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The A-List Featured Artist
NOVEMBER 2023

Wilhemina Grant Cooper

In the melding and amalgam of West Harlem artist Wilhelmina Grant Cooper’s somewhat whimsical portraits, sculptures, and posters, ordinary and discarded objects are made into fixating personifications and figures who embrace the beauty of hope, while making an emotional connection, pleasantly relating a terrible tale.  No, the recycled material in her makings is not the latest trend of trash art or up-cycling, Wilhelmina’s assemblages at the Children’s Art Carnival where she has her studio, belies a torturous history in medical science, and dwells positively and negatively on human health and wellness. 

Wilhelmina Grant-Cooper is a self-taught, Harlem-based visual artist, arts instructor, and author.   Wilhelmina creates assemblages using mixed-media and found objects which she repurposes into visual art. Her artistic undertakings included assignments as artist-in-residence at The Ralph Lauren Cancer Center and as a Creative Center at University Settlement artist-in-residence wherein she used the arts to nurture the creativity of cancer patients, their families, and staff in a healthcare setting.  She also guides elder participants through arts activities at senior centers in Washington Heights, Upper East Side and Brooklyn.  

Having spent much of her professional life in the medical field, as a gynecological medical associate, Wilhelmina saw firsthand the disparity in treatment and outcomes, especially towards people of color, where pain and suffering were often ignored, and a thorough diagnosis dismissed as unnecessary. Even her own medical history of cancer, did she experience the poor treatment at the hands of an uncaring health care system.  Luckily, the advance stage of cancer was caught in time and today she is still in remission, but how many have not been so lucky? 

Wilhemina works relates the long history of inequality in our health care, and even delves into its sordid past with such works as “Anarcha Westcott, 3/5th Human” depicting the lower have of medically draped body, in chains with a speculum attached to the ankle.  A slave, Anarch Westcott, as many in her time and since then, endured countless cruel and inhuman medical studies and experiments. Perhaps one of the most famous examples came from the notorious J. Marion Sims who some still hail as the “father of modern gynecology,” the inventor of the vaginal speculum, and who conducted multiple experiments on enslaved women to treat vesicovaginal fistula, a condition that caused a great deal of pain. Sims performed surgeries on Black women without using any anesthesia because he believed the operations weren’t “painful enough to justify the trouble,” he said during a lecture in 1857; they were chained to their beds so that they wouldn’t run away from the experiments and that pain.

One can’t help but believe we that people of color are still under the Catherine wheel of an uncaring health care system, where we credulously put our faith. 

In 2010 Wilhelmina was honored with three prestigious awards for art:  The Black Art Makers Award of National Conference of Artists, The Women’s History Month Creative Power of Women Award presented by New York State Senator Bill Perkins, and The Alain Locke Art & Action Award presented by The Harlem Arts Alliance.  She was also a NoMAA (Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance) 2016 Uptown Arts Stroll Honoree.

Wilhelmina is the founder of SISTAAH, Inc. (Survivors Inspiring Sisters Through Art and Advocacy for Health), an arts-based non-profit organization which seeks to inform, encourage and facilitate access to early detection of breast cancer by connecting the medically underserved to free screening services.  Using SISTAAH, Inc. as a platform, Wilhelmina has launched numerous successful grant-funded community art projects: Saving Our Sisters in the African American Community, the Harlem Hand Fan Initiative, and O.Y.E. Open Your Eyes Community Art/Health Awareness Project.

She self-published her first book, A Feeling of Fullness: Insights of a Divinely Guided Journey Beyond Breast Cancer (2016, Xlibris Publishing Company) which chronicles the journey from the nearly missed breast cancer diagnosis at age 37 through her present-day life as an artist/author/health awareness advocate.  Her second book entitled Uplifting Cancer Survivors in the COVID Era: Expressions of Kindness and Inspiration Between Aunties and Nieces was released in October 2022. Some collectors of her artwork include Alice Walker, Bill Clinton, The Heath Gallery, and Hamilton Landmark Galleries.  Eleven of her assemblages appear as set dressing in Seasons 1 and 2 of the Prime Video Series HARLEM. Wilhelmina is an avid gardener and lives with her husband in West Harlem.  Her website is: https://sistaah.org.

Wilhelmina’s art is powerful because it doesn’t overwhelm us as scientific and statistical reports do generally. Instead, she offers a solution and a profound sense of optimism; producing sculptures from reclaimed waste brings an activist touch and a powerful message that is way more engaging.  She creates empathy and compassion, making those watching relate to the cause, triggering a commitment for us all to take a stand in the smallest, and yet most meaningful way.

As an artist in residence, Wilhemina’s works is part a current exhibition at the Children’s Art Carnival entitled HOMECOMING, a tribute to the enduring spirit of the artistic community in West Harlem, and the profound impact of Betty Blayton, founder of The Children’s Art Carnival, 62 Hamilton Terrace.  HOMECOMING runs from November 11 through January 5th.  Go to www.childrensartcarnical for viewing times and special events around the exhibition. 

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Dionis Ortiz

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Stephanie Berry

As the raucously entertaining follow-up to Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the Classical Theatre of Harlem’s new production, Malvolio, features a diverse cast of top tier actors, including West Harlem’s own Broadway powerhouse performer, Stephanie Berry.

Cinzia Meneghello

Cinzia Meneghello is an artist, designer and curator who has worked extensively with organizations and cultural venues in West Harlem.

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