CONNEAUT — African baskets, a woman’s family story, and the history of one of the first African-American U.S. attorneys are all part of the Conneaut Arts Center’s Black History Month exhibit.
Robin Echols Cooper will give a presentation at 2 p.m. on Feb. 8 at the Arts Center, entitled “Another Branch of Life.” The show is based on Cooper’s family history, told to her by her mother and grandmother.
Cooper acts and sings during the performance and a variety of dolls are involved, she said.
In the past, Cooper has done the performance at schools, then had students learn their own family history and create dolls of their own.
In addition to “Another Branch of Life,” Cooper also does living history events, works on programs for youth literacy and is an instructor at Lake Erie College.
“I’m busy ... but I love it, because it’s my passion. I love getting kids excited about reading, but also as an artist, I love being able to express myself theatrically, or using the visual arts too,” Cooper said.
Venie Hinson, of Andover, has provided about two-thirds of her collection of African baskets to the Arts Center for their display this month.
Hinson said she has 40 to 45 African baskets, out of a collection of 900.
Hinson has a fiber-focused art degree from Kent State. She collects baskets from around the world and studies their construction to use in her own basket-making.
Hinson has a number of waterproof baskets, and one basket that could be used to heat water. Hinson’s grandchildren played with one of the baskets, and the wear and tear revealed some of the inner structure of the basket, she said.
Hinson’s collection is from across Africa, including baskets from Rawanda, South Africa, Niger and Cameroon.
Hinson plans to give a presentation at 2 p.m. on Feb. 15 at the Arts Center, focusing on the symbolism on the baskets and the stories of some of the people who made them.
Hinson put on a basket exhibit last year, which sparked discussion about an exhibit for Black History Month, said Arts Center Executive Director Jessica Berry.
The third program at the Arts Center this month centers on Merle McCurdy, the first African-American U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. Richard Dana will give the presentation on McCurdy at 2 p.m. on Feb. 22.
McCurdy was born in Conneaut, and served as an assistant prosecuting attorney in Cuyahoga County before becoming U.S. Attorney.
Dana is a local attorney, historian and adjunct professor at Kent State Ashtabula.