May 28-August 13, 2022

In God’s Voice: A Celebration of the Spirituality of Harriet Tubman

Vanessa Johnson is an artist based in Syracuse. Her exhibit, In God’s Voice: A Celebration of the Spirituality of Harriet Tubman examines the national icon’s profound faith. 

Johnson will exhibit quilts and fiber artworks that address Tubman’s spirituality and faith: her use of nature to guide her path as she freed enslaved people; her blackouts, in which she said God spoke to her; and her faith in the allies, both Black and white, who supported her rescues.

The title is taken from a quote by abolitionist Thomas Garrett, who supported many of Tubman’s journeys to free enslaved people. Tubman frequently used Garrett’s stop along the Underground Railroad in Pennsylvania. “I never met with any person, of any color, who had more confidence in the voice of God, as spoken direct to her soul … and her faith in a Supreme Power truly was great,” Garrett said.

This exhibit is part of the CNY Emerging Artist Project, and will be on display in both the Cayuga Museum of History and Art and the Schweinfurth Art Center. Joint passes for access to both museums are available for purchase at both sites.

About the Artist

Vanessa Johnson is a Griot, Playwright, Actor, Fiber Artist, Museum Consultant, and Teaching Artist.

Ms. Johnson combines fiber art and storytelling, sharing Autobiographical stories, Traditional African and Diaspora tales, and Social Justice Movement stories. She performs and conducts workshops at Schools, Colleges, Libraries, Museums and Community Events.  She has exhibited at the SUNY Oswego Metro Center, Syracuse University’s Community Folk Art Center, the Tioga Arts Council Center, Onondaga County Library branches, and has done a Schweinfurth Art Center trunk show.

Her first solo show, “Unwrapping Vanessa”, exhibited at Syracuse’s ArtRage Gallery in 2017.  Vanessa curated her first group show in February/March 2022 “The Struggle to Connect”. The show included her work in dialogue about race with women artists of Color and of European descent.

Ms. Johnson founded the “Harambee Youth Tent” at the N.Y. State Fair Pan African Village, offering youth arts activities from Africa and the African Diaspora, guided by Professional Artists (2000-2016). She was a teaching artist in Syracuse City District after school programs from 2005 – Spring 2022, teaching storytelling, drama, African cultural, and fiber arts.

Ms. Johnson currently teaches fiber arts and drama for the Syracuse University Community Folk Art Gallery Arts Academy after school program. She has conducted fiber arts workshops for youth at the Everson Museum, and at the Schweinfurth Art Center.  Ms. Johnson is Artist in Residence for the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation.

Visit UsReturn to Exhibits on DisplayLearn More About Vanessa Johnson

Support for this program is provided by the City of Auburn’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocation of funds to support the City of Auburn Historic and Cultural Sites Commission’s Harriet Tubman Bicentennial project with a goal of boosting the recovery from the pandemic for the tourism, travel, and hospitality industry.