ARTISTS AMONG US
Art Adds Dimension to Employees’ Roles
Brent Billingsley, behavioral specialist, College Hill, stands in front of the artwork he created that now adorns the Cincinnati Bell Connector.
February—that bleak stretch of winter when the holidays are a distant memory and spring is still a way off—has some bright spots going for it. The Bengals are headed to the Super Bowl, and Cincinnati Children’s ArtsWave campaign is here. The arts enrich our lives in more ways than we probably realize, helping us to make sense of this world and providing a healthy outlet for the creative force within us. See how some of our colleagues find fulfillment in sharing their artistic talents with others.
Brent Billingsley Creates Safe Spaces for Difficult Conversations
Brent Billingsley, a behavioral health specialist and medical artist, discovered at an early age that he could draw. Since no one else in his family had ever pursued art as a career, he didn’t give it much consideration. The New Miami native graduated from high school and went straight to work for the Ford Motor Company, where he made good money and felt content with life.
Fourteen years in, he did some soul-searching.
“I realized God had something more for me,” he says, “so I went back to school and got my Bachelor of Arts degree. Then I completed a master’s degree in social work. Nearly nine years ago, I started working at Cincinnati Children’s College Hill facility in a role that combines what I love most—art and helping kids.”
Billingsley specializes in therapeutic artistic engagement, i.e., using art to connect with patients and help them deal with trauma, anxiety and depression.
“Some of these kids are suicidal or homicidal. Some can be very violent,” he explains. “Creating art together provides a common ground to build relationships and trust. Our goal is to carve out safe spaces in which you can have difficult conversations. Getting patients to trust you is the best way to keep them safe.”
Billingsley’s work is a familiar site around campus and the city. His portraits of Marian Spencer, Alicia Reese and Simone Biles can be seen in the Location D cafeteria as part of a celebration of Black History Month. He has another installation at the College Hill cafeteria, and a permanent display in the hallway of the B building there.
Beyond Cincinnati Children’s, Billingsley’s murals adorn the playground at South Avondale Elementary School, the Cincinnati Reds Youth Academy, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and other locations around town.
Earlier this month, he won an ArtsWave competition, in which his design was chosen to appear on the exterior of a Cincinnati Bell Connector streetcar. The design, called “We Are All Hue-man,” depicts a diverse group of children’s smiling faces.
Said Billingsley, “The design reflects what I see at the hospital—kids from different cultures, wearing different clothes and speaking different languages. This is the population we serve—each unique and yet the same.”
Inside the streetcar is an exhibit of more of Billingsley’s work, including “All Rise,” his tribute to the five women who have served or are serving as U.S. Supreme Court justices.
As part of his prize, Billingsley received a $2,500 grant, which he plans to put toward another project he’s working on, called “I’m Listening.” This project will bring Cincinnati police from five districts together with local youth to work on a mural and build relationships. It will be done in pieces—20 4’x4’ canvases—then put together like a puzzle and displayed at a yet-to-be-determined location.
You can learn more about Billingsley and his work at www.brentbillingsley.com.
Brent Billingsley talks about "All Rise," his tribute to the five female U.S. Supreme Court Justices with reporters.
Billingsley with Cincinnati mayor, Aftab Pureval, at the unveiling of his work. Billingsley's philosophy is, "Everything is a canvas—from shoes to construction cones to utility boxes, and yes, even a streetcar."