‘Nourishing Well’ to celebrate Black women making space for each other

“Nourishing Well: Black Women and the Poetics of Sacred Space” takes place from 6-9 p.m. on June 6 at the Madam Walker Legacy Center. (Photo provided/Facebook)
“Nourishing Well: Black Women and the Poetics of Sacred Space” takes place from 6-9 p.m. on June 6 at the Madam Walker Legacy Center. (Photo provided/Facebook)

With pieces from all mediums, Black women are creating their own spaces and celebrating each other in a new exhibition.

The Madam Walker Legacy Center will host the opening reception for “Nourishing Well: Black Women and the Poetics of Sacred Space” on June 6. The multimedia art exhibition, which aims to highlight Black women in the arts and public facing spaces through multiple artistic mediums, is free to attend with registration.

“It’s beauty, but it’s also fire. There’s so much resilience and so much that Black women have to go through,” visual artist and muralist Ashley Nora said. “It’s just a great time, a great space of just celebrating the existence of Black women.”

“Nourishing Well,” which was created as part of poet and writer Mariah Ivey’s MA thesis, examines the range of lived experiences Black women share and “brings visibility to their stories through poetry, visual art, photography and film.”

The exhibition is an exploration of the arts and their role in creating pathways toward renewal, connection and intentional care for, by and amongst Black and queer women, according to the website.

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Ivey, who is the program and outreach manager for the Legacy Center and curator of the exhibition could not be reached for comment. However, Nora said she is honored to have a few of her oil paintings — representing Black women and their beauty authentically with no masks — displayed in the exhibition, especially alongside a dozen other Black and queer women in the arts community of whom she herself is a fan.

“When I say there would not be Ashely Nora without Mariah Ivey, without her showing up in her gift … seeing a Black woman show up in her gift is what gave me the courage to show up in mine,” Nora said. “I pray that when people come and they visit and they see us and they see all of these dreamers, my prayer is that they leave showing up in their gifts.”

Indianapolis-based poet Chantel Massey was also drawn to the exhibition because of Ivey, of whom she is a big supporter. Ivey told her the show would explore themes of womanhood, identity and communal care, which is a lot of what Massey’s own work aligns with.

Massey, who wrote and published her poetry book “Bursting At The Seams” in 2018, said her work centers on and she is excited to be a part of an exhibition that encourages and honors these conversations within the community.

“I’m excited to be a part of that history, that legacy,” Massey said, “as well as thinking about being a Black woman and being a Black woman artist, and just [being] in alignment with the Madam C.J. Walker legacy, or a part of the Black arts community that has honored her and the Black history here.”

It is not only important to have these spaces but to create them, Massey said, because there are not many of them and it allows a way for Black women and artists to “continuously be resisting narratives” that work against Black women.

“It is an act of reclaiming, and that is an act of nourishing, an act of giving life back into oneself as well as others,” Massey said. “I think that is something we need now more than ever, especially with all that is around the world … continuously reminding each other that our freedom and our liberation is connected to each other’s, our humanity is connected to each other’s.”

The best way to do that is through art and intentionally holding space for these conversations, Massey said. Not only are these Black women and artists showing up for each other through “Nourishing Well,” they are also showing up for themselves in a way their community can witness and be a part of, Nora added.

“I think art just provides a different perspective, a different commentary on what is happening around us and how it’s impacting the community,” Massey said. “So, we need to have a space in order to have those conversations safely and to be able to explore the benefit of having them short term, and of course, long term.”

On the day of the opening reception, Massey and Nora said guests can expect to be inspired by the variety of visual and digital art, musical performances and poetry readings. Massey hopes the exhibition will inspire “great conversations” and help Black women feel seen and recognized and allow others to listen and join the conversation.

“There’s no room that you are in that you don’t belong in,” Nora said. “You wouldn’t be in there if you didn’t belong … and I hope that every person who comes and RSVPs understands that they belong in that room, and they belong in each and every space of this world.”

The opening reception for “Nourishing Well: Black Women and the Poetics of Sacred Space” takes place from 6-9 p.m. on June 6 at the Madam Walker Legacy Center. The event is free to attend but guests must register on Eventbrite.com. The exhibition is on view until July. For more information, visit madamwalkerlegacycenter.com.

Contact Arts & Culture Reporter Chloe McGowan at 317-762-7848. Follow her on X @chloe_mcgowanxx.