Culture and advocacy in the 21st Century require collaboration and communication among and between different groups and organizations. It is difference that has emerged as the cultural constant in our time, and this is why the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition works with so many community partners toward common goals. A focus on difference and a mission toward peace and social justice are the foundations of SOS Art, and it is especially exciting to shine a light on this project and its founder.

SOS Art began with Saad Ghosn in the aftermath of the 2001 riots in Cincinnati. The magnitude of the events struck Saad Ghosn such that he began to reflect on the role of art in society: “Art is often taken as something to simply purchase or own, and I wanted to begin working with art as a vehicle toward peace and social justice,” Ghosn explained. He continued: “Art as a consumer object tends to silence people who are working in the arts specifically to say something about issues of peace and social justice.” Ghosn was driven to amplify these voices and to provide a forum for the artists working toward these ideals.

SOS Art began in 2003 with a core group of artists and a show that presented visual art and poetry. SOS Art is celebrating 20 years this year with a list of events that is too long to detail in this article. Over the years, the group has expanded in every way, and this now includes an educational dimension of the program. Ultimately, Ghosn, explained, “we wanted to make it so that we reach artists, but also to make it possible for these artists to reach others.” Saad Ghosn is originally from Lebanon. He came to the United States in 1976 and finally to Cincinnati in 1985. You may be surprised to learn that the man behind SOS Art is a medical doctor. He was with the University of Cincinnati for many years and is now retired. Saad Ghosn is also a visual artist, and I will say more about this below.

On May 14, SOS Art presented the “Race and the City Art Event.” The event showcased artwork, poetry, and performances that all responded to specific chapters in Race and the City: Work, Community, and Protest in Cincinnati, 1820-1970 by Henry Louis Taylor. Saad initiated this project with Melanie Moon, a now retired librarian, who was taken with how it dealt with racial issues that pertained to Cincinnati during the period 1820 to 1970. This book was described by scholar Peter Rachleff as “a rich prism through which to explore the social, economic, and political development of black Cincinnati.” Saad said that Ms. Moon “intends to disseminate the information contained in this book and, through future presentations, encourage Cincinnatians to discover it, learn from it and apply it to our current days. The responsive artistic creations will now become associated to the book’s chapter and presented with it whenever Ms. Moon shares or discusses it in the future.” Several of those participating are urban Appalachians, including urban Appalachian poet MoPoetry Philips, Urban Appalachian Leadership Project graduate, Michael Thompson and Core Member Pauletta Hansel.


Saad Ghosn said that SOS Art has ten events scheduled in the coming months. On June 4-23, for example, SOS Art presents “InsideOut: An Affirming Epiphany. An Exhibition of Self-Portraits by Transgender Individuals with Responsive Poems by Greater Cincinnati Poets.” This exhibition explores the experiences of transgender individuals by providing a space for voices from within the transgender communities of greater Cincinnati. By linking the work of local poets to these kinds of issues, SOS Art lifts works of art and individual voices into a living dialogue with participants and out into the community.

In following the process of creating not just art and poetry, but also meaningful dialogue and discussion, SOS Art has been working to expand its reach beyond greater Cincinnati and out to the international community. “Two years ago, we started bringing in artists from other countries,” said Ghosn. This effort can be seen in a collaboration they have in the works with artists form Oaxaca, Mexico. “Derechos Humanos/ Human Rights” represents a collaboration with 12 artists from Oaxaca and 12 artists from Cincinnati, with one additional work from a Cincinnati artist. The project consists of woodcut prints on the 12 basic human rights as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This project is a collaboration between SOS Art and Taller Burro Press from Oaxaca, Mexico.

Saad Ghosn will exhibit his own work at the Meyer Gallery at the University of Cincinnati from June 3-July 31. The show is called “Scream and Beyond,” and will consist of wood cut prints that convey the message of peace and social justice. Ghosn told me he began these woodcut prints in 2008, and “there are now 24 additional prints that are statements about what is going on in the world.” A link for more information on this event is provided below.

Saad Ghosn and SOS Art have an ever-expanding schedule of events in our area. You can check with all of this at the link below. SOS Art is also looking for artists, poets, and performers to become involved. This is also in the link. Peace and social justice are at the heart of what drives the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition, and we are proud to spotlight a group like SOS Art and its founder, Saad Ghosn.

The link for SOS Art is here:

For information on Saad Ghosn’s show at UC, click here:

Mike Templeton is a writer, independent scholar, barista, cook, guitar player, and accidental jack-of-all-trades. He is the author of the forthcoming The Chief of Birds: A Memoir. Available later this year from Erratum Press. Check out his profile in UACC’s new Cultural Directory. He lives in downtown Cincinnati with his wife who is a talented photographer. They spend their free time walking around the city snapping photos. She looks up at that the grandeur of the city, while Mike always seems to be staring at the ground.

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