barkley, Lisa Abbott, and Nikita Perumal – who have, since late 2019, been working together to deepen KFTC’s understanding of Just Transition.

In late 2020, this work group put out a call to artists across Kentucky, inviting them to submit works of art reflecting: 

  • their vision for a Just Transition – a just, sustainable, anti-racist future in Kentucky
  • how they have experienced joy, hurt, growth, or harm within KFTC’s work for a Just Transition
  • what they imagine our relationship with the environment and each other would be if we were free from the scarcity created by white supremacy

Over forty artists responded to this call with fifty-three works of art, spanning visual art, poetry, theater, music, textiles, video, and more – each infused with incredible creativity, love, raw honesty, and vision. 

At the ninety-minute launch event, the participating artists shared their offerings over Zoom to an audience of nearly ninety Kentuckians. 

Tona, Mikaela, and Trinidad emceed the launch, kicking it off with frank and powerful storytelling from Trinidad and Mikaela of why this art show was needed. They recounted a pivotal moment of harm that occurred at the Empower Kentucky cohort’s first weekend retreat together, during which cohort members and staff reckoned with the fact that KFTC’s Just Transition work has in the past excluded and tokenized Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, and has not sufficiently centered racial justice as is needed to be truly inclusive. (Read more about this moment at The emcees recounted the decision to confront and address these past harms through a Just Transition revisioning project that starts–but certainly does not end–with the art show. 

The hosts also showed audience members where they could explore the works of art in more detail (, designed by longtime KFTC ally Seun Erinle of Grid Principles. And they highlighted an artist’s stipend process they put in place to ensure that Black and Indigenous voices, which have not been historically predominant in KFTC, were centered and lifted up. 

The launch event spent time showcasing the art of various artists. In addition to a highlight reel of all submitted works of art, audience members had a chance to watch a live performance of the poem Chokecherry Work from artist Cider Ellison, a recorded recitation of Amerikkka the Beautiful by Samuel Hawkins II, a grounding led by artist Serena Owen (creator of Let’s Empower Kentucky!) and recorded reflections from visual artist Marlesha Woods (creator of paintings Resilient and Tranquility) and Meta and Jackie Mendel-Reyes (creators of A Kid’s Guide to Just Transition). 

Audience members then got to connect and hear directly from artists in small breakout group panels, in which the artists shared about their work, their creative process and took questions from the audience.

A particularly moving piece of the launch was when Mikaela Curry recited the poem This was the Year by beloved, and recently deceased, longtime KFTC member Margaret Ricketts. View all of Margaret’s poems on her artist profile page

“This entire process of trying to envision a more just and inclusive Kentucky and KFTC was a huge blessing for me,” reflected Tona Barkley of the planning team. 

“I’m thankful for everyone I worked with and everyone who contributed work to the show. I grew a lot in the process, and I hope that the art show helped participants and attendees expand our vision and our hearts and will lead to some actual positive change.” 

Explore more about the art show here: 

  • Spend some time with all the works of art at the Just Imagine website: Feel free to use the comment feature of the website to react and engage with the works.
  • Watch the recording of the art show launch event at

The art show is just one part of a broader process to deepen and make better KFTC’s Just Transition work. Please fill out a short survey at, to help us continue to pour meaning into a just, anti-racist, sustainable Kentucky!