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Skin Deep

Introducing a local festival for artists as colorful and diverse as their work

It’s an unapologetic celebration of people of color making art. Poetry, music, or film—if it exists, there’s a brown person that can do it, and they’re showing off this month at the Melanincholy Festival.
Melanincholy will be hosting its first official event after a pop-up opportunity last year, and will span about three days to showcase artists and musicians of color at the Milo-Grogan Community Center.
“In whatever scene you’re in, sometimes it’s really difficult to find folks of color performing, or given spaces to perform, and we just wanted to showcase these really talented people in our community. It formed out of that need,” said Stephanie Ewen, one of the festival’s five organizers.
While the black community in Columbus is biggest in size, the Melanincholy festival has strived to find artists of Latino, Middle-Eastern, Muslim, and Asian descent to represent the mixed background community of the city.
“For me growing up, it was really important that I had role models who looked like me, and there are so few in mainstream media,” said Ewen.
Though it’s a neat portmanteau of the words melanin and melancholy, the name of the festival refers to the specific isolation a minority person often feels living in a euro-centric world of art and culture.
“This is for people who feel ‘othered’ or out of place because of how they’re treated in the artistic community based on their skin color. There’s a lot of political tension that affects people of color, it’s important to come together within our community and feel like we belong as a part of this city, and as a part of the country,” said Ewen.
Not only does the festival empower Columbus’ minority community, it’s also entirely powered by non-binary citizens of color—and such a focus was not by accident.
“We want to make sure that people who are marginalized even within their own communities are represented here,” Ewen said.
This isn’t just a Sublime concert you can groove at, it’s a learning opportunity too. The festival takes advantage of it’s three-day footprint to provide workshops. Though the details are still rough, one will be art-focused and another will be based around activism—resulting in a triple whammy of entertainment, crafts, and progressive education.
All walks of life are welcome and can attend Melanincholy’s open mic night, an opportunity to perform a hobby or fostered poetry.
“We created this space for people of color, but we hope that other people will come in and see potential opportunities in our artists,” said Ewen, “It helps people break of their usual communities and give them exposure to that kind of thing.”
You never know, it might lead to your first pro gig, as Melanincholy encourages businesses, contractors, and private individuals to use the festival as a sort of catalogue to find artists of color. Not able to make it to the festival? Melanincholy will have a running list of contact information for all the artists, musicians, and performers in case you want to book them for your next big event.
If you’re worried about an expensive festival ticket, don’t be. It’s totally free; the festival organizers endeavor to eliminate as many barriers to attending as possible.

The Melanincholy Festival will be held May 26 through May 28 at the Milo Grogan Recreational Center. You can still donate and support the artists directly on their website at melanincholy614.com.

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